Einstein liked music and like many another physics fellow played the fiddle himself.
Once the Juilliard Quartet showed up at his little house on Mercer Street here to play for just him.
A member of the quartet, which came to play for the Einstein Centennial, said it was very interesting. Einstein went into the next room, leaving the door open. He wanted to hear the music without the distraction of the musicians in front of him.
Then (the musician told people here this week) they asked Einstein to join them in a Mozart quartet.
Einstein said no, he had hurt his hand. But of course in the end he played.
Now Einstein held the view that music is often played too fast. The quartet let him set the tempo, and the Juilliard fellow said that under Einstein's beat the Mozart quartet had three movements: show, slower, slowest.
One of the quartet members told Einstein the Juilliard often was charged with playing too fast. (This was after Einstein had led them through a vastly slow rendition of Mozart).
But Einstein said he found nothing wrong with their tempo at all.
Einstein smoked. This presented trouble in Berlin when Einstein was young but already as famous as a man can well get in science. The director of the Berlin institute abhorred smoke and nobody dared to.
How to solve this? Simple:
Nobody could smoke there except Einstein. And Einstein could smoke where and when he wanted to. An ideal solution.
Once a young physicist asked advice from some famous older men about a project of his. Except for Einstein, the others gave somewhat discouraging answers, based on their best thinking. Einstein merely said, "Why not?" and the young man proceeded -- right on to glory, as I recall, though a folder of my notes was lifted from the coat rack of the Institute for Advanced Study.
An elder figure of physics said Einstein used to always sit on the first row when new papers were read at Leyden. If the reasoning seemed sound, Einstein never said anything. If something seemed to him unclear or inadequately developed, then he asked questions.
Many a paper, it was said, ultimately owed its clarity and polish to Einstein's criticism.
An older man Einstein often did not wear socks. Many stories attest to that, and some people thought Einstein forgot to put them on. But of course he never forgot at all. He just didn't like them.
But as a younger man, he wore wool socks and (as an old acquaintance said at the Centennial) not shoes. Indoors, of course. Indoors he was forever taking off his shoes and padding about in wool socks.
Maybe there's a rite of passage, at which a man like Einstein starts wearing shoes and stops wearing socks. If so, it is not recorded precisely when Einstein switched.
After a busy day of four lectures followed by commentaries, in the Institute for Advanced Study seminar honorling Einstein's memory, everybody gathered for music.
The Juilliard had played two nights earlier, and now, as the seminar approached its last day, the Emerson Quartet was to play.
More people came to hear the music than came to hear the learned lectures. Darlier I noticed the scientists tended to sit on the right side of the main aisle. For every 43 people on the left, there were 56 on the right. Future generations may wish to know that fact.
But for the music, both sides were occupied equally.
There were a lot of young scientists, some still in their 20s. The program was all Mozart.
Somebody clattered a dish in the back. A man cleared his sinuses four times at 50-second intervals and then (praise the Lord) was clear or else died or something.
The music commenced.
Needless to say, Mozart chamber mmusic defangs panthers and there is always a soft mood in a hall where they play him.
But this mood, I thought, was exceptional. You will notice, as you get older, that your judgment of concert hall moods is not altogether subjective, there is a reality there.
People were bound together in an uncommon way. It was not like one of those great nights when a theater is riveted and galvanized in between explosions of joy.
This was more like a quaker meeting, I imagine, in which a spirit began to move. Without fireworks. More like a tide.
The clarinet quintet (A Major) began.
The work begins with some polite and pleasing tootles, for Mozart does not begin such sorks with an ultimatum to deliver your soul.
That composer does not come at you like five bears in heat, but like a guide who knows his way all the way to Oregon.
With your permission, which he always asks and gets, he stops on the way to show you revulets and clean plateaus. And by the way, would you like to meet God?
He debriefs you for the world you really live in before he's done. You are under no obligation -- it was his pleasure to show you the sights of his country.
Einstein, we may assume, always played Mozart too slow because being mortal, he could not endure the thought it might ever end.