Oliver Sacks, Musician

I have long enjoyed many of neurologist Oliver Sacks’s writings, and more recently his appearances on Radio Lab. He was insightful, clever, and profoundly human.

His death is a loss to the world.

In addition to being a brilliant neurologist and a masterful writer, Sacks was a musician – a pianist. He devoted an entire book to music and the brain, Musicophilia.

In his New York Times obituary, the author writes that Sacks disagreed with Steven Pinker’s description of music as “auditory cheesecake” – something that snuck in as our brains evolved the ability to use language. Here’s what Sacks said:

“I haven’t heard of a human being who isn’t musical, or who doesn’t respond to music one way or another,” he told an audience at Columbia University in 2006. “I think we are an essentially, profoundly musical species. And I don’t know whether — for all I know, language piggybacked on music.”

It appears to this fan of Oliver Sacks that in his life, music was more important to him than almost anything else. It’s a message that can’t be said too often.

Oliver Sacks