"Do not underrate the index. The index is a key to modern life, allowing access to everything from a filofax to a national library catalogue. And an index is no mere device; it may be the epitome of a book, a distillation, exhibiting insight, judgement, even creativity." (John Man, Gutenberg) 1
"There are no answers, only cross-references." (Norbert Wiener) 4
On this page
What is it?
The FMA Index is a searchable index of the key writings that illuminate the life and work of the discoverer/inventor of the technique that currently bears his name, Frederick Matthias Alexander (hence 'FMA').
What's it for?
Alexander's writings and Alexander the man remain key points of reference for people interested in the Alexander Technique. Alexander encouraged pupils to read his books and assimilate his ideas before taking lessons.
The project is neutral about the intrinsic merit of Alexander's writings; but given their canonical status, any development in the 'theory' of the Alexander Technique will require a sustained and careful engagement with Alexander's texts, clarifying, refining, and if necessary discarding concepts and terminology as appropriate. A key function of the Index is to support the necessary research by collating index entries into a single resource offering filter and search options. That should simplify access to the relevant texts when looking for the "known" (or half-remembered). But it can also indicate new lines of enquiry by disclosing the "unknowns" – the terms not previously registered, or long-forgotten, but popping up in index searches. It can also provide an essential point of reference for academics from outside the teaching profession who have sought to engage with Alexander's ideas. 2
A second and somewhat distinct function is to support historical research into the Alexander Technique. As the famous maxim goes, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. 3 The Alexander Technique grew in specific social and intellectual milieus; a diverse cast of characters entered into the story during Alexander's lifetime and his writings involved a dialogue with contemporary ideas. However original he may have been, his texts clearly also reflect not just his own experience but discussions with friends and supporters—many mentioned in his texts—and the popular ideas of his time. Who were these people, what were the ideas - and where are they mentioned in Alexander's texts? The Index will help that exploration.
Alexander and beyond
The scope of the Index will extend beyond Alexander's own writings to include those of people most closely associated with Alexander. Their reminiscences about Alexander and views formed through collaboration with him are all relevant to Alexander Technique research.
This is not, however, intended as an open-ended project that extends to every text that has ever been written on the Alexander Technique. The benefits would be too small: the project too big. Indeed, the superabundance of material would be counter-productive from the point of view of referencing key material. The focus is on Alexander – the man and his works.
Benefits of an online, universal index
The benefits of the online implementation of the index:
- You don't need to know which text to look in to find what you want.
- The Index is searchable by text strings that can appear anywhere in the index entry: you don't have to guess how the index entry is alphabetized.
- The Index can be filtered by a number of different parameters in addition to text strings: for example by author or publication.
- The Index can be continuously refined with amended, new or deleted entries.
Index or concordance?
Briefly, the differences between an index and a concordance are that
- a concordance aims to record all the occurrences of a word - or possibly a phrase - within a text; it's relatively simple;
- a good index has been described as “a structured sequence—resulting from a thorough and complete analysis of text—of synthesized access points to all the information contained in the text ... a network of interrelationships ultimately an interface between the author and the reader" 5.
A concordance can be produced more easily through software, whereas an index is more demanding because
- it requires a human to understand the text in sufficient depth to know what the appropriate "access points" are;
- it often requires that the sense of a statement is boiled down to its essentials in order to produce a usable index entry;
- attention may need to be given to the order of words in the phrase so that the relevant one appears first.
Both index and concordance have their value. In an index aimed at a more informed readership particular turns of phrase can be interesting, not just the underlying thought: it will be the aim of the Index to capture those individual turns of phrase, which may disclose important subtleties in Alexander's thinking. In cases such as these, the Index will operate as a concordance.
On the other hand, given the size of the Index, it is important that entries are reasonably specific in order to direct the enquirer to the most relevant text. Simply registering all occurrences of the word "inhibition" for example, whilst valuable for some forms of textual analysis, is not likely to provide pointers that are suitable for those wishing to locate or discover particular contexts for the usage of the word6. The index has to point towards identifiable concepts, ideas and topic areas not just list words and phrases that may be used in very different ways. In conclusion then: the primary function of an index has to be maintained.
Jean Fischer has provided the indexes, in digital form, of those books authored by Alexander that are published by Mouritz (Articles and Lectures excepted for now). The digital files are being processed to convert them into a form suitable for uploading to the Index: this is a demanding piece of work but not nearly as demanding as it would have been to start from scratch.
The index of The Use of the Self has been created manually using as a starting point the index of the printed book, as prepared by George Trevelyan and Gurney MacInnes (both students on Alexander's first training course). But the entries have been systematically reviewed and now include numerous additions and amendments.
These two sources are somewhat different in their approach to indexing. Mouritz entries tend to be briefer compared with those in the Use of the Self but they record individual occurrences of words and phrases more systematically: they are towards the concordance end of the spectrum. The source index for the Use of the Self, on the other hand, explores concepts perhaps more deeply but lacks the systematic recording of word-occurrences and highlighting of phrases. Both require some reworking to reflect the preferred approach of this project.
The net result of using different sources is that the Alexander Index is currently inconsistent in its approach. This is regrettable but, we hope, not a deal-breaker.
The index consists of a single database table containing series of index records of identical format.
Each index record contains a main entry, a sub-entry (optional) and a sub-sub-entry (also optional): all three of these together comprise the Index Entry. When listed in tabular form the separate components of the entry are run together, separated by colons.
Each index record contains a locator field and either
- the locator field will contain one or more page references where the index entry can be found;
- the locator field will be blank and instead a sub-entry or sub-sub-entry will contain a cross-reference (containing see... or see also...) pointing to another index entry.
Each index record is linked to a single Reference record in the main Bibliographic database, details of which can be found here.
It follows from the above that a single word or phrase that has been indexed can have multiple index records, one for each text in which the word and phrase can be found.
- Two editions of The Use of the Self have been indexed.
- Man's Supreme Inheritance has been indexed.
- Work is substantially complete on preparing the index for Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual
- Some preparatory work has been completed for The Universal Constant in Living
If you are interested in contributing to the project, please contact David Gibbens by email.