Monday, August 4, 2014

Music and the Brain

Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and apparently compulsive communicator, has written a number of books about the oddities of the human brain.  He's also written about his hobby as a fern fanatic.  I've read a good many of his books because he is one of the most compassionate doctors I've ever read, he writes for the lay person but doesn't talk down and I'm endlessly fascinated by the pecularities of the human brain and, obviously, he's even more fascinated and offers a ton of examples when he writes.

Music, says Dr. Sacks, is a special function of the human being, it is separate from rationality and from reading and from physical movement. He doesn't say it's magical (he'd never write that way) but it IS magical.  Parkinsonian patients who can't stop trembling, who can't walk normally, can dance gracefully. People who have suffered strokes and can't speak a coherent sentence can sing songs with words. People who were not particularly musical before a neurological disaster may become able to sing or whistle or even compose music.  I cannot even begin to list the amazing roles music can play in a human life.  The book is worth reading for the discovery of what a wonderful organ the human brain is and what a wonder music -- many kinds of music, from basic drumming rhythms to complex Bach fugues to jazz and so on and on and on -- can enrich the lives of all of us normally and bring us joy even when we suffer brain damage, strokes, Alzheimers and other diseases. If I'm ever unlucky enough to suffer a brain disaster, I hope someone will be compassionate enough to  put a radio near me set to a classical music station. Classical music has been among the beautiful things I've ever experienced and it's a little comforting  as I move in older age, to know that  unless my hearing goes entirely, I will still be able to enjoy music no matter what happens to my brain.


barbara judge said...

My brother-in-law stuttered yet he could sing beautifully in a choir. I find the whole of our body amazing along with the brain as I feel it is all connected. And for now it does seem like magic because we don't have all the answers yet. - - barbara

June Calender said...

I totally agree, Barbara -- the complexity is astonishing, it's not surprising the answers arise slowly, one by one.

Kass said...

June - All I can say is, "YES, YES, YES!