~posted by Bob
A few months ago I read Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia, his collection of truly amazing stories that examine “the neural underpinnings of musical perception and imagery, and the complex and often bizarre disorders to which these are prone,” to quote the book jacket. The sheer number of different disorders (amusia, dysharmonia, amnesia, aphasia, etc.) is a bit overwhelming and hard to keep straight, but the personal stories are so compelling and presented with such sympathy that I found it to be a remarkable read. One of the more heartbreaking but fascinating stories is about a musician with amnesia who can only maintain memories for a few seconds. He is continually in the present. Yet, his “performance self seems…just as vivid and complete as it was before his illness…the performance reanimates him, engages him as a creative person; it becomes fresh and alive…” This story and the many others in the book, testify to the jaw-dropping complexity of the human brain and to the power wielded by music. I highly recommend it.
Shortly after reading the book, I had the great fortune to see an incredible new documentary on a similar theme and that features Dr. Sacks called Alive Inside. It is about how music can reach people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia where other treatments fail. And it is one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen. Here’s a little featurette, and I dare you not to tear up at this!
Both the book and the documentary are in The Library’s collection and are available for check out. Enjoy!