Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Musical Minds, on PBS's Nova

Tonight most PBS stations will broadcast a Nova show called "Musical Minds." It's based on Oliver Sacks's book Musicophilia - perhaps "musicophilia" was too long or too risque-sounding for Nova. In any event, it's a great book and this sounds like a fine show.


Paul H. Muller said...

I'll try to have a look.

But I think that a documentary on "musical genius" or savants simply pushes good music further into a kind of nerd ghetto. When is a show gonna tell "just folks" that they can sing in their local community chorus and actually get something meaningful out of it?

Loved this from the article:
"Ms. Barker has the condition (amusia) 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."

I knew it! Don't wanna watch too many of those "Celtic Women" specials on PBS...

Lisa Hirsch said...

But that's not what it's about. It's about how brain conditions manifest themselves in musical abilities.

Paul H. Muller said...

Well I watched it last nite and it was quite interesting. Even touching at times. I especially like the story about the guy who was struck by lightning and within 3 weeks developed a compulsion to hear - and then play and compose - classical piano music.

However, to me it still seems to portray musical creativity as some sort of brain condition. We put the old masters on a high enough pedistal as it is - and now PBS has the brain scans to prove how extraordinary musical talent is. I just wish they would have said something about how everyone can be creative with music, that it is not some kind of pathology.

Anonymous said...

I tried but switched off during the presentation of the first "case," the blind young man with autism who plays and composes ragtime. I was already dubious, because the Times advance article said nothing about Daniel Levitin's "This is your Brain on Music." And sure enough, instead of dealing (as Levitin does, with only a few preening memories of "what Judy Collins told me over lunch at Morton's") with the neuroscience of musical perception and understanding and ability, Sacks once again put on his traveling sideshow of atypical cases that may be interesting medically but tell us very little about anything beyond themselves. He seems to want us to think "Poor soul! But how remarkable!" It's unenlightening and to me borders on exploitation.