[LISTENED TO: May 13, 2013] Musicophilia
My sister-in-law Karen got me this audio book for Christmas. I had never read any Oliver Sacks before although I have always been amused/intrigued by his stuff (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is such a great title). So this book, as one might guess, is all about how music impacts our lives. Music is more than just an enjoyable set of melodies, it is a more primordial form of communication. The key thing for any fan of music to know about this book is that about 97% of the music he talks about is classical. Which is fine, but you’re not going to get any kind of insight into rock. The reason for this is twofold. One–he likes classical (and doesn’t seem to like rock–although he did take one of his patients to a Grateful Dead show) and two–he wants to talk more about music and not so much about lyrics (although again, that’s not entirely true).
I have to admit that while I enjoyed the stories in the book and will certainly talk about it a lot, I found the book a little overwhelming–it was exhaustive and exhausting. Sacks really tries to cover ever aspect of music (and many I never would have guessed) and so I found the nine hours of story a bit tiring by the end.
Part of that may also have been John Lee, the reader, who spoke very clearly and a little slowly and gave the book something of a lecture-feel. Which was fine for much of the book, although again, it was a little exhausting sometimes.
The thing that is most exhausting about the book is that virtually every person he talks to or about has had some kind of trauma which makes their appreciation of music different from the norm. If you are in any way a hypochondriac, this book will make you go insane I’m not, but even I found myself worrying about having a stroke at any second or experiencing some kind of weird brain thing where I no longer like music or god forbid get some kind of long term amnesia. Jesus, I was getting a little spooked by the end. (more…)