Relativity 11:27
Simultaneity 09:11
Spacetime 04:53
Unbounded 09:44


Relative Ruminations on Relativity
By Ronald L. Mallett, PhD

Some years ago, Alan J. Friedman and Carol C. Donley published a book with the intriguing title Einstein as Myth and Muse, which traces the cultural influence of Einstein's theory of relativity. The impact of Einstein's theory on the public imagination has been profound and its influence on modern jazz as a muse is very artfully evident in the titles of the beautifully performed tracks of the Alex Sipiagin album Relativity: Music of Dave Lisik with performances by Chris Potter, Will Vinson, John Escreet, Boris Koslov, Eric Harland and Alina Engibaryan.

As a theoretical physicist specializing in Einstein's theory of relativity, I look at the physical aspect of reality while jazz represents complex musical aspects of reality. Each track on this album highlights a particular aspect of Einstein’s theory. Relativity means looking at reality from different aspects to gain a better perspective of the whole. My ruminations consider what Einstein's theory has to say about the physical aspect of each title of this beautiful album. Let's take a look:

Relativity: Einstein's theory of relativity is the result of a conflict between Newton's classical physics of motion and Maxwell's theory of light. This lack of harmony between Newton and Maxwell is what Einstein had to deal with.

Propagation of Light: All the visible information that comes to us from the universe, whether on the large or small scale, is due to light which, like sound, travels as a wave. These light waves travel at a constant speed of 186,000 miles per second. The speed of light does not change whether you're moving towards a light beam or away from it. Ordinary objects like a baseball change their speed if you're running towards the baseball after it is pitched or away from it. Light behaves differently.

Space and Time: Newton says that, just like the baseball, light should change its speed depending on whether you're moving towards the source of light or away from it. Einstein said the speed of light doesn't change with the speed of the source and there is an important reason why: the speed of light stays the same because space and time change.

Simultaneity: According to Einstein's theory of relativity, events that happen for you at the same time if you're standing still, did not happen for me at the same time if I'm moving relative to you. Time is relative.

Clocks in Motion: Einstein says that time for moving clock slows down. The faster you move the more your clock slows down. Your heart is a clock so you age less the faster you move relative to everyone else.

Addition of Velocity: If someone is running towards you and throws a baseball at you, the baseball will be coming at you faster than if they were standing still when they threw the ball at you. The velocity of the runner is added to the velocity of the baseball. If they are running at you while they are shining a flashlight, according to relativity, the velocity of light beam is the same as if they were standing still. In other words, adding any velocity to the velocity of light is not change the velocity of light. This is because space and time are changing.

Difficult Cosmos: Relativity shows that the universe is much richer, deeper and more complex than we had ever thought before. When we look out into the universe, we are looking into the past. The universe we see now is the universe as it was because it takes time for light to reach us.

Spacetime: The famous mathematician Hermann Minkowski stated that, because of Einstein's theory of relativity, "space by itself and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows and only a kind of union of the two will have an independent reality." Space and time are joined into a four-dimensional “spacetime.”

Unbounded: The theory of relativity has given us a new view of the universe that is no longer constrained by the mechanical world of Newton. Jazz also gives us a new view of music that is radically different from the classical music of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. To me, all the pieces in this dynamic album of modern jazz have a have a wonderful harmonic and melodic freedom that is characteristic of Einstein's theory of relativity.

Ronald L. Mallett, PhD, is Research Professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut and is the author of the book, "Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality."


released April 26, 2017


all rights reserved



Dave Lisik Wellington, New Zealand

Canadian composer and trumpeter, Dr. David Lisik teaches jazz composition, arranging, theory and pedagogy at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is co-author of the award-winning book, 50 Years at the Village Vanguard: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

Photograph by Nick Granville
... more

contact / help

Contact Dave Lisik

Streaming and
Download help

Report this album or account

If you like Relativity, you may also like: