Cheeko Matsusaka cello

Books that Move Us

  • Musicophilia

    Musicophilia Tales of Music and the Brain

    Written by Oliver Sacks

    This is the book that started my journey into music as a therapeutic study. Neurologist Oliver Sacks relates numerous stories of patient experiences with music's persistent and sometimes odd presence in the brain; in particular, those that have a form of ailment or injury.


    Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does - humans are a musical species. Oliver Sacks' compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people. He explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day.

     Zoom Release
    March 1, 2021

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    Picked by Cheeko Matsusaka, cello
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  • This is Your Brain on Music

    This is Your Brain on Music The Science of Human Obsession

    Written by Daniel Levitin

    This was the first assigned reading assignment for me and my favorite - it also led me into my fascination with neurobiology. Levitin, a musician-turned-neuroscientist goes into more detail into how the brain processes music and why it has such a profound effect on memory, motor skills, and emotions.


    Taking on prominent thinkers who argue that music is nothing more than an evolutionary accident, Levitin poses that music is fundamental to our species, perhaps even more so than language. Drawing on the latest research and on musical examples ranging from Mozart to Duke Ellington to Van Halen, he reveals:

    • How composers produce some of the most pleasurable effects of listening to music by exploiting the way our brains make sense of the world
    • Why we are so emotionally attached to the music we listened to as teenagers, whether it was Fleetwood Mac, U2, or Dr. Dre
    • That practice, rather than talent, is the driving force behind musical expertise
    • How those insidious little jingles (called earworms) get stuck in our head

    A Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, This Is Your Brain on Music will attract readers of Oliver Sacks and David Byrne, as it is an unprecedented, eye-opening investigation into an obsession at the heart of human nature.

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    Picked by Cheeko Matsusaka, cello
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