Stardust Thoughts in Granite

In a 1996 summer stay on the campus of Princeton during the CETH [Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities] Summer Seminar I was delighted to come across this evocative sculpture/installation in a quiet sunny corner. I later learnt more about textual instance before me quoting some of my favourite lines…

In honor of its 25th reunion in 1994, the Class of 1969 donated this marble sculpture and the garden behind Murray-Dodge. The lyrics inscribed on the stone, from Joni Mitchell’s famous song “Woodstock,” conjure up the spirit of the class’s Princeton era.

Princeton Alumni Weekly

We are stardust inscription - Princeton Class 69 - Joni Mitchell

It was (and still is) amusing to contemplate the haecceity of this textual instance in the midst of thinking about electronic text.

What intrigues me is the parentheses —

we are stardust
(billion year-old carbon)
we are golden
(caught in the devil’s bargain)
and we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

They (the parentheses) don’t appear in the lyrics posted to Joni Mitchell’s official web site (the words in parentheses do appear). They, the parentheses, do make sense if you listen carefully to the song on the Ladies of the Canyon album. The words enclosed by the parentheses are sung almost as asides by Joni with a chorus. It’s the last refrain. In the previous instances of the refrain the parenthetical asides to billion year old carbon and devil’s bargain are absent:

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.

The printed version of the lyrics accompanying the CD reissue of the 1970 album does not contain the carbon-bargain lines but listen to the track — clearly the class of ’69 were smart text encoders.

And so for day 2633

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