By Oliver Sacks
Review by Cleo (Music)
It can be easy to lose sight of your passion when your desk is overflowing with homework, when every day of your calendar is covered in deadlines scrawled in red Sharpie, when the music you’re trying to analyse seems to be written in a foreign language that you’re struggling to understand. I’ve been there before, and I’ve asked myself this question many times: why am I choosing to do Music?
Reading Oliver Sacks’ Musciophilia gave me part of the answer. Musicophilia is essentially a compilation of tales that revolve around how music can affect ordinary people in extraordinary ways. There is a story of a man who unlocked his passion for music after being struck by lightning and stories of people who experience intense musical dreams in vivid detail. At the same time, there are also descriptions of how a musician’s brain is different from everyone else’s, and conjectures on why we just can’t shake off that catchy tune from a toothpaste ad. In other words, these are stories of how people can experience the world differently through music.
Musicophilia is not an explanation of various music-related phenomena – it is not trying to do that. Instead, it is a collection of stories that illustrates the power of music to affect its listeners. It is a collection which outlines the connections between music and the brain, the science behind the melodies that we love singing along to in the car. Reading this book led me to think more about the ways music can overlap with other fields of study and about the potential neurological and psychological implications of listening to music. I read the book over the summer, and I really learned to appreciate the unique power of music in touching minds and souls. My enjoyment from reading Musicophilia also inspired me to do further research into the relationship between music and the brain in an attempt to understand this connection better.
Reading around your subject doesn’t necessarily have to involve reading textbooks. I would highly recommend Musicophilia, not only to people who are thinking of studying Music, but also to anyone who is remotely interested in anything Music-related. It’s an engaging, unique insight into music from the perspective of everyday people. Musicophilia is a beautiful human montage which showcases the ways music can shape our understanding of our lives and of the wider world. This collection of stories eloquently epitomises one of my reasons for studying Music: I believe that music has the power to affect hearts and minds. It can connect the stories of people of different ages, backgrounds and cultural histories, bringing them together to construct a sonic narrative of how we experience the world.
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks