provenance – warning fairly boring blog on words and information – no fam info in it

I have been thinking a bit about Ray’s comment to the previous post about not allowing his students to use Wikipedia as a reference for research papers or as a source for himself for anything other than quick checks.

Ray was responding to an article I linked in which tells a disturbing story about how Wikipedia values proliferation of inaccurate information if it exists in enough secondary sources. Also, disturbing that it doesn’t accept primary sources as references.

Another excellent online source that I routinely use is IMSLP. This stands for International Music Score Library Project. It has many many music scores online for use for free. Mostly legal. I have followed this web site since first learning of it years ago. I’ve noticed a recent trend. They are putting up more and more original early source scores. So that one can see Bach’s handwriting of a piece one is working on.

This trends against Wikipedia in that these scores are often the primary source of the music.

Besides this development (original music scores online) it occurs to me that much good research is getting more and more difficult. I finished my Masters in ’87. The Internet was around then but the “World Wide Web” was still developing I think. I took a class in music bibliography. I learned what the basic tools for current music research were and how to use many of them. These of course were all books and articles.

But now I think we in a different time. As David Weinberger says in this week’s On the Media show radio program, it is an “awesome time to be a knowledge seeker and also a good time to be a complete idiot…” Or at least something to that effect. His point was that knowledge is no longer limited by controls or filters.

He was speaking as the author of Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.

click on this image to go to Weinberger's blog and book info

So what to do. I think that Howard Rheingold has some interesting ideas around this. (see his “Participatory Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies” for example). In other places he talks about new kinds of literacies. He raised his daughter in the late 90s and walked her through using the internet to learn and do research. He developed the idea of “crap detector” which is just another word for knowing the credibility of your research tools or sources of information. This is not an easy task these days.

I was chatting to Eileen about this and toying with the idea of “provenance.”

The Oxford English Dictionary (online edition) gives these definitions of “provenance.”

2. The fact of coming from some particular source or quarter; origin, derivation.

1999 Independent on Sunday 6 June i. 13/2 Consumers who are weary of?scrutinising labels for production methods and provenance, are latching on to organic food as a safe haven.

I like to read the quotes that follow each definition. Since this is the online edition they keep it up with newer usage quotes. Very cool.

3. The history of the ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality; a documented record of this.

A distinction is sometimes drawn between the ‘origin’ and the ‘provenance’ of an article, as in quot. 1960.

1960 E. A. Lowe Eng. Uncial 21 A Canterbury origin is probable, Canterbury provenance is certain.

1967 J. N. Barron Lang. of Painting 156 Provenance, a history or pedigree of a painting: the establishment of the identity of successive owners since its execution. Also included would be all published documents, catalogues, and journals that contain references to the painting, along with reproductions, exhibitions, and sales records, as well as correspondence, especially of the artist, in which mention of it may be made.

1989 L. Deighton Spy Line xv. 208, I know what he’s after: a written statement about the clock’s condition and history. That sort of provenance affects the price in auction.

2003 Wired July 43/3 A panel of experts?declined to authenticate the canvas. Without knowing its provenance?they can’t be sure Horton’s find is legit.

So I’m wondering if scholarly citations will begin to include a provenance which would include ideas like who made the website, what are their credentials, what is the bigger conversation around this idea,  how accurate is the information….

Just a thought.

Seconds after I mentioned this to Eileen, I read this sentence in article I was reading in an online article:

So who cares about the provenance and the so-called errors?

Kind of creepy coincidence. The author of the sentence, Martin Stannard, was referring to dilemmas posed by translations of Chinese poetry. (link to the whole article).

Earlier I had been reading William Carlos Williams’ translations of Chinese poetry. I recognized one by Li Po/Rihaku/Li Bao (all the same dude). I had read Ezra Pound’s translation of this poem many years ago and it made a profound impression on me. I went and pulled my copy from the library and read it again.

Li Po/Rihaku/Li Bao

Pound and WCW knew each other. They were colleagues but WCW embraced the American experience and language (He said something like “I don’t write English, I write American”). This is opposed to Pound’s odd version of embracing classicism.

Stannard’s cavalier attitude stems from his goal of thinking about poetry and its beauty not its scholarship.


This is cool.

Here’s a review of a performance.

Leif Ove Andsnes Playing Haydn, Bartok, Debussy and Chopin –

And here’s the recording of it online to stream.

Carnegie Hall Live: Leif Ove Andsnes Performs Haydn, Chopin and More – WQXR


Moochers Against Welfare –

This article carries this startling fact: “44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and 40 percent of those on Medicare say that they “have not used a government program.” There is an attribution in the article…. heh


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