“Musicophilia” by Oliver Sacks

Music of the right kind can serve to orient a patient when nothing
else can. So writes author Oliver Sacks, a physician living in New
York City where he is Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry at
Columbia University.

Ever since his days in l966 at the Beth Abraham Hospital in the
Bronx, when Dr.Sacks used music to bring life to patients immobile from
sleeping-sickness, he has widened his research and practice of musical
therapy and shares some astounding results in this book.

He tells of idiot savant children, feeble-minded but with
remarkable musical talent; blind piano-tuners, whom we have all met;
jazz musicians like Art Tatum; a stroke patient, speechless for years,
whom a music therapist heard singing and brought back until he could
use words. Patients with Parkinson’s, as well as Tourette’s Syndrome,
can get motor freedom from music. Drumming plays a huge part, in fact
rhythm (from the Greek meaning measure, motion and stream) helps with
learning and remembering. It also brings people together, in song and
dance, turning listeners into participants. Music, above all else, can
kick-start a damaged motor system into action. All this, Dr.Sacks
notes, before LDopa was discovered.

In the case of dementia, the response to music is often preserved
, even in advanced cases. Dr.Sacks gives sensitive illustrations of
Alzheimer’s patients who have made amazing recovery, through music.

This is a compassionate and impressive book, one of nine by this
distinguished author, including “Awakenings” which is the basis of a
recent film.

Book Review by Anne McDougall