Saturday, October 15, 2005

EinsteinFest: Modernity and Music

Today has been one of the best days for me at EinsteinFest at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics. My wife and I capped it off with a lecture by Walter FrischFrom Romanticism to Modernism: Music in Einstein’s World. Here’s the way you do public lectures for the educated generalist – good lecture, appropriate slides for the video element, and an excellent choice of audio clips to illustrate your points. We got to hear excerpts from Schoenberg, Mahler, Bartók, Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky (and many others).

Once again, I left the lecture with that wonderful sense of worlds of opportunity and learning available and beckoning me to enter the open door. That feeling is hard to articulate, but it’s one of the natural highs that I heartily recommend to everyone.

Frisch is a modest presenter. He didn’t make any dramatic claims for these “men of music” as revolutionaries. In fact, each was firmly rooted in the classical traditions and motifs of the romantic period of the 19th century, even though each contributed to the modernist music of the 20th century. The operatic selections were especially goose-bump inducing.

And as I write this review, I sit in my study with both my sons at their computers and all three of us listening to Pink Floyd. Who’d have thought my 16-year-old would be the one to introduce me to a band of my generation! Science, music, and the intergenerational dialogue – hard to beat.

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