Musicophilia: Song of Myself

Illustration for TIME by Bryan Christie

Throughout history, the best minds have struggled to define what music is for. To Pythagoras, it was the sound of mathematical, cosmic harmony reverberating in the human soul; to Darwin, a function of sexual selection; to psychologist Steven Pinker, it is a kind of "auditory cheesecake ... crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of at least six of our mental faculties." Like life itself, music is universally experienced yet ultimately eludes explanation.

Author and neurologist Oliver Sacks knows all this — and too much else besides, to attempt any glib definitions. On the first page of Musicophilia: Tales...

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