The Nearest Book


  • Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
  • Turn to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your wall or on your blog. Please post your quote in a comment to this post as well.

It is thus clear that, except for the rulers and the literate, language could hardly be a criterion of nationhood, and even for these it was first necessary to choose a national vernacular (in a standardized literary form) over the more prestigious languages, holy or classical or both, which were, for small elites, perfectly practicable means of administrative or intellectual communication, public debate, or even — one thinks of classical Persian in the Mughal Empire, classical Chinese in Heian Japan — of literary composition.

Hobsbawm, Eric J. Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 

14 thoughts on “The Nearest Book”

  1. A vast number of families, unrelated to churches or synagogues, would be touched if such (marriage and family enrichment)programs were included in the emphases of community agencies.

  2. “The shocking thing that Einstein revealed is that their different perspectives yield different but equally valid claims of what events happen at the same time.”
    from The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

  3. Marshall Berman: kapitel 1: “Goethes Faust: Utvecklingens tragedi,” ur “Allt som är fast förflyktigas. Modernism och modernitet.” (Översättning Gunnar Sandin. Arkiv Förlag 1995. ISBN 91 7924 0216)

    “Ironiskt nog visar det sig alltså att den lilla världens tillintetgörande av Gretchen utgör en avgörande fas i dess egen förstörelse.”

    and the next sentence – följande mening lyder:

    “Ovillig eller oförmögen att att utvecklas i takt med sina barn blir den slutna staden en spökstad.”

    In English, this is the third and second sentence from the end on page 59, in: “All That Is Solid Melts into Air”.

  4. Alexandre, that I had to cite from a book in Swedish translation resonates with your own example above, about language, nationhood and communication… (I didn’t choose, but closed my eyes and walked to the nearest bookcase, hoping to get a random title in English.) BTW, there’s a typo in the second sentence in my book meme reply – “att att” should be just a single “att”…

  5. @MaLj Nice way to make connections!
    Given your blog’s title, I’ve been thinking about post-schenkerian analysis. Music helps to understand that communication isn’t a mere transmission of information. Given the connections between modernity, nationalism, and journalism, my hope is for music to serve as a basis for all those “post-” approaches.

  6. I’m not sure I understand what you are talking about, but I suppose associations are like that. Either you get the idea without explaining, and in that case the intuitive association-shortcut is the fastest communication/thinking possible. Or, the association needs to be explained, and then the communication/thinking flow stops and can’t go on – when intuition meets logic and they can’t speak the same language.

    I have never been taught the Schenker system. Or been using the Anglo-American step theory system in harmony. I think harmonically very simply in T-S-D, with added minor/major parallels. This is the (German or French?) system I was taught as a kid, and which was developed to absurd levels of detail in music theory classes at a Swedish university. I am also aware of different scales and their steps when I (try to learn how to) play jazz. I analyze musical works in blocks: describing what a section of music is saying, how fast and loud it is talking, how it relates to what other sections say, how the whole work is balancing its blocks of sounding ideas in time.

    (I found your blog because I read the SEM-L mailing list.)

  7. @MaLj Ah! It all makes sense, now! It’s an SEM-L connection!
    Thanks a lot for telling me.

    Funnily enough, I’ve been having personal conversations with other SEM-L subscribers revolving around my approach to “ethnomusicology as an ethnographic discipline.” Just today, while answering one private message, I came to pretty much the same conclusion as what your first paragraph here implies: sometimes, ways of thinking just clash and it might be impossible to adapt ideas from one to another. Sounds a bit Spinoza/Herder/Humboldt, but it seems to help in this case. It can at least be heuristic.
    I was actually thinking of the distinction between digital and analogic audio processing because it’s fairly well-known. In some ways, they’re incompatible systems since you can’t really judge one with the criteria for the other. There isn’t more of a debate, anymore, but the terms “digital” and “analogic” can still be useful as ways to get people to grasp some basic concepts.
    Anyhoo… I’m rambling again, I guess.

    About your approach to harmony… The main reason I mentioned Schenker is because of your blog’s title. I recently noticed, on a colleague’s blog, a mention of Schenker. I’ve encountered Schenkerian analysis on occasion through my music training, but I was always reluctant to it. And this colleague gave me a different version of Schenker, based on the notion that his work has been translated (in English) using too rigid a terminology. If I understood her correctly, she says that Schenker was using a lot of “semantically unstable” terms which have been translated with English terms that have strict denotations. In other words, Schenker may have been taken too literally. If it’s the case, I might give his work another look.

    I haven’t done that much work in any kind of analysis “of the music itself.” I have some notions of the theoretical background behind Jazz improvisation but my skills at Jazz improvisation aren’t up to par (I’ve mostly improvised over hunter’s music from Mali or in rather free ways). Still, what you say about the way you analyse “holistically” (my term for what you describe) resonates with me.
    I really should go back to Jazz improvisation. With Bob Keller’s “Impro-Visor” program, it could be relatively easy.

    Again, thanks a lot for your comments and food for thought!

  8. My blog’s title – “Beyond Good And Atonal” – is just a simple pun referring to Nietzsche’s “Jenseits von Gut und Böse”. It also is a musical philosophy, looking for ways to escape the tyranny of mainstream aesthetic judgments – Schenker analysis, for example… The program/subtitle for the blog, “The Reasonable Truth. Anything But Opinions” is also more of a joke, but some sort of a promise that the author(s)* will try to avoid pointless rants.

    *) it started as an idea of a collaborative blog, but now it is just me publishing my own texts and pictures.

    I never play or sing with other musicians, so I’m not a good improvisor – just a very slow student. Sometimes I play the same piece (standard tune) for weeks, and after days thinking of and playing the same tune on the piano, I finally begin to get ideas for how to improvise over it, “hearing” new performances of it in my mind. I suppose these “new” ideas are mostly just naive echoes of things that real musicians played on recorded performances I must have listened to. But I enjoy the flow of ideas and how they surprise me!

    /Maria Lj.

  9. @Maria Unfortunately, I didn’t get the Nietzsche reference. It rang a bell but I wouldn’t have known which book it was.
    Collaborative blogs are a great idea but, in my experience, a number of them end up being individual blogs with a few guest posters.
    Playing with others is a very interesting experience but musicking alone can be quite powerful too. Even if, as you say, it may include elements from prior experience, it works. Music moves in those ways.

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