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Einstein's Piano

The Universe of Einstein

Einstein's piano sat in the living room. Sometimes he would go to the piano, quietly, almost absentmindedly. According to his wife, he was apparently wrapped in some deep thought. Einstein once said that he would have preferred to have been a musician. He was a very competent violinist and pianist, giving concerts for charity throughout his life.

Piano Is Easy

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Einstein's wife Elsa said that the great genius had a peculiar habit while dreaming up his mathematical theories in their Berlin apartment. Einstein worked in his study on various scientific and mathematical theorems. The most notable of these is the General Theory of Relativity, which eventually made nuclear energy possible. At certain times during his work, his wife would see Einstein suddenly appear in their living room.

The Harmony Of The Spheres

At the piano, he would play a few chords. Then he would retire to his study as quietly as he had entered the living room. What price would you pay to know what those chords were? And what relationship could they possibly have to mathematical theories, such as the Big Bang?

I think I have some idea, and while I am not in any way a mathematician, I have several ideas that may draw parallels between higher mathematics and chord structure. I'll assume you're not a musician, and structure our discussion accordingly.


Relationship Between Gravity and Musical Harmony

First of all, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity was based upon Sir Isaac Newton's Theory of Gravity. And in the same fashion, the Big Bang, as it is known, is based on Einstein's Relativity. Taking the Big Bang as a starting point is a logical step in trying to retrace Einstein's steps through his calculations.

Einstein was always searching for the answer to the mystery of life, in mathematical terms. We now know that as the Big Bang. It was it's origins that Einstein was apparently trying to figure out. Remember that the Big Bang has a single, central moment in time from which all matter expanded.

Einstein's Musical Taste Was Conservative

Then examine Einstein's taste in music, which was almost exclusively Bach and Mozart. Bach and Mozart always stayed within the bounds of conventional harmony, at least in pre-Beethovenian terms. They obeyed what is known as the "tonic" key, that is, the piece always begins and ends with the same chord.

Is it not possible that Einstein was struck by some similarity between cosmic structure, and conventional musical harmony? After all, they both begin in a central place, the universe with the Big Bang, and harmony with the tonic chord. The central movement factor in Bach's music (and all music, for that matter) is, in general, a progression of chords called the circle of fifths.

In this process, a group of related chords progress logically and pleasantly from one to another, returning to the first chord (the tonic) so that the piece has a sense of balance. Perhaps it was this musical "balance" that Einstein was seeking in his cosmic models.

Harmony Equals Gravity?

If there were some cosmic factor as simple and elegant as musical harmony, one can see Einstein's attraction to it, and ardent search for it. A similar question would be, "What makes Bach's music so satisfying?" The answer might be, "It has a sense of balance as it moves from one element to another."

When one considers modern films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in which music was the main form of the alien's communication, it is not such a far stretch to see some similarity between musical structure and cosmic structure. Is this similarity what Pythagoras called, 2500 years ago, the "Harmony of the Spheres?" 


We've turned notes into numbers for happy beginners at the piano!

Play Along Songs Are Fun!


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