Maurice ravel and the music of the brain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The nature of Maurice Ravel's neurological disorder, which developed when the composer was at the height of his career at about age 52, has been the subject of much debate. Proposed explanations have included subdural hematoma (from his taxi-cab accident), brain tumour, Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease or some other less common degenerative brain disorder. The earliest symptoms, which may have appeared as early as 1927, included errors in his writing and memory lapses. He developed significant word-finding difficulties, and became prone to angry outbursts when he was unable to retrieve a word. Symptoms of apraxia became apparent in 1933. His handwriting deteriorated further, and by 1934, he was unable to sign his name. It has been suggested that the style of some of Ravel's later compositions might be a reflection of his underlying brain disease, specifically, the repetitive nature of one of his most famous compositions, Boléro, has been interpreted as a manifestation of musical perseveration consistent with possible frontotemporal dementia, but there is little evidence to support this interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeurology of Music
PublisherImperial College Press
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781848162693
ISBN (Print)9781848162686
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


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