A spectacular musical and scientific journey from the Bronx to the cosmic horizon that reveals the astonishing links between jazz, science, Einstein, and Coltrane
More than fifty years ago, John Coltrane drew the twelve musical notes in a circle and connected them by straight lines, forming a five-pointed star. Inspired by Einstein, Coltrane put physics and geometry at the core of his music.
Physicist and jazz musician Stephon Alexander follows suit, using jazz to answer physics' most vexing questions about the past and future of the universe. Following the great minds that first drew the links between music and physics-a list including Pythagoras, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Rakim — The Jazz of Physics reveals that the ancient poetic idea of the "Music of the Spheres," taken seriously, clarifies confounding issues in physics.
The Jazz of Physics will fascinate and inspire anyone interested in the mysteries of our universe, music, and life itself.
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.