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The two pieces from 'Musicophilia' in the 'New Yorker'


How Musicophilia expanded
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I came back, and wrote about Clive, and at that point, I think I had written two other pieces about music, and if I thought of one little book, Three Women, I thought I would have another little book containing Clive and the two companion pieces. There were two little books... but, what had been envisaged as three pieces, or three chapters and a little book on music, started to expand. And even while I was... keeping terrified notes about the loss of my vision, even while I was waiting to go in to hospital, I was at the same time seeing patients, or subjects with various musical problems, and writing about them, and to some extent, I think, writing about music, and musical disorders and musical gifts, and... and the whole mysteriousness of music, and wondering, you know, what’s music doing in human nature? Why has it evolved, if evolution is the right word? I was... I was joyfully absorbed by... by music, at a time when I was trying to deal with what was perhaps a... a mortal disease in my eye.

The music book, which was going to be a little three chapters, expanded and expanded, finally to 29 chapters, and... it took me in many, many different directions, and it was published, I think in '07. Was it '07, Kate? Probably '07. The… whether one could call it a book or not, I don’t know, but at least every piece was about music. There were 29 quasi-independent chapters or pieces, and two of them, at least, the one on Clive and I think perhaps another one, were published in... in The New Yorker.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: Musicophilia, The New Yorker, Three Women, Clive Wearing

Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012