Theme of the Week

M or N – Music, Art – Amadeus

Reader: Tony Zbaraschuk
Author: Frank Stenton
Title: The Bayeux tapestry: a comprehensive survey
Rating: 4

Summary: The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the world’s most interesting documents: a strip of linen more than 200 feet long, embroidered with the story of William’s conquest of England in 1066, probably commissioned by his half–brother and assistant Odo, and most likely made in England (perhaps in Canterbury, where Odo was supervising the county of Kent for William in the late 1060s and early 1070s).

This book includes a number of essays on the Tapestry, an account of its history beginning with cathedral inventories and ranging through its near–destruction during the French Revolution (a local lawyer saved it from being cut up to provide wagon covers!), its use by Napoleon (who planned to make it part of a spectacle celebrating his invasion of England), and its evacuation and preservation during World War II.

The majority of the book consists of a series of plates showing the whole Tapestry, unfortunately mostly in black and white. The few color plates are amazingly vibrant and I wish there were more of them; the Tapestry truly cannot be appreciated only as a matter of line and form.

This is probably the oldest narrative fabric in existence, but we have records of others at least as far back as Homer’s time. The reaping scythe of Time has taken them from us, and we can only wonder what might have once been recorded but is now invisible. Let us be glad that this, at least, was preserved for us.

(And make a note to visit Bayeux if you are ever in Normandy on the northern coast of France. You can see the whole thing there today.)

Reader: Kitty Simmons
Author: Oliver Sacks
Title: Musicophilia
Call: LA 2317 K64 A3
Rating: 4

Summary: “There is now an enormous and rapidly growing body of work on the neural underpinnings of musical perception and imagery, and the complex and often bizarre disorders to which these are prone.”–– Preface

Neurologist Oliver Sacks turns his storytelling attention to the miracle of music in his latest exploration of the human brain gone awry. He includes some interesting biographical details in revealing some of his own musical experiences. The effects resulting from a variety of neurological disorders covered in this book include seeing music in colors, an inability to perceive musical sounds as anything but random noise, hallucinations of hearing music (even by the deaf), tasting music, and more. Special attention is given to those suffering from amnesia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and Tourette’s syndrome. The closing chapter “Dementia and Music Therapy” reveals that when nearly all other memories have left Alzheimer’s patients, musical ability, both vocal and instrumental may persist with surprising vigor.

Although not overly technical, the author does include both musical and scientific details for many of the cases discussed. Additional information is also provided in footnotes and in an extensive bibliography for those interested in further reading. An interview and presentation by the author about this book are available on the website, making for either a good introduction or a satisfying review depending on whether you listen before or after reading the book.

Theme Archives

B’s – philosophy, psychology, theology, religions
C or D – history of Europe, Africa, Asia, archaeology History of the World part 1
E or F – history of the Americas – Roots
G or H – Economics, business, anthropology, sociology, crime – Wall Street
L – Education – Stand and Deliver
M or N – Music, Art – Amadeus
P – Language and Literature – The Diary of Bridget Jones
Q or R – Science, Math, Medicine – Beautiful Mind