Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by MICHAEL BOWEN & r & & r & Musicophillia & r & by Oliver Sacks & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & all it "Anecdotophilia" instead. In his investigation of the abnormal psychology of sound and music perception, Oliver Sacks has overlooked his own mania for retelling anecdotes and case histories. In Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, he rattles through his clients' stories, often without generalizing meaningfully about them.





In addition, Sacks' previous books are all over the footnotes, creating the sense that he's recycling his former work. He repeats anecdotes, inserts irrelevant stories, lapses into the babble of medical jargon.





Sacks is most famous for Awakenings (1973), which recounts how he used L-dopa to awaken victims of "sleeping sickness" from their 40-year torpor. But that book raised important questions: How much of the self is tied to familiar faces, places and cultural markers? What happens when memories get stuck -- and then revived, and then cut off again? In Musicophilia, though, Sacks gets so involved in parading one unusual neurological case after another that significance gets shunted into chapters' final paragraphs -- or nowhere at all.





Sacks uncovers some fascinating insights, however, into the extremes of musical talent and malfunction. Neurologically speaking, for example, those annoying tunes that get stuck in your head ("earworms") are like small, benign epileptic seizures. The neural pathways between the brain and sense organs run in two directions, not just one -- so that after the onset of deafness, for example, the brain sometimes compensates for silence by generating musical hallucinations. Musical training alters brain structure -- particularly if you start at a young age and speak a tonal language like Chinese. Tourette's patients' tics disappear when they join in drum circles. As newborns, we may all be synesthetic (that is, able to see musical tones as colors, for example) until language development crowds out our psychedelic mind-movies.





Discerning memorable conclusions from among Sacks' piled-high case histories, though, can be like disentangling a Bach fugue -- rewarding but onerous work.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Game Changer
  • Game Changer

    Since Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • In Contempt
  • In Contempt

    A Spokane judge rules that the mental health system has willfully failed to follow evaluation deadlines
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Never Again
  • Never Again

    Washington state lawmakers push reforms after last July's murder-suicide; plus, Spokane's police ombudsman is leaving
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
A T. Rex Named Sue

A T. Rex Named Sue @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 4

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Game Changer

    Since Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Let Us Breathe

    Spokane joins national protests over the failure to indict white officers for killing black civilians
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation