4.0857 On Humanist: Database Searching; Repetition (2/112)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 2 Jan 91 17:08:33 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0857. Wednesday, 2 Jan 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 28 Dec 90 10:50 EST (84 lines)
Subject: possible post: database search,etiquette,etc.

(2) Date: Fri, 28 Dec 90 10:49 EST (28 lines)
From: Norman Miller <NMILLER@TRINCC>
Subject: On repetition

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 90 10:50 EST
Subject: possible post: database search,etiquette,etc.

I'd like to second Tom Vickery in thanking Jean Veronis for her
"great explanation of how to do searches of the archived database
at a LISTSERV." He put it well.

The database search delivers, I have found. There is
one situation where it falls down, at least as I run the
searches, and maybe someone can help. The situation is a search
that includes the HUMANIST biography database.

For example, I was helping a user here locate information on
Gregorian Chants. One strategy was to locate HUMANISTs who
included "music" and "database" in their bio ("Gregorian Chants"
was a dry hole). The exact string "music database" brought
nothing, as I recall, so I tried "music" AND "database".

Two things happened, both bad.

1. I got several hits, but they were because one person's hobby
was "playing music on the guitar," while another person's job was
"leader of the Heinrich Boell database project" (made-up quotes,
but they show the problem).

2. I didn't even get a chance to pore thru all of these dubious
possibles, since one bio-file (about?) (more than?) exhausted the
limit on file length that can be sent.

Perhaps all that is required is breaking the biographies into
more manageable chunks -- but I don't know if that is true, or

In this particular case, the solution came by another route:
people who wrote in response to a query posted on HUMANIST.

Elliot Parker notes in today's mail that "a short reply to the
sender of a file or answer to a question is simple courtesy." I
agree. And I admit having failed to do that systematically in this case.

Elliot also notes
>If you ask for info and say you will post a summary back to the
>list, do it. Not to is simply selfish. Even if no one answered, tell us.

I don't believe I promised a summary, but I intended to provide one
anyway. A hard semester (all-campus network going in) was part
of the cause. There was the complication that it wasn't my
topic, so I really didn't know how to summarize it. (A further
complication is that the requestor is related to me.)

We received about 10 responses, and I think all provided the
following book, which seemed right on the money, and several the
following type of lead on music-databases:

>RE: your question on incipits of Gregorian chants:
>I am somewhat rusty on music bibliography, but I checked with our
>current music librarian. The following book lists incipits of
>Gregorian chants and can be used for the sort of identification
>your user is looking for:
> Bryden, John Rennie, 1913- Index of Gregorian
> Chant. - Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1969.
>As far as databases are concerned, I don't know of any in this
>area, although I believe a faculty member at Brandeis was working
>on a project that might be related to developing such a database.
> If your user is interested I could attempt to get more
>information on this for you. Cordially, Ivy Anderson, Brandeis

Finally, a comment on Willard McCarty's related note:
>Walter Ong points out that in cultures whose primary means of
>communication is oral, repetition has a vital function: one
>repeats in order that something be preserved. The electronic
>seminar uses a medium that in several ways manifests what Ong
>calls "orality". Perhaps, then, repetition is not so much a bug
>as a feature.

Doesn't the existence of the full database, and a great tool
provided by the culture for accessing it, vitiate this argument?
Maybe we need an initiation rite, where the secrets of the elders
are passed along? Which brings us back full circle to Jean
Veronis' "great explanation." - tracy
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------32----
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 90 10:49 EST
From: Norman Miller <NMILLER@TRINCC>
Subject: On repetition

Willard, citing Walter Ong, tells us that in oral cultures repetition
performs the vital function of preserving. Which is undeniable. Now
this story.

A friend of mine went to his father's village in Serbia for an extended
visit. He was met by the elders of the clan and honored by a sumptuous
feed. This was followed by a welcoming speech from the oldest male,
then it was my friend's turn to tell his story. The men at the table
were seated according to age, the women and children stood crowded around.
My friend began. It was a detailed account of his father's arrival in
America, his travels across the continent to California, his finding
work, then a wife, the birth of children, his recent death (this story
takes place in the late 1950's). Then Peter talked about his mother,
his other brother and finally himself: his war experiences, his becoming
a professor. The narrative went on for a long time.

When it was over, the clan elder thanked my friend and then, without
missing a beat, proceeded to repeat the entire story to the women and

In short, the story or tradition is not the only thing that's preserved
by repetition. Big surprise. And a happy new year to you all.

Norman Miller