A celebrated conductor argues that music is the essence of life and foundation of the universe, the close kin (if not the twin) of science, and a metaphor for the human community.
If his book were a musical score, Eger would probably splinter his baton in frustration: so much is going on simultaneously that cacophony and chaos threaten to overwhelm the themes. In a text that reads much like a series of ad hoc rants, paeans, broadsides, explications, and excoriations (not to mention a bit of self-promotion), the author shares his passion for music, his love of the “new” physics (how can a musician resist the symbolism of string theory?), and his deep worry about the disharmony and danger in today’s world. Unsurprisingly, Eger’s writing on music is the volume’s most revealing and most engaging. His admiration of Beethoven is patent, and his discussions (particularly of the Ninth Symphony) are illuminating, as are his comments about “perfect pitch.” Another hero is Einstein (who carried his violin everywhere), and Eger does a creditable job of explaining the general and special theories of relativity. He is greatly excited by quantum mechanics, wormholes, etc., and declares that he reads widely in the works of physicists, like George Smoot and Brian Greene, who write for popular audiences. (Eger is so animated, in fact, that he employs the exclamation point with a frequency unseen this side of middle-school essay contests!) He expends many pages summarizing what such scientists have said—and castigating both philistines who disdain the arts and religious fundamentalists who ignore or distort the discoveries of science. Eger sees both music and science as moving in directions that suggest, to him, an upheaval in world economic, political, and social conditions. Nation-states are obsolete, capitalism is destructive, waging war to establish peace is absurd. Can’t we all just get along?
Earnest ideas that lack the literary music to make them memorable.