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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Don't complain there's never anything good on television....

Just read this:
June 30, 2009
Television Review | 'Nova: Musical Minds'

Our Brains on Music: The Science

June 29, 2009

“Musical Minds,” the season premiere of “Nova” on PBS, is based on the neurologist Oliver Sacks’s most recent book, “Musicophilia,” a collection of case studies of people whose brains have unusual relationships to music, cases in which, as Dr. Sacks puts it, “music gets them going to an extraordinary degree.” A one-hour program can’t approach the depth and texture of Dr. Sacks’s book, but it does get at one question that nags the reader: What do these musical savants sound like? Or put another way: Are they really as amazing as they’re cracked up to be? Anne Barker.... suffers from amusia, an inability to hear or respond to music. The narrator, the BBC reporter Alan Yentob, mentions that Ms. Barker has the condition despite the fact that her parents own a store specializing in traditional Irish instruments. Viewers are free to draw their own conclusions about cause and effect...

The best moments in “Musical Minds” tend to involve the program’s fifth subject: Dr. Sacks, who not only is interviewed by Mr. Yentob but also enthusiastically submits to having his own brain tested. These scenes are diverting, if not revealing.

In one Dr. Sacks is scanned while listening to his professed favorite, Bach, and then to Beethoven. A Columbia University researcher shows him the scans: many more areas of his brain light up during the Bach, which proves that he indeed prefers the Baroque master to the Classical firebrand. But does it? As the program acknowledges, science still has little idea what those red and green flashes on the M.R.I. screen really mean.

Which, in the meantime, makes Dr. Sacks’s work documenting the strange adaptations of our brains all the more valuable and mysterious. “Musical Minds” may barely scratch the surface, but it’s still full of fascinating information. Like this: Mr. Paravicini and Mr. Giordano each first demonstrated his unusual musical abilities at 2 — one by playing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” on the piano, and one by playing “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)” on the drums. There’s a dissertation right there.

This review certainly has piqued my interest -- I must register a complaint, however, at what I can only interpret as Mr. Hales slur on the glory that is bagpipes.

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