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This Week in History
March 9-15, 1879

Albert Einstein, Musician

March 2014

“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.”

This week we celebrate tbe birthday of Albert Einstein, born March 14, 1879 and died April 18, 1955.  While most people know that Einstein was the father of the world's most famous equation E= mc2, what they do not know is that this great scientist attributed his scientific ability to his classical musical activity. We excerpt here from an article entitled "Einstein the Artist", which can be read in full here:

Einstein’s Violin: ‘My Old Friend’

Einstein called his violin, “my old friend.” According to his son, “He would often play his violin in his kitchen late at night, improvising melodies while he pondered complicated problems. Then, suddenly, in the middle of playing, he would announce excitedly, ‘I’ve got it!’” .

From Einstein’s sharp critiques of Wagner, you see that it’s not just any music that can stimulate human creativity. What’s required is an art created by geniuses for the purpose of engaging the mind, to recreate ideas, instead of going for effects. Therefore, it’s no wonder we lack creative thinkers like Einstein today, given the terrible state of music and culture. More important than asking, “Did Einstein like the right people?” would be, “What was it about the composer’s method which he appreciated and used?” The answer to which is reflected in his thoughts about Mozart.

How does the beauty of Classical music work on your subconscious?

He called his violin “my old friend, through whom I say and I sing to myself all that which I often do not admit myself at all, but which at best makes me laugh when I see it in others.”

How does it develop an intuitive sense?

“In music, as in physics, Einstein was never satisfied with mere technique; instead, he sought in both rhapsodic pleasure from an underlying harmony. His long hours in Weber’s laboratory, like his music lessons, sensitized Einstein to the delicacy of instruments in general, to the beauty and harmony that they could create, when properly used, and to the importance of caring for one’s instrument. This sensitivity to precision instruments and their use in assessing theory against physical reality is one of the principal features of the young Einstein’s writings.”[13]

This adds a dimension to the use of instrumentation when investigating the universe; in art, we also use our instruments; not only do we respond to the effect produced by the instrument to get a picture of the reality outside us, we create it! [14]

The Function of the Imagination: An Organized Structure for Freedom

LaRouche: On Classical Music and Scientific Discovery

The following is an excerpt from the LaRouche Weekly Report of April 18, 2012.

The definition of Classical composition is exactly this: that Classical composition actually produces a result which is expressed as human creativity. But it is expressed as if it were coming from the future, into the present.

Then you look at living processes, and you that see the concept of life also works as coming from the future into the present, in which you’re looking backwards. You look at nonlife, when called nonlife, you look at that as clock-time, one clock-time. When you look at Classical musical composition, and its creativity, your sense of it is in reverse. You foresee the effect before it happens! That’s the essence of Classical composition. And that’s also the characteristic of all actually creative human activity.

Every discovery of principle occurs exactly in the same form as Classical musical composition. You start with a problem; you get an idea, think it through; and you get to a point, and suddenly, you get a breakthrough! And you find that you are actually anticipating the future, with respect to the present. The same thing is true of life: You never get life from nonlife. You never get creativity from mere life. Our understanding of the universe is in that order.

And therefore, as we enter the challenge of the Solar System, and beyond, we go from what’s called a chronic system, but once you enter into this area, you don’t have a chronic system any more. And therefore, we have to redefine our view and definition of the universe and its principles, as a working universe, because the normal sense of space and time, no longer exists. As Einstein already saw, space and time are qualities which people believe in generally, but which do not actually exist, as Einstein’s proof demonstrates it.

So therefore, you look at it with aid of Classical musical composition, and how the person who’s performing it, or experiencing it, responds to it: that when they foresee the solution for the composition, they get an anticipation of discovery, before they arrive at the discovery in a normal way. In other words, they start with the score, but they do not deduce the composition from the score. The discovery itself defines the discovery—that is, you get this déjà vu sense—you experience this—and this is the principle we’re fighting with and the principle we’re dealing with. That obviously, the universe is organized in this way, and our existence proves that. The problem is, that we are not conditioned to think in this way, and therefore, we use a kind of thinking which does not correspond to reality.

One could superficially ask, how directly was Einstein’s work tied into his music? His second wife tells us in a letter: “Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories. He goes to his study, comes back, strikes a few chords on the piano, jots something down, returns to his study.”

This reminds me of Plato’s conception of recollection and innate ideas: The answer to a paradox exists nowhere but within yourself. You let your mind work to get an idea and you find it inside yourself.

“He had his music. But this, as he would explain on occasions, was in some ways an extension of his thinking processes, a method of allowing the subconscious to solve particularly tricky problems. . . . He would often play his violin in his kitchen late at night, improvising melodies while he pondered complicated problems. Then, suddenly, in the middle of playing, he would announce excitedly, ‘I’ve got it!’As if by inspiration, the answer to the problem would have come to him in the midst of music. . . . Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music, and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”[15]

Einstein’s violin was no magic wand. Art distills the world of experience into its essential nature, leaving out all the accidents and limits of the material, leaving behind the actual substance of reality. This is what we are trying to obtain in physics. The reason why a thought process can be carried over from one realm to another (art to science) is because both realms are governed by the same universal principle of creativity.

An account of Einstein from his friend, the Japanese violinist and teacher Shin’ichi Suzuki,[16] presents it more clearly:

“[My discovery of Special Relativity] occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.”

Intuition is a subtle aspect of human work, though it plays such an important part. People who demand a practical or logical demonstration of something for it to be accepted, eliminate actual human science. True, this necessary discontinuity in thought needs to be educated and disciplined, but Einstein promotes the intuitive imagination as crucial, as seen in this exchange between Einstein and George Sylvester Viereck:

Einstein: I believe in the brotherhood of man and the uniqueness of the individual. But if you ask me to prove what I believe, I can’t. You know them to be true but you could spend a whole lifetime without being able to prove them. The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a leap—call it intuition or what you will—and comes out upon a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap.

Viereck: If we owe so little to the experience of others, how do you account for sudden leaps forward in the sphere of science? Do you ascribe your own discoveries to intuition or inspiration?

Einstein: I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. When two expeditions of scientists, financed by the Royal Academy, went forth to test my theory of relativity, I was convinced that their conclusions would tally with my hypothesis. I was not surprised when the eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirmed my intuitions. I would have been surprised if I had been wrong.

Viereck: Then you trust more to your imagination than to your knowledge?

Einstein: I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”[17]

The element of play as exercised in music is seen as central to Einstein’s character as described by his son:

“As a matter of fact, he always liked to improvise things of that sort, just as he would also like to improvise in his work in a way: for instance, when he had to give a talk he never knew ahead of time exactly what he was going to say. It would depend on the impression he got from the audience in which way he would express himself, and into how much detail he would go. And so, this improvisation was a very important part of his character and of his way of working. In other respects, he had a character more like that of an artist than of a scientist as we usually think of them. For instance, the highest praise for a good theory or a good piece of work was not that it was correct nor that it was exact but that it was beautiful.”[18]


[13]. John Stachel, Einstein: The Formative Years, 1879-1909 (2000).

[14]. For more on the topic of man using instrumentation to extend his sensorium and hence his knowledge of the world, see: http://www.larouchepac. com/node/17945. Also from Frederick Schiller’s Aesthetical Letters, number 13: “The more diversely the receptivity [for sensuousness] develops, the more variable it is; it offers more points of contact to phenomena, thus man apprehends the world much more, and develops more faculties in himself. The more power and depth the personality gains, the more reason gains freedom, so much more man comprehends the world, thus the more form he creates out of himself. Therefore his culture will consist in two things: first, in procuring for the receptive powers the most diverse contacts with the world, and to render sensations as passive as possible; secondly, to acquire for the will the highest independence from the senses, and, to push reason’s activity to its maximum. Where both qualities unite, man will combine the greatest fullness of existence with the greatest independence and freedom. And, instead of abandoning himself to the world, he will rather draw it into himself with the whole infinity of its phenomena, and subject it to the unity of his reason. To summarize: only in so far as he is independent, is reality outside him, is he receptive to it; only in so far as he is receptive, is reality in him, is he a thinking power.“

[15]. Hans Albert Einstein (1904-1973), the second child and first son of Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric.

[16]. Shin’ichi Suzuki, Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education (1986).

[17]. George Sylvester Viereck, “What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview,” The Saturday Evening Post, Oct. 26, 1929.

[18]. G.J. Whitrow (Mayes interview with H.A. Einstein) Einstein: The Man and His Achievement (1986).