读者文摘: 那一夜我遇见爱因斯坦

五月 24, 2008

nucifera: 这是一篇难得的文章,不禁让我想起过去的小小心愿,就如爱因斯坦所说:Opening up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty(为开拓人类美感再下一城)

感谢我的小妹姝慧把这文章输入电脑。

………………………………………………………

Jerome Weidman
二零零八年五月

年少时刚开始闯江湖,我曾应邀到纽约一位慈善家的府上吃饭。饭后女主人领我们到一间宽敞的客厅,其他宾客鱼贯进入,我看到两样让人不安的事情:仆人将镀金小椅子排成整齐的行列;前方倚墙处摆设了几样乐器。看来我是碰上一场室内演奏之夜,逃不掉了。

我这么说,是因为音乐与我犹如对牛弹琴。我根本是个音盲,得费好大力气才能跟上最简单的曲调,严肃的音乐在我听来不过是一堆噪音的组合。因此我的做法就是被困时的一贯反应:就座,当音乐响起之际,做心领神会欣赏状,其实从脑袋里封闭了耳朵,沉浸在完全不相干的思绪里。

过了不久,我意识到周遭的人都在鼓掌,心想打开耳朵应该无妨了。就在此时,我听到右边传来一阵温和而出奇清晰的声音。“你喜欢巴哈?” 那个声音说。

身为作家,我对巴哈的了解跟我对核分裂的认识差不多。但我确实人的这张世界上最有名的脸, 包括那一头众所周知的白色乱法,以及嘴里永远咬着的烟斗。 我竟然坐在爱因斯坦旁边。

“呃…… ”我很不自在的嗫嚅着。人家不过是随口问问, 我只要同样随口答应即可。但看着他那不凡的眼神, 我知道他并不只是敷衍地跟我客气;不论我如何看待这段对话,他那方面显然是很重视的。尤其是我觉得对这个人你不应该说谎,无论是多么微不足道的谎言。

我尴尬的说“我对巴哈一无所知,从未听过他的音乐。”

爱因斯坦表情丰富的脸上露出困惑与惊讶:“你没听过巴哈?”

他那语气仿佛我说的是从来没洗过澡。

我赶紧说“并非我不欣赏巴哈,但我是音盲,或几近音盲。 我从来没有把任何音乐真正听进去。

老人脸上出现关切的表情, 突然说:“请跟我来好吗?

他站起来,拉着我的手臂,他径自引领我上楼,看起来熟门熟路。他打开一扇门,拉着我进入堆满书籍的书房,关上门。

“好,”他歉然一笑 ,“请告诉我,你对音乐有这种感觉有多久了?”

“一直都是这样。”我心里很不好受,“爱因斯坦博士,请下楼去欣赏音乐吧,我听不听得懂其实无关紧要。”

他摇摇头皱起眉头,仿佛我说了什么毫不相干的事。

“请告诉我,有任何音乐是你喜欢的吗?”

“唔,我喜欢有歌词的歌,可以跟着唱的那种。”

他微笑点头,显然很高兴,“或许你可以举个例子?”

我放大胆子说:“平.克劳斯贝的歌我几乎都喜欢。”

他再度点头,神情轻松:“那好。”

他走到书房一角,打开留声机,拿出一张又一张唱片。我不安的看着。终于,他笑道:“有了!”

他将唱片放上,顷刻间,克劳斯贝轻快的歌声充满整间书房,歌名是《蓝夜将逝》。爱因斯坦笑着看我,一边用烟斗柄打拍子。听了三、四句后,他将留声机关掉。“现在,能不能告诉我,刚刚听到什么?”

最简单的回答方式似乎就是唱出来。我唱了,很吃力地不要走音或破音,他脸上的表情像日出一样灿烂。

我唱完,他开心地叫道:“瞧,其实你懂!”

我喃喃地说这是我最喜欢的歌,听过几百次了,根本当不得真。

“胡说,当然可以!你还记得在学校第一次上算术课吗? 假想你第一次接触数字 ,老师要你做很艰难的题目,譬如长除法火分数,你会做吗?”

“一定不会。”

“可不是!”爱因斯坦得意地用烟斗柄挥了一下,“你一定不会做,而且满心慌乱,从此排斥长除法与分数的趣味。“他又举起烟斗柄挥舞了。“当然,你第一天上课,没有一个老师会那么笨,他会从最基本的教起。等你学会了简单的问题,才进展到长除法与分数。”

“音乐也是如此。“爱因斯坦拿起克劳斯贝的唱片,“这首简单好听的歌就像简单的加减法,你已经会了。接下来可以进展到跟复杂的东西。”

他找到另一张唱片放上去,《喇叭手》回荡在整个书房,是约翰.麦柯马克的金嗓子,听了几句,爱因斯坦将它关掉。

“好!你可以照着唱给我听吗?”

我唱了,很不自在,但没想到竟能唱得相当准确。爱因斯坦凝视我的神情,我这辈子只在另一次场合看过:我在高中毕业典礼代表致词时,父亲脸上的表情。

我一唱完,爱因斯坦说:“太好了,了不起!再听听这个。”

他说的“这个”,是知名男高音卡罗素演唱独幕歌剧《乡间骑士》的一段,我哪知道他唱些什么,但还是勉强模仿他的唱腔唱了一段。爱因斯坦微笑着表示嘉许。

听过卡罗素,我们至少又听了十来种音乐。我心中萦绕着一种惊奇感,这位了不起的科学家和我只是偶然相遇,却如此全然投入眼前这件事,仿佛我是他唯一在乎的人。

最后进行到没有歌词的音乐唱片,他要我哼出曲调。唱到高音处,爱因斯坦的嘴微张,头向后仰,就像要帮我登上看似达不到的境界。显然我的表现差强人意,因为他突然关掉留声机。

他勾着我的手臂说:“小伙子,我们可以去听巴哈了!”

我们回到客厅就座,演奏者刚上去调音准备演出新曲目。爱因斯坦微微一笑,意带鼓励地在我膝上拍了一下。

他低声说:“放轻松去听就好了,很简单。”

当然不简单。若不是他刚刚为一个素不相识的人投入那么多心力,我绝不可能听到巴哈的《羔羊安然放牧》。那一夜是我生平第一次听进去,其后我又听了无数次,而且几乎百听不厌,因为感觉上并不是独自聆听,我身旁坐着一个矮小微胖的老人,一头蓬乱的白发,嘴里咬着已熄掉的烟斗,眼中奇异的温暖透露出对世界的热情与好奇。

音乐会结束时,我真心诚意和大家一起鼓掌。

这是女主人走过来,冷冷地瞪了我一眼:“爱因斯坦博士,很遗憾您错过了大半段。”

我和爱因斯坦急急站起来,他说:“很不好意思,但我和这位年轻朋友一起做了一件人类最了不起的活动。”她困惑地问“是吗?什么事?”

爱因斯坦笑了,伸手环住我的肩膀,说出一句话——对一个永远感谢他的人而言,很可以作为他的墓志铭:“为开拓人类美感再下一城。”

爱因斯坦生于一八七九年三月十四日,酷爱音乐,曾说:“如果我不从事物理,很可能成为音乐家。”本文作者是美国小说家。

这篇故事最早刊登于一九五五年《读者文摘》。

……………………………………………………………………………………

When I was a very young man , just beginning to make my way, I was invited to dine at the home of a distinguished New York philanthropist. After dinner our hostess le us to an enormous drawing room. Other guests were pouring in , and my eyes beheld two unnerving sights : servants were arranging small gilt chairs in long, neat rows; and up front, leaning against the wall, were musical instruments . Apparently I was in for an evening of chamber music.

I use the phrase “in for ” because music meant nothing to me. I am almost tone deaf –only with great effort can I carry the simplest tune, and serious music was to me no more than an arragement of noises. So I did what I always did when trapped: I sat down and when the music started I fixed my face in what I hoped was an expression of intelligent appreciation, closed my ears from the inside and submerged myself in my own completely irrelevant thougths.

After a while, becoming aware that the people around me werer applauding, I concluded it was safe to unplug my ears.At once I heard a gentle but surprisingly penetrating voice on my right. “ You are fond of Bach?”the voice said .

As a writer, I knew as much about Bach as I know about nuclear fission. But I did know one of the most famous faces in the world, with the renowned shock of untidy white hair and the ever-present pipe between the teeth.I was sitting next to Albert Einstein.

“Well ,” I said uncomfortably, and hesitated. I had been asked a casual question. All I had to do was be equally casual in my reply. But I could see from the look in my neighbour’s extraordinary eyes that their owner was not merely going through the perfunctory duties of elementary politeness. Regardless of what value I placed on my part in the verbal exchange , to this man his part in it mattered very much . Above all, I could feel that this was a man to whom you did not tell a lie, however small.

“I don’t know anything about Bach,” I said awkwardly. “I’ve never heard any of his music.”

A look of perpleded astonishment washed across Einstein’s mobile face.

“You have never heard Bach?”

He made it sound as though I had said I’d never taken a bath.

“It isn’ t that I don’t want to like Bach ,” I replied hastily. “It’s just that I’m tone deaf, or almost tone deaf, and I’ve never really heard anybody’s music.”

A look of concern came into the old man’s face. “ Please ,”he said abruptly. “you will come with me?”

He stood up and took my arm. I stood up. Resolutely he led me upstairs. He obviously knew the house well. On the floor above he opened the door into a book-lined study, drew me in and shut the door.

“Now ,” he said with a samll, troubled smile. “You will tell mle, please how long you have felt this way about music?”

“All my life,” I said , feeling awful. “I wish you would go back downstairs and listen, Dr Einstein. The fact that I don’t enjoy it doesn’t matter.”

He shook his head and scowled, as though I had introduce an irrelvance.

“Tell me , please, ” he said. “ Is there andy kind of music that you do like ?”

“Well ,” I answered , “I like songs that have words, and the kind of music where I can follow the tune.”

He smiled and nodded, obviously pleased. “You can give me an example, perhaps?”

“Well , ”I ventured , “almost anything by Bing Crosby.”

He went to a corner of the room , opened a phonograph and started pulling out records. I watched him uneasily. At last he beamed. “Ah!” he said.

He put the record on and in a moment the study was filled with the relaxe, lilting strains of Bing Crosby ’s “When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day”.Einstein beamed at me and kept time with the stem of his pipe. After three or four phrases he stooped the phonograph. “Now ,”he said . “Will you tell me, please, what have just heard?”

The simplest answer seemed to be to sing the lines. I did just that, try desperately to stay in tune and keep my voice from cracking . The expression Einstein’s face was likle the sunrise.

“You see!” he cried with delight when I finished . “You do have an ear!”

I mumbled something about this being one of my favourite songs , something I had heard hundreds of times, so that it didn’t really prove anything.

“Nonsense !”said Einstein. “It proves everything!Do you remember your first arithmetic lesson in school? Suppose , at your very first contact with numbers, your teacher had ordered you to work out a problem in say , long division or fractions. Could You have done so?”

“No, of course not.”

“Precisely!”Einstein made a triumphant wave with his pipe stem. “It would have been impossible and you would have reacted in panic. You would have closed your mind to long division and fractions. As a result, because of that one small mistake by your teacher , it is possible your whole life you would be denied the beauty of long division and fractions.”The pipe stem went up and out in another wave. “But on your first day no teacher would be so foolish. He would start you with elementary things-then, when you had acquired skill with the simplest problems , he would lead you up to longd division and to fractions.

“So it is with music.” Einstein picked up the Bing Crosby record . “This simple, charming little song is like simple addition or subtraction. You have mastered it. Now we go on to something more complicated.”

He found another record and set it going. The oglden voice of John McCormack singing “The Trumpeter” filled the room . After a few lines Einstein stooped the record.

“So!”he said. “You will sing that back to me , please ?”

I did-with a good deal of self-consciousness but with, for me , a surprising degree of accuracy . Einstein stared at me with a look on his face that I had seen only once before in my life : on the face of my father as he listened to me deliver the valedictory address at my high school passing –out ceremony.

“Excellent!”Einstein remarked when I finished . “Wonderful! Now this!”

“This ” proved to be Caruso in what was to me a completely unrecognizable fragement from “Cavalleria Rusticana ,”a one-act opera. Nevertheless, I managed to reproduce an approximation of the sound the famous tenor had made. Einstein beamed his approval.

Caruso was followed by at least a dozen others. I could not shake my feeling of awe over the way this great man,into whose company I had been thrown by chance, was completely preoccupied by what we were doing , as though I were his sole concen.

We came at last to recordings of music without words, which I was instucted to reproduce by humming. When I reached for high note, Einstein’s mouth opened and his head went back as if to help me attain what seemed unattainable. Evidently I came close enough, for he suddenly turned off the phonograph.

“Now , young man ,” he said , putting his arm through mine. “We are ready for Bach!”

As we returned to our seats in the drawing room , the players were tuning up for a new selection. Einstein smiled and gave me a reassuring pat on the knee.

“Just allow yourself to listen ,” he whispered “That is all.”

It wasn’t really all, of course . Without the effort he had just poured out for a total stranger I would never have heard , as I did that night for the first time in my life, Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze ”I have heard it many time sice. I don’t think I shall ever tire of it . Because I never listen to it alone . I am sitting beside a small, round man with a shock of untidy white hair , a dead pipe clamped between this teeth, and eyes that contain in their extraodinary warmth all the wonder of the world .

When the concert was finished I added my genuine apphause to that of the others.

Suddenly our hostess confronted us. “ I’m sorry,Dr Einstein ,” she said with an icy glare at me , “that you missed so much of the perfomance .”

Einstein and I came hastily to our feet. “I am sorry, too”, he said. “My young friend here and I, however, were engaged in the greatest activity of which man is capable.” She looke puzzled . “ Really ?”she said . “And what is that?”

Einstein smiled and put his arm across my shoulders. And he uttered ten words that –for at least one person who is in his endless debt –are his epitaph:

“Opening up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty.”

Albert Einstein , whose birthday falls on March 14th , was passionately fond of music. He once said:”If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician.”Jerome Weidman was an American novelist.

This story first appeared in a 1955 Reader’s Digest

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