The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

Stephon Alexander. Basic, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-465-03499-4

Using his own life as the baseline, Alexander, a professor of physics at Brown University, sweetly riffs on deep connections between music and cosmology. Alexander begins with his childhood and youth, during which he discovered his own passions for both physics and jazz. His life story is filled with physics mentors with serious jazz chops as well as encounters with “physics-enthusiast musicians” such as Yusef Lateef, Ornette Coleman, and Brian Eno. Alexander likens theoretical physics to jazz improvisation and discusses the ways that being a jazz musician has benefited his own theories. Those without a background in musicology and cosmology may have difficulty following some of Alexander’s lines of thought, but most of his conclusions are readily grasped. In a key example, he lays out how the structure of the universe arises from a “pattern of vibration,” much like a musical composition. Alexander, the son of a New York cab driver from Trinidad, concludes by sharing his dream that the work of physics, like jazz improvisation, will be enriched by practitioners from many backgrounds. Alexander’s account of his own rise from humble beginnings to produce contributions to both cosmology and jazz is as interesting as the marvelous connections he posits between jazz and physics. (May)

DETAILS
Reviewed on:03/21/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Ebook – 978-0-465-09850-7

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