He told me that he perceives music in multi-dimensions. Most mornings on my walk across Hyde Park to work, I would stop by Brian’s studio to hang out. I would tell him the often wrong ideas I was up to and he would always have something useful to say. In the meanwhile, I was learning so much about the science of sound and the mystery behind why Brian is the top producer in the world (in my humble opinion).
Chris Mills: What about that mystery, that sound of his?
Stephon Alexander: I tried to figure it out, but Brian is simply a musical genius. Some of his songs that became generational hits he heard in dreams — just like how Ramanujan, great Indian mathematician, had proofs revealed to him in dreams. Brian loves African music, especially how the bass interplays with rhythm as one unit. Brian electronically and acoustically sculpts sound with precision and a scientific method that is unparalled.
Chris Mills: On that rare occasion when you wake up and have nothing on the schedule, what do you most enjoy doing?
Stephon Alexander: So much of my Haverford experience was running on the track team and the spirit that Coach Tom Donnelly awoke in me. If my knees aren’t bothering me I just love to go on a nice run through the trails. Then when I’m done have a nice cup of coffee and chocolate.
I also like to play my horn alone without any thought about it making any musical sense.
Chris Mills: How well-represented are African Americans — and particularly African American men — in the community of physicists and astronomers? If you believe the situation should be improved, what should secondary and higher ed do (or do more of)?
Stephon Alexander: African Americans are not well represented in physics higher education. A fact, in the top 50 physics institutions in the U.S there are only 13 African Americans physicists on the faculty. Black physicists are out there, they mostly teach at historically black colleges. There is a general sense in the African American physics community that the glass ceiling still exists at majority institutions; I think that facts speak for themselves. We need more places like Haverford, Penn State, U Maryland, Michigan that set the example to hire top notch physicists that also happen to be African Americans. Also, I never had a black physics professor. Now I can be that professor and role model for all students including African American ones. I think that it also benefits majority students to learn from faculty spanning a wide cultural range and life experiences; a ninth dimension! Since I strongly believe there is an issue with African Americans in physics, higher ed should simply go out and hire great black physicists, they’re out there.