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Column: 'Musicophilia' looks at the positive effect of music on mental illness

Musicophilia Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks; Published by Vintage Books a division of Random House Inc.; 448 pages; $14.95, 978-1-4000-3353-9.

Considering the part music plays in the recovery of extremely mentality disabled patients, which is not a new phenomenon, it has recently been explored once again by physician and author Oliver Sacks in his new book, "Musicophilia Tales of Music and the Brain."

There are remarkable examples of patients who were considered feeble, unable to care for themselves, unable to walk or do anything other than sit, and yet these same people, when exposed to music, were able to astonish those who cared for them, either by family or professionals.

Sacks explored many different methods of treatment, but in his unique style of writing has been able annotate the case histories of many types of patients who had been virtually given a hopeless life sentence of being institutionalized.

Parkinson sufferers have been given L-Dopa as a medication to relieve the stutter problems they encounter when making movements. The introduction of music as therapy for these ill people has given back to them smooth movement, which the drug could not accomplish.

Sacks tells of a music therapist who played piano at a hospital and created musical treatment for a patient, singing "Old Man River," using only three words.

This man had not spoken for long time and was considered a lost cause. The therapist heard him sing and realized that by playing songs he knew, she could communicate with him.

Sacks was greatly encouraged by the patient's progress and expanded the use of music to other patients.

There are cases described that show the relationship between color and music. Many who have lost their sight after years of seeing describe different colors when they hear specific notes. For example, middle C is green. Although the people are blind, colors become vivid in their minds.

The general audience will find this textbook-style of writing to be somewhat awkward to understand.

However, if you are searching for solutions to conditions that afflict members of your family or close friends, you will find the solutions described in Musicophilia!

Publishers Weekly

Best Seller List

Week of Oct. 27


1. The Brass Verdict; Michael Connelly; Little, Brown; $26.95; 9780316166294.

2. The Lucky One; Nicholas Sparks; Grand Central; $24.99; 9780446579933.

3. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle; David Wroblewski; Ecco; $25.95; 9780061374227.

4. A Lion Among Men; Maguire, Gregory; Morrow, $26.95; 9781060548926.

5. A Most Wanted Man; John Le Carre; Scribner; $28; 9780416594888.


1. The Last Lecture; Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow; Hyperion; $21.95; 9781401323257.

2. A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity; Bill O'Reilly, Broadway; $26; 9780767928823.

3. Dewey; Vicki Myron with Bret Witter; Grand Central; $19.99; 9780446407410.

4. The Snowball; Alice Schroeder; Bantam; $35; 9780553805093.

5. Hot, Flat, and Crowded; Thomas L. Friedman; Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc.; $27.95; 9780374166854.

For a FREE copy of "Musicophilia," visit Clark Isaacs's Web site at and enter the random drawing. E-mail from there or and ask for the book.