Albert Einstein – The Music Teacher?


"Everything should be made as simple as possible. But not simpler." - Albert Einstein

Who would have thought that the proponent of the theory of relativity, who came up with the famous equation, E = mc2, also taught a tone-deaf man to appreciate Bach?

One night, a young man attended a social gathering hosted by a New York philanthropist. As he entered the room, he noticed that the seats were arranged in neat little rows, and a set of musical instruments were set up in front. Apparently, and to the man’s disappointment, he was invited to a night of chamber music.

Throughout the night he pretended to listen and would imitate the soft smiles and applause of the guests in order to blend in, hoping that nobody would notice that he could not care less about Bach’s music. The next words he heard, though, were totally unexpected:

“You are fond of Bach?”

It was only then that the young man realized he was sitting next to the genius extraordinaire, Albert Einstein. When he revealed, with a hint of embarrassment, that he was tone-deaf and hence could not fully appreciate music, Einstein immediately stood up in consternation and led him upstairs to a private room.

Einstein Plays a Few Records

The young man revealed to Einstein that he could only appreciate songs with lyrics and whose tunes are easy to follow. Einstein then played a record of Bing Crosby and asked the young man to tell him what he just heard. Easily, the man sang the lyrics of the song. Einstein explained that being tone-deaf is not an inherent defect, but only a symptom of poor methods of instruction. Just like arithmetic, any child confronted with division problems or complex fractions during his first math class is obviously bound to be terrible. Skills properly develop when learned step by step, in a process of unfolding.

Following this principle, Einstein would play songs one by one increasing in complexity.

  • After the Bing Crosby record, Einstein played John McCormack’s “The Trumpeter”;
  • Afterwards, a difficult musical fragment from Caruso’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

In all instances, the guy would sing or hum the songs he just heard with surprising precision.

When both of them went down to listen to some Bach once again, the young man, to his surprise, was able to hear the music. Thanks to Albert Einstein, he was now able to appreciate Bach for the first time in his life.

The young man, who turned out to be the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Jerome Weidman, would be forever grateful to this science genius who taught him, that nothing is impossible to learn.

Action Summary:

  • If you find something hard to do, break it down. Simplify it.
  • Every thing is learn able. As long as you build a strong foundation to learn from, and learn in a step by step manner.

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