Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who died Tuesday at 76, regularly championed classical music as a sidenote to his remarkable scientific career. He especially enjoyed the works of Wagner, and he once appeared on the BBC program Desert Island Discs, where he cited Mozart's Requiem as his top choice.
But our favorite story is how he first fell in love with classical music as a boy in a way that only Hawking could: by building his own sound system out of his family's old record player.
"I first became aware of classical music when I was 15," he told the University of Cambridge's news service in a 2006 interview about the three classical works that meant the most to him. "LPs had recently appeared in Britain. I ripped out the mechanism of our old wind-up gramophone and put in a turntable and a three-valve amplifier. I made a speaker cabinet from an old book case, with a sheet of chip-board on the front. The whole system looked pretty crude, but it didn't sound too bad.
"At the time, LPs were very expensive so I couldn't afford any of them on a schoolboy budget. But I bought Stravinsky's Symphony Of Psalms because it was on sale as a 10-inch LP, which were being phased out. The record was rather scratched, but I fell in love with the third movement, which makes up more than half the symphony."
Hawking also picked Henryk Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 1 and Francis Poulenc's Gloria as his other most meaningful classical works. But it's the translated text from the first movement of the Symphony of Psalms that holds the most poignant message a day after his passing:
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and with Thine ears consider my calling:
Hold not Thy peace at my tears.
For I am a stranger with Thee:
And a sojourner, as all my fathers were.
O spare me a little that I may recover my strength:
Before I go hence and be no more.
Psalm 38, verses 13 and 14