Oliver Sacks on music, the mind and musicophilia

Neurologist Oliver Sacks new book (out October) Musicophilia is about music and the mind. He's written a great introduction in this week's New Yorker, telling stories of people who became obsessed with listening to and playing music after some mental or neurological trauma: "In 1994, when Tony Cicoria was forty-two... he was struck by lightning. He had an out-of-body experience. 'I saw my own body on the ground. I said to myself, 'Oh shit, I’m dead.' …Then—slam! I was back'... Life had returned to normal, seemingly, when 'suddenly over two or three days, there was this insatiable desire to listen to piano music.' This was completely out of keeping with anything in his past. He started to teach himself to play piano. And then, he started to hear music in his head. In the third month after being struck, Cicoria was inspired, even possessed, by music, and scarcely had time for anything else." There's also an audio piece with Sacks talking about music and the mind.
ps: While you're at the New Yorker site, you might also enjoy this video of Malcolm Gladwell talking about Platinum Blue's hit prediction software.

Same happened to me after a nervous breakdown. Suddenly, music started really keying into my conciousness and starting to make 'sense' where before it had just washed over, like enjoying looking at a picture but not knowing what it depicted.

Dancing and playing music was the only thing that made me happy anymore. So I quit my job in IT and became a DJ, later also a producer.
The "hit prediction" software video gave me a lot of insight... into how music executives think.

And what exactly is happening at the end of that video? He says that the ability to ignore social aspects in the filtering was disabled so that people wouldn't be freaked out or offended by the results? Something is off there, whether he's telling the truth or not.
"Something is off there, whether he's telling the truth or not."

You might be right.

It was certainly frustrating to go thru the interviewer's too tame to be truly lame guilty pleasure rigamaroll and not see the hard math clustering at work.

If someone can be embarrassed by liking the Counting Crows, maybe people at large aren't ready for this technology.

Or the tech itself ain't ready.

A tease either way.
"There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature,
music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced ... sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope
known as a versificator."

--Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

We're well on our way!
Why build a versificator when you can have the proles do it for you manually? What do you think commercial music is?
I fell down some steps and landed on my testicles. For a while there I was listening to alot of Prince. So yeah, I totally can relate to the lightning thingy.

The video about the music software was quite a bit of fluff, almost as much as on Gladwell's head. One was a Mesmer style charlatan and the other an Undergrad Sociology Prof trying desperately to be the hipster he never was. I wish these two twitchy geeks had actually managed to demonstrate the software. Maybe they forgot to turn the lights off and place their hands flat down on the table while chanting the right incantations.

The thing is that Gladwell probably does like Cheryl Crowe. As for the social conditioning parameter, the record executives probably don't understand or want that feature anyways.

I'm sure that if the video had gone on a little longer the bald guy would have played some Cheryl Crowe and he would have sat in Gladwell's lap running his fingers through his hair while Gladwell stroked his bald head and mewed "I really do listen to Billy Bragg, honestly I do."

This will find its place with twitchy geeks, soul-less music executives, consumers who buy 1 or 2 CDs a year, and that Aunt who needs to buy a Christmas gift and knows that Billy used to listen to Nirvana ten years ago, or was it Bananarama? No problem, the computer will figure it out.
I love Nirvanarama!
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