Rothstein, Edward 1952-
ROTHSTEIN, Edward 1952-
PERSONAL: Born October 16, 1952, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Joseph H. (a teacher) and Phyllis (a teacher) Rothstein; married, June 21, 1981; wife's name Marilyn (a lawyer); children: Dena, Aaron. Education: Attended Weizmann Institute of Science, 1972; Yale University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1973; graduate study at Brandeis University, 1973-74; Columbia University, M.A. (summa cum laude), 1978; doctoral study at University of Chicago, 1978-80. Religion: Jewish.
CAREER: Yale University, New Haven, CT, computer programmer for Nuclear Structures Laboratory and School of Medicine, 1970-73; John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (publisher), New York, NY, research associate and assistant to the vice president, 1975-77; Scientific American, New York, NY, book manuscript planner and evaluator, 1978; New York Times, New York, NY, music critic, 1980-84; Free Press, New York, NY, senior editor of general intellectual books, 1984-87; New York University, New York, NY, fellow of Institute for the Humanities, and Yale University, New Haven, associate fellow of Silliman College, 1987-91; New York Times, New York, NY, electronics columnist, beginning 1990, chief music critic, beginning 1991, cultural critic at large, beginning c. 2002. New Republic, music critic, 1984-91; Manhattan School of Music, instructor, 1984.
AWARDS, HONORS: Publishers Award, New York Times, 1981, for an essay on music and tyranny; Deems Taylor Award for Music Criticism, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 1986 and 1989; Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, 1990; Guggenheim fellowship, 1991-92.
Emblems of Mind: The Inner Life of Music and Mathematics, Times Books/Random House (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Herbert Muschamp and Martin E. Marty) Visions of Utopia, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Norton Reader, edited by Arthur M. Eastman, 6th edition, Norton, 1984; The Best American Essays, 1986, edited by Elizabeth Hardwick, Ticknor & Fields, 1986; also contributor to Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History, by Arthur Loesser, Dover, 1991. Contributor to periodicals, including American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, Commentary, House and Garden, Independent, Musical Quarterly, New York Review of Books, Playboy, Smithsonian, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.
SIDELIGHTS: As a cultural critic for the New York Times, Edward Rothstein writes about literature, music, philosophy, and technology and the many ways that these subjects intersect. Trained as a pianist and a mathematician, he has also been a music critic for the New Republic and New York Times, following other work including publishing and computer programming. Rothstein has published Emblems of Mind: The Inner Life of Music and Mathematics, in which he discusses connections between his two greatest interests, and Visions of Utopia, to which he contributed an essay on the utopian ideal in literature, politics, technology, and music.
Emblems of Mind is a detailed analysis of how two seemingly unrelated disciplines actually resemble each other. In part, Rothstein reviews the mathematical basis of scales, harmony, meter, and other musical theories, as well as specific compositions. He also illuminates the development of mathematical concepts by comparing this work to musical composition. The book reveals that both processes are governed by underlying rules and relationships between elements, and both require a creative drive to explore uncharted territories. Moreover, Rothstein shows how mathematicians are driven by the pursuit of truth, beauty, and elegance as are musicians. The author concludes that mathematics and music share a mysterious but decided connection.
Reviewers found much to interest the nonspecialist reader in Emblems of Mind, despite the highly technical nature of Rothstein's discussion. In one instance, Opera News reviewer Jamie James criticized the author for showing an "ungenerous attitude toward the reader" and "daunting us where he should be encouraging us." In a review for the American Record Guide, John P. McKelvey observed, "This book is not only ambitious but arcane and difficult." McKelvey added, "Complex and difficult as some parts of this book are, it does supply some interesting, entertaining, and assimilable thought for the general reader."
The enormity of Rothstein's subject was noted by Laurence A. Marshall in Sciences: "If antiquity is a measure of profundity, Rothstein's question is about as cosmic as it gets." The critic also remarked, "Rothstein has a gift for conveying nuances of understanding that are rarely spoken but often felt by expert mathematicians and trained musicians." In the New York Times Book Review, Timothy Ferris called the book "an honest and clearheaded look at music and math that entertains as it informs." He also observed, "It is surprising to find that the music sections of Emblems of Mind are a bit weaker than the math sections…. Those who do not read music may find that it helps to listen to recordings of the passages Mr. Rothstein mentions." A writer for the Wilson Quarterly further commented, "The journey [Rothstein] undertakes … is so satisfying that the elusiveness of its destination finally becomes irrelevant."
Rothstein contributed to the collection of essays Visions of Utopia, which was published in conjunction with an exhibit and lecture series at the New York Public Library. In a review for Utopian Studies, Harold J. Goldberg, called Rothstein "the most negative of the essayists, viewing all utopias as inevitably turning into dystopias. Only his beloved music offers a glimpse of a better world." According to Sherie Posesorski in the New York Times Book Review, the book contains "cautionary and inspiring essays" among which Rothstein "with impassioned acuity … analyzes the legacy of literary and political utopias."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, November-December, 2003, Thomas Larson, "Searching for Nowhere," p. 29.
American Record Guide, March-April, 1996, John P. McKelvey, review of Emblems of Mind: The Inner Life of Mathematics and Music, p. 283.
Booklist, December 15, 1994, Alan Hirsch, review of Emblems of Mind, p. 728.
Buffalo News, September 10, 1995, Kenneth Young, "The Harmony of Numbers and Notes," p. G7.
Choice, October, 1995, F. Goossen, review of Emblems of Mind.
Christian Science Monitor, May 24, 1995, Frederick Pratter, "How Music and Math Seek Truth in Beauty."
Commentary, June, 1995, Terry Teachout, review of Emblems of Mind, p. 55.
Library Journal, April 1, 1995, Martin Jenkins, review of Emblems of Mind, pp. 96-97.
Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1995, Lee Dembart, review of Emblems of Mind, p. E4.
New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1995, Timothy Ferris, review of Emblems of Mind; March 2, 2003, Sherie Posesorski, review of Visions of Utopia, p. 24.
Opera News, December 9, 1995, Jamie James, review of Emblems of Mind, p. 68.
Publishers Weekly, November 7, 1994, review of Emblems of Mind, p. 54.
Sciences, September-October, 1995, Laurence A. Marshall, review of Emblems of Mind, p. 46.
Utopian Studies, spring, 2003, Harold J. Goldberg, review of Visions of Utopia, p. 202.
Wilson Quarterly, autumn, 1995, review of Emblems of Mind, p. 89.
Rice News, http://www.rice.edu/ (April 10, 1997), David Kaplan, "New York Times Critic to Cover Music-Math Link."