Musicophilia goes live

NPR public radio has recently broadcast two interviews with Oliver Sacks about the cases in his new book Musicophilia – which tackles the neurology of music.

The first interview is only eight minutes and the second, which you’ll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page for, is a more in-depth half hour discussion.

The book itself appeared on the shelves last week and the book’s website has just gone live which, as well as containing information about the new release, also has a series of videos of Sacks discussing everything from why we sometimes can’t get tunes out of our heads, to music and amnesia.

Link to two NPR interviews with Sacks (scroll down for second).
Link to Musicophilia website with videos.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 26, 2007 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Well since you posted a Sack review right after a Poe post I had to post my review of Sack’s that is based on Poe. Thanks
    The Purloined Phantom Limb: Solving Sack’s Syncopation Susceptibility
    By drew hempel, MA
    Anti-copyright (free distribution)
    Professor Oliver Sack’s new book Musicophilia is a treasure-trove of analysis on the mind-body condundrum. Sack previews neuroscientist Patel’s forthcoming book focusing on rhythm as subcortical binding for motor coordination with language. But as Sack notes Patel’s take on the Thai elephant orchestra music (of which I’m a big fan) may be questioned by some readers. The issue is do humans have a unique capacity or, as William James’ stated a “suspectibility” towards music, in contrast to the rest of Nature (and nonwestern cultures) seeming noise? Does this supposed unique ability of human rhythm processing also solve the “binding” problem of the mind-body paradox — also seen as the mystery of long-term potentiation (synapse growth) as an unknown function frequency and amplitude?
    The answer is amazingly found in the most famous short-story of Edgar Allen Poe who, as Edmund Wilson quotes, wrote that his goal in writing was the “indeterminateness of music.” Poe, the creator of the mystery story, gives the reversal to Freud who, Sacks states: “despised music.” In Poe’s psychoanalysis we find a direct answer to Sack’s contradiction of the phantom limb as an “overflow” of neuron sensations, in contrast to the overflowing OBE as related to a musical hallucination. It’s exactly in the primal language of rhythm, more specifically Sack’s suspectibility for syncopation, that we also solve the mind-body mystery which Poe also addressed in his famous solution to the Purloined Letter.
    Poe states: “If it is any point requiring reflection we shall examine it to better purpose in the dark.” Now again, as the goal of Poe’s writing is the “indeterminateness of music” we can listen in the dark and this can be inferred as the true method of Poe’s “beyond genius” modus operandi. In contrast Poe highlights the problem of the normal detective which in our case is the neuroscientist: “A certain set of highly ingenious resources are, with the Perfect, a sort of Procrustean bed, to which he forcibly adapts his designs. But he perpetually errors by being too deep or too shallow, for the matter in hand.”
    This “too deep, too shallow” issue is exactly the problem with the approach to the mind-body paradox. So the phantom limb effect is determined to be caused by a neuron “overflow” (amplitude) while the binding of the mind and body is determined to be a synchronization of rhythm as timing (frequency). Sacks notes that people hear even a digital clock ticking as a “tick-tock” or a syncopated rhythm. Sack also admits that certain rhythms force both himself and other scientists to become a part of the phenomenon under study — music creates a world of perception that subsumes both the mind and body and this occurs most frequently through syncopated or asymmetric rhythm. But, just as Poe notes, the scientists are continually “too shallow” (frequency) or “too deep” (amplitude). Both frequency and amplitude are based on symmetrical studies of form and quantity, while true music is an abstract listening process of asymmetry (as I’ll now explain).
    Poe continues: “Mathematical axioms are not axioms of general truth.” Again what must be realized is that the math upon which science is based actually comes from music ratios — but the natural overtones of music are actually asymmetric while Western math (and music) relies on symmetric measurements. Sacks notes that people have been proven to anticipate synchronized beats — before hearing the sound. This process occurs in the subcortical regions as a very abstract binding of mind and body — without any emotion or symbolic attachment — exactly the same goal as Poe: The indeterminateness of music.
    The problem is that Western mathematics is based on symmetry of number to create the concept of randomness so that such abstract processing of rhythm is considered to be literally noise — not music. But if we understand how nonwestern music relies on syncopation and the natural overtones as complimentary opposites or asymmetry (not symmetry) then we realize a solution to both the phantom limb “overflow” and the binding noise.
    Poe continues: “The material world abounds with very strict analogies to the immaterial.” Certainly the examples Sacks gives show how music has dramatically healed many mind-body problems although he still relies on a psychoanalytic approach yet ironically Freud despised music. Sack states that music therapy is not dependent on memory processes nor even music appreciation but an innate emotional response in humans. A contemporary of Freud, Theodore Reik, another psychologist who partied with Brahms in Vienna, wrote a book called The Haunting Melody. This work argues that music is a direct path to the subconscious, specifically when a tune gets stuck in someone’s head. Often the words of the tune, once remembered, are actually an emotional solution to a problem that had previously been repressed.
    Emotions are electrochemicals and the process of the subconscious through music is via the asymmetric natural overtones. As quantum chaos biologist Brian Goodwin noted in his book Temporal Organization of Cells — ‚Äúthe subharmonic oscillation always shows a considerable increase in amplitude over that of the fundamental oscillators so that a very appreciable amplification can occur.‚Äù That’s how syncopated rhythm is found in Nature, through all levels of organization. The creation of frequency as transformed into amplitude occurs through proper waveform as complimentary opposites (not symmetry). In quantum chaos this is called “spontaneous symmetry breaking.”
    So the natural overtones are organized through the sine-wave form as complimentary opposites — this is called the Tetrad of the Law of Pythagoras. 1:2:3:4 is an equilateral triangle but is measured asymmetrically with 2:3 as the Perfect Fifth interval or “C to G” while 3:4 is the Perfect Fourth interval or “G to C.” This is also the same as the Tai-Chi symbol with the 1 as the I-thought (the sine-wave) going into the circle as the emptiness or formless awareness. As the source of the I-thought resonates — through electrochemical asymmetry (or desire) then harmony is created through 2:3 (yang) turning into 3:4 (yin).
    In science this process is found most importantly in the amazing transformation of the genetic code, based on the language of four, using complimentary opposites, into the alphabet of amino acids, using about 20.
    As the electrochemicals are ionized through complimentary opposite harmonics then rhythm as wave-form creates the necessary frequency and amplitude, translating mind-body interactions into both words and images. If this process is focused on and harnessed through proper application of waveform then both the frequency and amplitude can be intensified so that real OBEs can happen, unlike Sack’s contention that they are some sort of hallucination.
    The nonwestern study of music discovered that there are acupressure points on the body, corresponding to the cycle of the natural overtones — so there are 12 main points along the outside of the body based on the 12 notes of the scale, created from the “circle of fifths” in music or the natural overtones of 2:3 as yang. As the mind focuses on these 12 points, much like practicing music scales, the mind-body is actually transformed into a harmonic oscillator which converts the physical limits of the body and mind back into the original source of the harmonics — pure consciousness or formless awareness.
    The body will create great heat that is blissful (converting serotonin into oxcytocin) and then further ionization creates electromagnetic fields which can power real OBEs. The top of the skull gets soft and the skull fissure actually can open up, just as it was while a baby. The information light in the body can then travel out of the brain, powered by the electromagnetic energy stored in the body. Or the formless awareness can be directly accessed, bending spacetime, as the brain fills with light, through the pineal gland transduction of the solar-moon syncopated circadian cycles. This is also, of course, why elephants can play music, contrary to our western-trained ears.


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