Joseph Knecht is the protagonist of Hermann Hesse’s novel Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game) which is a game of comparisons across different subject areas.
@JustKnecht is a Twitter project which brings Hesse’s idea to life in high/pop culture and science (JustKnecht tweets).
Each tweet is an individual Glass Bead Game move, which is a comparison (metaphor, simile or analogy) across different areas, and may be either a statement or a question. In question form, these are not unlike analogy questions from SAT tests with an additional dimension of general knowledge, cultural invention and intellectual playfulness. The basic challenge is to work out the relationship between two terms in one context, and apply it in another. Sometimes a tweet will extend an analogy further, which would be the beginning of forming a larger game from an individual move.
Some of the most interesting moves do not have right or wrong answers. Some have canonical or original answers, but they’re not necessarily right. In fact, very often I will post something I’ve picked up from elsewhere which I would love to see improved on, challenged, or at least better explained by others.
· Who's the Jimi Hendrix of fashion, and what is their Purple Haze? An initial suggestion is Alexander McQueen and his Bumsters.
· Who is to Prince as Lady Gaga is to Madonna? I've found no good answer here yet ...
· Who is the J.H.Prynne of contemporary dance? Like Prynne in contemporary poetry they need to have been ‘out there’ right at the edge of theory and practice for some time, and also deeply steeped in tradition at the same time. Merce Cunningham? Suggestions welcome … And Heston Blumethal or Ferran Adrià might be the Prynne of cookery. But what about the Prynne of contemporary warfare?
· Was it unfair for a music critic writing about John Adams’ Nixon in China to say that Adams did for the arpeggio what McDonalds did for the hamburger, at least in the context of this opera?
· What is the equivalent of sonata form in architecture? Goethe and Hegel both said ‘architecture is frozen music’ but neither really explained what they meant. If it is, then is there an architectural equivalent in Western architecture of the key structural form in Western art music? Suggestions welcome …
· What metal is to iron as the hazel tree is to holly? If you believe Robert Graves and Aleister Crowley, it’s mercury. And in this case I have a theory about why …
· Why was Constable the Wordsworth of art, and not Turner? Suggestions welcome
· Who is the Napoleon of football, and what was his Waterloo? Apparently Sir John Charles Clegg (1850 – 1937 – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Charles_Clegg) which begs the question, why?
· If the solar year in astronomy is like the octave in music, what is the musical equivalent of the lunar month? My suggestion is the fifth (frequency multiples of 3) which cycles round the octave (ratio multiples of 2) twelve times before it (almost) completes the cycle.
· Who are the Moses, Jesus and George Fox of scientific method? What results in Quakerism stand as Einstein’s Theories of Relativity stand to Galileo’s Principle of Relativity? (cf Science and Religion)
· Is there a Leif Ericson, and a Hernán Cortés of astronomy? What are astronomy’s Aztec treasures? What in the exploration of America was equivalent to the discovery of the first pulsar? (cf Astronomy and the discovery of America)
· "It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease" is a saying about a) Olivia Newton John b) recognition and bonuses c) BP's safety process? Sayings and expressions are comparisons which have already been abstracted from their original usage, which has sometimes been completely obscured, while the expressions themselves continue in common currency.
What I value in these games is that, unlike sudoku, crosswords, or even chess, there is not always right or final answer. But there is an aesthetics which makes some answers better at opening a more immediate and striking connection between two areas of thought, more elegantly holding contrasting elements in a juxtaposition which is more than the sum of its parts, or just makes you laugh out loud. Other good characteristics of a Glass Bead Game move are:
Over time, I’ll build up and publish more criteria which make a good move.