[Humanist] 27.548 limits of online search tools: an example

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Nov 22 10:16:01 CET 2013


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 548.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>            (41)
        Subject: C D E flat

  [2]   From:    Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>             (6)
        Subject: C D E flat  (addendum)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2013 10:47:06 -0500
        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
        Subject: C D E flat
        In-Reply-To: <20131121062805.3B4F076E3 at digitalhumanities.org>


Willard,

I am an avid user of online search tools. I have come up against a limit 
in the intelligence of such tools. I share it here for the insight 
subscribers to Humanist may be able to share on the state of the art of 
making knowledge accessible.

My example stems from a reading of a poem sequence by Robin Blaser called 
The Moth Poem. The poem sequence has a section with capitalized letters 
running vertically down the page. Some of these letter are prefixed by 
what I recognize as the musical notation for "flat". This section of the 
poem made of musical notation reads "C D E flat G A B flat B D".

Running the string through a search engine nets no match. It appears that 
the search engine doesn't "recognize" this as musical notation. Modifying 
the string "C D Eb G A Bb B D" nets one match to a posting by Cornelia 
Wyngaarden in 1999 who contributes the following in a thread devoted to 
the interprestation of lines from John Dryden's "A Song for St. Cecilia's 
Day".

<quote>
My mentor Robin Blaser a poet who locally gets referred to as God (not
unsarcastically) and who has spent many years in the basements of various
libraries throughout Europe researching these type of things suggests
that the music of the spheres is as follows.

C D Eb G A Bb B D

I haven't figured out why yet.

corry
--------------------------------------
Cornelia Wyngaarden
Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design
Vancouver, B.C.   Canada
</quote>

I haven't figured out why either. And with no musical background (I can 
neither read by sight nor learn by ear) I am not about to discover the 
mystry of Blaser's chord.

However, as St. Cecilia's day (Nov 22) approaches I wonder how search 
engines can judge when to point researchers to fora where questions can 
be asked of humans and whether some day one can hum a tune for the search 
engine to retrieve relevant data.

Of course any help from musicological experts re the Blaser much 
appreciated.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance

to think is often to sort, to store and to shuffle: humble, embodied tasks



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2013 10:56:58 -0500
        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
        Subject: C D E flat  (addendum)
        In-Reply-To: <20131121062805.3B4F076E3 at digitalhumanities.org>


Quick addendum to below. By chance, a variation in the search ("moth poem 
e flat") netted a mention of Ravel's Nocturelles. Still nothing online can 
help the non-muscicologist adjudicate any link with Blaser's poem. F.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2013 10:47:06 -0500
From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
To: Online seminar for digital humanities <humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>



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