The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

E=mc2; or, E Is Equal to Music Too!

(On the Other Side of Albert Einstein)

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.
I often think in music.
I live my daydreams in music.
I see my life in terms of music.
I get most joy in life out of music.”

any people think of scientists as serious or weird individuals who do nothing but find solutions to scientific problems they themselves make. True enough, men and women of science or of other higher intellectual avocations are usually serious individuals, but I don’t see them as weird. We have to consider also that, stripped of their intellectual preoccupations, many if not most of these scientists and scholars are just like ordinary people, in the sense that they also spend time on nonscholarly activities.

To Attain a Balance Is to Allot Equity of Time
Depriving ourselves of hobbies, pastimes, and other leisurely activities and stressing out ourselves with too much work do not make us well-rounded and better persons. Every one needs to strike a balance between work and play, lest one’s life will become either miserably stressful or too carefree to a fault. One needs to allot an equity of time for each of his various activities—time to study, time to be with family and friends, time to go out and unwind, time to enjoy a hobby or pastime, time to be alone to be able to reflect on life’s progress, or time to listen to his favorite music. Attaining such a balance is a key to a successful and contented life.

The Wild-Haired Science Wizard Was an Ardent Violinist
One widely popular character in the annals of science is Albert Einstein, whose name has become synonymous with genius and extraordinary intelligence. Einstein is one of the best-known scientists who ever lived. His contribution in changing the way humankind understands the universe is immense. With all his scholarly works, one would be inclined to think that Einstein had spent most of his life inside a laboratory, working on all those mathematical equations and scientific experiments. But, this proved untrue. Albert Einstein had time also for things other than science—like music, for instance.

He found enjoyment in pursuing his musical interest throughout his life

The wild-haired science wizard, born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, took to music every time he was mulling over difficult studies. It became not only an outlet every time he felt the pressures of work but also an inspiration for his mathematical and scientific ideas. For example, he appreciated the logical structures of Mozart’s sonatas, feeling that they resembled mathematics in their composition. Einstein’s love for music took shape when he was six. His mother, an accomplished musician, encouraged him to play the violin. As a child, Einstein disliked being forced to attend his violin classes; but by the time he was a teenager, he finally learned to love the instrument. He found enjoyment in pursuing this musical interest throughout his life, regularly attending musical recitals. He was often invited also to share his views on music. The following are examples of such music critiques that he wrote.

“[Johannes Sebastian] Bach, [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart, and some old Italian and English composers are my favorites in music. [Ludwig van] Beethoven considerably less—but certainly [Franz] Schubert. 

“It is impossible for me to say whether Bach or Mozart means more to me. In music I do not look for logic. I am quite intuitive on the whole and know no theories. I never like a work if I cannot intuitively grasp its inner unity.

“Schubert is one of my favorites because of his superlative ability to express emotion and his enormous powers of melodic invention. But in his larger works I am disturbed by a certain lack of architectonics.

“I find a few lieder and chamber works by [Johannes] Brahms truly significant, also in their structure. But most of his works have for me no inner persuasiveness. I do not understand why it was necessary to write them. 

“I admire [Wilhelm Richard] Wagner's inventiveness, but I see his lack of architectural structure as decadence. Moreover, to me his musical personality is indescribably offensive so that for the most part I can listen to him only with disgust. 

“I feel that [Richard] Strauss is gifted, but without inner truth and concerned only with outside effects I cannot say that I care nothing for modern music in general. I feel that [Achille-Claude] Debussy is delicately colorful but shows a poverty of structure. I cannot work up great enthusiasm for something of that sort.”

Final Note
A peak outside the “lablife” of Einstein makes one realize that music had indeed been a potent inspiration for one of the most mathematical minds who ever lived.


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