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Musical Maladies


  A. Music and the brain are both endlessly fascinating subjects, and as a neuroscientistspecializing in auditory learning and memory, I find them especially intriguing. So I had highexpectations of Musicophilia, the latest offering from neurologist and prolific author OliverSacks. And I confess to feeling a little guilty reporting that my reactions to the book aremixed.

  B. Sacks himself is the best part of Musicophilia. He richly documents his own life in thebook and reveals highly personal experiences. The photograph of him on the cover of thebook- which shows him wearing headphones, eyes closed, clearly enchanted as he listens toAlfred Brendel perform Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata-makes a positive impression that isborne out by the contents of the book. Sacks’ voice throughout is steady and erudite but neverpontifical. He is neither self-conscious nor self-promoting.

  C. The preface gives a good idea of what the book will deliver. In it, Sacks explains that hewants to convey the insights gleaned from the “enormous and rapidly growing body of worlon the neural underpinnings of musical perception and imagery, and the complex and oftenbizarre disorders to which these are prone " He also stresses the importance of“the simple arof observation" and “'the richness of the human context." He wants to combine “observationand description with the latest in technology," he says, and to imaginatively enter into theexperience of his patients and subjects. The reader can see that Sacks, who has beenpracticing neurology for 40 years, is torn between the “old-fashioned” path ofobseryatiorand the new-fangled, high-tech approach: He knows that he needs to take heed ofthe latterbut his heart lies with the former.

  D. The book consists mainly of detailed descriptions of cases, most of them involvingpatients whom Sacks has seen in his practice. Brief discussions of contemporaryneuroscientific reports are sprinkled liberally throughout the text. Part I, “Haunted by Music.begins with the strange case of Tony Cicoria, a nonmusical, middle-aged surgeon who wasconsumed by a love of music after being hit by lightning. He suddenly began to cravelistening to piano music, which he had never cared for in the past. He started to play the pianoand then to compose music, which arose spontaneously in his mind in a “'torrent" of notes.How could this happen? Was the cause psychological? (He had had a near-death experiencewhen the lightning struck him.) Or was it the direct result of a change in the auditory regionsof his cerebral cortex? Electro-encephalography (EEG) showed his brain waves to be normalin the mid-1990s, just after his trauma and subsequent “conversion" to music. There are nowmore sensitive tests, but Cicoria has declined to undergo them; he does not want to delve intothe causes of his musicality. What a shame!

  E. Part ll, “*A Range of Musicality," covers a wider variety oftopics, but unfortunately, someof the chapters offer little or nothing that is new. For example, chapter 13, which is five pageslong, merely notes that the blind often has better hearing than the sighted. The mostinteresting chapters are those that present the strangest cases. Chapter 8 is about “amusia,” aninability to hear sounds as music, and “dysharmonia," a highly specific impairment of theability to hear harmony, with the ability to understand melody left intact. Such specific“dissociations" are found throughout the cases Sacks recounts

  F. To Sacks's credit, part ll, “Memory, Movement, and Music,” brings us into theunderappreciated realm ofmusic therapy. Chapter 16 explains how “melodic intonationtherapy" is being used to help expressive aphasia patients (those unable to express theirthoughts verbally following a stroke or other cerebral incident) once again become capable offluent speech. In chapter 20, Sacks demonstrates the near-miraculous power of music toanimate Parkinson's patients and other people with severe movement disorders, even thosewho are frozen into odd postures, Scientists cannot yet explain how music achieves thiseffect.

  G. To readers who are unfamiliar with neuroscience and music behavior, Musicophilia maybe something of a revelation. But the book will not satisfy those seeking the causes andimplications ofthe phenomena Sacks describes. For one thing, Sacks appears to be more atease discussing patients than discussing experiments. And he tends to be rather uncritical inaccepting scientific findings and theories

  H. It's true that the causes of music-brain oddities remain poorly understood. However, Sackscould have done more to draw out some of the implications of the careful observations that heand other neurologists have made and of the treatments that have been successful. Forexample, he might have noted that the many specific dissociations among components ofmusic comprehension, such as loss of the ability to perceive harmony but not melody.indicate that there is no music center in the brain. Because many people who read the bookare likely to believe in the brain localization of all mental functions, this was a missededucational opportunity

  I. Another conclusion one could draw is that there seem to be no “cures” for neurologicalproblems involving music. A drug can alleviate a symptom in one patient and aggravate it inanother, or can have both positive and negative effects in the same patient. Treatmentsmentioned seem to be almost exclusively antiepileptic medications, which “damp down” theexcitability of the brain in general; their effectiveness varies widely.

  J. Finally, in many of the cases described here the patient with music-brain symptoms isreported to have “normal” EEG results. Although Sacks recognizes the existence of newtechnologies, among them far more sensitive ways to analyze brain waves than the standardneurological EEG test, he does not call for their use. In fact, although he exhibits the greatestcompassion for patients, he conveys no sense of urgency about the pursuit of new avenues inthe diagnosis and treatment of music-brain disorders. This absence echoes the hook's prefacein which Sacks expresses fear that “the simple art of observation may be lost" if we rely toomuch on new technologies. He does call for both approaches, though, and we can only hopethat the neurological community will respond.

  Questions 1-4

  Choose the correct letter, A, B, C, or D

  Write the correct letter in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet

  1. Why does the writer have mixed feeling about the book?

  A. The guilty feeling made him so.

  B. The writer expected it to be better than it was

  C.Sacks failed to include his personal stories in the book.

  D. This is the only book written by Sacks.

  2. What is the best part of the book?

  A. The photo of Sacks listening to music

  B. The tone of voice of the book

  C. The autobiographical description in the book

  D. The description of Sacks’wealth

  3. In the preface, what did Sacks try to achieve?

  A. Make terms with the new technologies

  B. Give a detailed description of various musical disorders

  C. Explain how people understand music

  D. Explain why he needs to do away with a simple observation

  4. What is disappointing about Tony Cicoria's case?

  A. He refuses to have further tests.

  B. He can't determine the cause of his sudden musicality

  C. He nearly died because of the lightning.

  D.His brain waves were too normal to show anything


  Ouestions 5-10

  Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in Reading Passage?In boxes 5-10 on your answer sheet, write



  if the statement agrees with the views of the writerif the statement contradicts the views of the writer

  NOT GIVENif it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

  5. It is difficult to give a well-reputable writer a less-than-favorable review

  6. Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata is a good treatment for musical disorders

  7. Sacks believe technological methods are not important compared with observation whenstudying his patients.

  8. It is difficult to understand why music therapy is undervalued

  9. Sacks should have more skepticism about other theories and findings

  10. A sack is impatient to use new testing methods.

  Ouestions 11-14

  Complete each sentence with the correct ending.A-F.below

  Write the correct letter, A-F, in boxes 11-14 on your answer sheet.

  11. The dissociations between harmony and melody

  12. The study of treating musical disorders

  13. The EEG scans of Sacks’ patients

  14. Sacks believe testing based on new technology

  A. Show no music-brain disorders.

  B. Indicates that medication can have varied results

  C.Is key for the neurological community to unravel the mysteriesD. Should not be used in isolation.

  E. Indicate that not everyone can receive a good education.

  F.Show that music is not localized in the brain.