“All Men will Become Brothers …”

Time and Rhythm as Basic Processes of Life and Understanding

AutorIn: Georg Feuser
Themenbereiche: Theoretische Grundlagen
Textsorte: Artikel
Releaseinfo: In: Shirley Salmon (Ed.) :Hearing – Feeling – Playing: Music and Movement with Hard-of-hearing and Deaf Children. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008. ISBN 3895006211 Originally, this contribution formed the basis of a lecture at the occasion of the completion of the international EU project “Veronika”, organised by the region Upper Austria in Linz on 6th November 2003. “Veronika” is an EU project for the integration of preschool children with special needs into the general education system. Integration processes are fostered through pedagogical methods in combination with music, movement and language.
Copyright: © Georg Feuser 2008


    1. An Orientation

    “Because human beings develop, they can be educated.

    Because their development is a process of change, it can be influenced.

    Since human beings develop over the course of their entire life, the way they change can always be influenced.”

    These statements, which may serve as introduction to the following exposition, are taken from the leader to the film Ursula oder das unwerte Leben (Ursula or the Life not Worth Living), which pays homage to the work of Mimi Scheiblauer in a truly special way that remains of great import today. The EU project “Veronika”, dealing with questions of integration in the area of basic schooling, worked towards determining international quality standards for children with special needs aged three to six years, while also aiming at professionalizing integration through methods of music education and through bringing together music, movement and language. My conception of a “general (integrative)[1] pedagogy”, derived from “developmentally logical didactics”, was the basis for the foundation and extension of integrative basic schooling in Bremen as early as 1981. Today it is probably the farthest reaching conception of an integrative system of basic schooling, education and teaching that has, particularly in the Linz area, found wide and sustainable application in teacher training at the Pädagogische Akademie des Bundes, UpperAustria, as well as in the practice of teaching. The work done in the project “Veronika” has always been an important concern to us and has indeed also been an object of our work.

    With view to Mimi Scheiblauer’s work, which centred around the elements of music and movement – work in which she approached people with sometimes very serious impairments after many years of hospitalisation and was able to gain their attention, unfold a dialogue and thereby enter communication – a question arises that is now omnipresent in this area of specialisation: is this activity primarily a pedagogical or, after all, a therapeutic activity?

    The activity is aimed at reaching the other human being, at maintaining a nearness, and is therefore aimed primarily at the process itself, not at fine-tuning the possibilities of creating music together and perfecting this interplay. This brings music therapy into the picture and gives rise to a question of where to draw the line.

    Figure 1. Fig. 1: Mimi Scheiblauer with Ursula ca. 1965, in: Brunner-Danuser 1984, p. 92

    Foto: Mimi Scheiblauer als junges Mädchen mit Ursula./ Picutre
 Mimi Scheiblauer as a young girl with Ursula.

    There is no need to fear that I might follow this question up, because it is partly contrived, is academically of only limited use and indeed serves only to draw a line between educators and therapists and their respective fields of activity with which they identify and make their living. This is not to endorse a development in education and therapy where everyone practises everything without expertise in a particular field. Quite the opposite: it is especially in the field of integration that we need very specific individual competencies, competencies formed in the different social sciences that become manifest in various professional specialisations. However, in the same respect, we need a highly developed ability for interdisciplinary and multi-professional co-operation, an ability to engage in “competence transfer”, as I called one of the four basic principles in the conception that I developed. A lot of hard work remains to be done to develop both these areas of qualification. If we turn our attention to working with children with and without disabilities – work that Mimi Scheiblauer practised in her unique way – in order to optimise ways of development for all and if, on top of that, we try to look at the world from their perspective, from the viewpoint of the “inner observer” (Leont’ev), we will immediately recognise the connection of some seemingly disparate circumstances: inspired to movements by music and directed at the other and at a togetherness through its depiction, the “realm of language” (Maturana/Varela 1987, Rödler 2000) manifests itself in the form of fundamental dialogues, which do not require speaking but may lead to it.

    A brief scene involving Ms. Scheiblauer and Charlie[2] will show that the musical element is inspiration as well as motivation to open and turn oneself as one human being to another. It likewise shows that it is the medium for dialogue, for communication, and for interaction at the same time. As the child learns to play the instrument better through practice and finds his intentions affirmed through the musical and rhythmical feedback he receives, the desired dialogue not only becomes more intense but the child eventually takes over leading it. Which pedagogical or therapeutic approach could claim to be of higher quality than the one that enables the child, the student or the client in the process of his/her education and rehistorisation to take the leading role? In the overarching context of dialogical co-operation, the traditional differentiations between music education and music therapy dissolve.

    I have already pointed far ahead with this. In my further elaborations, I would like to, firstly, guide attention to the facts that form the basis of what I have mentioned so far and, secondly, to the question of integration. Then I will bring the two areas back together. Perhaps you would follow me in this?

    [1] The attribute “integrative” merely aids communication; a general approach to pedagogy, in the sense that I have put forward, makes the term “integration” redundant, since on principle it embraces neither pedagogical reductionism of education nor is of socially selective and segregating nature.

    [2] For the purpose of clarification and to inspire further thought, several short sequences were shown during the talk. Reference is made to the film Ursula oder das unwerte Leben, namely to work with the boy Charlie who is lying in a playpen taking claves in his hands. Ms. Scheiblauer gains the child’s attention with a rattle, gets him to stand up and a dialogue with the claves that are banged together occurs. Charlie bangs the claves against the side of the playpen, thereby taking the lead in this “dialogue”, which Ms. Scheiblauer takes up and follows.

    2. Contemporary Questions

    The developments in Bremen on the basis of my conception of integration, as we have brought them about in kindergartens and schools since 1981, have certainly opened doors to a new culture, the culture of an inclusive society from which no one is excluded on the grounds of the kind or degree of disability and certainly not on the basis of nationality, ethnic background, language or religion. This summer, as part of a symposium on “20 Years of Integrative Education and Basic Schooling in Protestant Daycare Centres in Bremen”, we took on the somewhat belated project of analysing the present situation and at finding ways in today’s circumstances to continue practising what we discovered to be just and important practice so that we may also see in the future what is to be done. In this respect, I never tire of quoting a statement of warning made by Horst-Eberhard Richter in 1978, which goes as follows:

    “If in your doing you don’t practise what you have come to understand, in the end you will no longer be able to understand what it is you should be doing.”[3]

    Today, in the third decade of integration, we see ourselves confronted with a very difficult situation due to several societal developments that have taken place. For instance, integration at Bremen schools in its fully regionalised and decentralised form – where the therapeutic needs of children had been integrated into the classroom and a multi-professional team worked very efficiently with the groups on the basis of the “competence transfer” that becomes possible in this kind of setting – was abolished in the second half of the 90s in favour of a co-operation-based model.

    Under the pretext of exorbitant costs, the integration approach which, when it comes down to it, was not really supported by social and educational policies, was first blocked from spreading further and was then dispensed with entirely. Today, even integration in basic schooling is threatened in its core by deregulation measures, by massive changes to social programmes, health programmes and education as well as by cost-cutting measures and cost-benefit-analyses that inevitably follow in the process of a globalisation that is supported by neo-liberal ideology.

    I believe that those who are politically responsible for these social and educational issues are not sufficiently aware of the consequences of their “destruction of good sense”, that is, the destruction of parts of an important cultural development for all children and teenagers, when they block or reverse the development of integration. Educational policy does not even attempt any excuses – nor does it have any – in this but instead very clearly points to the immense responsibility that will have to be taken on by those who will be responsible in this matter. These developments go hand in hand with an unfolding Zeitgeist that, as we have been discussing increasingly over the past years, shows tendencies towards segregation more than ever – tendencies which, when it comes to very seriously impaired human life, are connected once again to the “debate over the value of life” and the desire for a new “euthanasia”. This must not be underestimated in its negative effect on the idea of integration.[4]

    But this also makes all the more clear the need for basic schooling that is integrative and for education in teaching institutions that includes all children, because it is people of all ages with very serious developmental problems and disabilities in particular who still constitute the so-called “inner core” that is taken little into consideration even in the integration debate. Even severely disabled children are well able, as we have seen in Bremen, to learn and be adequately encouraged in an integrative teaching and kindergarten setting. Outside of integration, in segregation and hospitalisation, such children in particular will begin to undergo a development that in their adolescence and adulthood will find expression in signs of severe deprivation – for example, in stereotypical behavioural patterns and in severely self-injuring, aggressive and destructive behaviour. As a result, these people will usually be called “beyond therapy”, “unable to be rehabilitated”, “self-endangering and endangering of others” as well as “unable to live in society”. As those “given up” by remedial therapy and special education, they become the clients in our “inpatient” university work.[5]

    From my many years of working experience in integrative contexts, observing the development of severely disabled children as well as children and adolescents with severe developmental disorders, many of whom I knew from age two or three on, it has become clear that serious conditions, such as those mentioned above, do not necessarily result from a certain kind or degree of a particular disability or a developmental disorder, but are instead – in all the cases I am familiar with – the result of deprivation in education and socialisation, which is to say, such conditions are the result of the way we are dealing with a person.

    In particular, it is the time spent in kindergarten in which the quality of schooling and the content being taught is high that forms, in my view, the basis for a level of development that, at the beginning of our integration work, I didn’t think possible even considering my positive estimation of a child’s developmental possibilities through integration. The prerequisite for the kind of development that we were able to witness, however, is the mastery and application in didactics of relevant basic principles gained from the social sciences!

    For this boy,[6] who became severely impaired as a result of a mistake in his treatment in hospital when he was kindergarten age (an apallic syndrome, a vegetative state, was diagnosed subsequent to this error), we were at least able to prove his ability to learn and thereby obtain a considerable sum as compensation for pain and suffering, which allowed for his support with sufficient personnel and finances for several years. Prior to this, the court had granted him only a symbolic 5 German marks in compensation, because it was said that his cerebrum was not functioning and thus that there wasn’t much that money could do for him. According to the information available to me, he died as an adolescent because an epileptic seizure was noticed too late by the on-call staff person who was in charge of the whole house, following the cutting of proper nightshifts for financial reasons.

    Martin Buber says: “[…] and a society may be called human to the degree to which its members acknowledge one another as members.”[7]

    [3] Richter 1978, p. 23

    [4] Feuser 1994, 1997, 1999

    [5] With my conception in particular, namely Dialogue-Centred, Substitutive, Co-operative Action Therapy (DCSCAT) – a basis therapy – we were able to offer a new life perspective and a high degree of integration to many adolescents and adults with such a history (Feuser 2001, 2002).

    [6] Scenes from the work with a boy were shown in this context.

    [7] Buber 1975, p. 26

    3. A Matter of Time

    Mimi Scheiblauer wrote in 1943: “Music consists of four elements: time, sound, dynamics and form.”[8] She emphasises that none of the elements can be taken out of its context and none of them by itself is music, even though each of them, she says, “has a particular educational value in itself and has a particular effect on a person”[9]. She recognises form as the structuring principle; dynamics as a creative power in the sense of an interaction between time and energy; sound as the emotional side; and rhythm as relating to time.

    In the video sequences shown, these elements were easy to pinpoint, although strictly speaking there was no music being created. The persons in the footage were acting – separately or together – to create a common product which none of them would have been able to realise on their own – and at all times rhythm, emotional dynamics and structure could be observed. Today we call these elements, if I may express it rather figuratively, the elements whose common denominator facilitates the structuring order that allows any living entity to exist: it is time.

    With reference to the philosophical as well as scientific – that is, the astro-physical and quantum-mechanical – contexts, time has acquired an entirely new meaning for humankind over the last century and a half and has effected a momentous revolution of our worldview, such as is arguably unparalleled in human history. Slowly – too slowly I believe – are these epistemological concerns reaching the field of pedagogy. Although the profession feeds on the currently dominant idea of man, this idea is intimately connected with the worldview that guides us, and so it is this worldview that gains utmost significance. Through Albert Einstein, humankind had to acknowledge the relativity of time as subject to position and movement in space and was forced to understand, or at least learn to accept, that space and time are not cosmic constants that provide us all with a stable point of orientation, the “secure home” of our existence, but are instead highly dynamically interacting processes beyond which there is no cosmos, no life and no development. If we imagine the cosmos as the space that light, travelling at the “speed limit”, has been able to cover since the “Big Bang” marked the beginning of our visible cosmos, then even within this cosmos, we are defining a world line that exists relative to other systems. This means that we are basically dealing with three kinds of time:

    • Intra-systemic eigen-time, which is particular to each system thanks to its own dynamics of change and movement

    • Time that perceives one system in relation to another. I call this extra-systemic eigen-time.

    • Finally, a relational time between two (or more) systems that enables exchange to take place, a dialogue to be led, and makes co-operation possible. It means bringing together the intra-systemic eigen-time of both systems in a superordinate phase space that respects the time-generated identity of each of the systems but nevertheless generates a common time that unites both.

    I believe you are beginning to sense that this necessitates a co-ordinating, structuring authority, that is: time which organises time. This is to say that, neurologically speaking, time triggers systems, or that, sociologically speaking, it has a “bandwagon effect” relevant to both systems. In a similar way, you might sense that, preferably, this organising structure could be music and movement. This warrants closer examination.

    3.1. Order through Fluctuations

    Any living system is open to its environment, as Prigogine and his associates[10] show in their fundamental studies and as was confirmed by Maturana and Varela[11] very clearly for the field of biology. It is therefore a dissipative structure, one that can be disturbed – a structure that while being referential to the world continues to create itself in the sense of autopoieisis. Thanks to a central nervous system, it is also able to be self-referential, that is, to organise its bio-psycho-social unity coherently and gain consciousness of it, define itself as “I”. If we go back a long way in evolution and draw on a physics experiment that comes from fractals research, we will be able to define more clearly the indispensable fundamentals of any form of life and at the same time able to recognise that the basic functions and principles we use to define life as such stem from cosmic principles.

    They may be described simply by saying that anything that exists originates in interdependencies.

    As you can see, this is a video camera and a monitor. The camera is directed at the monitor’s screen in such a way that it will record only what is displayed on the screen and the screen will only show what the camera records since the camera feeds directly into the monitor through a cable.

    Figure 2. Fig. 2

    Grafik: Videokamera und Monitor / Picture of a video
                                          camera and a

    We are therefore looking at a system that is self-referential but nevertheless open to its environment since the space between the camera’s lenses and the screen allows for disturbances to it. If there is no disturbance, you will see nothing on the screen, despite the fact that much is happening because billions of photons – light particles – are racing through the system. The system is in a symmetrical state inasmuch as at any given time it assumes any and all conceivable states that it is able to assume; put in the simplest terms possible, it is chaotic. A lighter held in front of the monitor which sends forth photons, that is, light (warmth cannot be detected by the system) disturbs the symmetry, breaks it. A visible order – although one that at the same time continuously changes its form and tests its own stability – is established[12].

    It is the expression of the system’s integration of the disturbance using that system’s own means that allows it – despite the disturbance experienced – to ensure its stability in a new way. Jean Piaget[13] describes this kind of process in his genetic epistemology and developmental psychology (using the term “equilibration”). The visible product of such a process is generated by the system itself but is not developed by it alone. As a system that is open to its environment, it needs to restructure itself since, considering the ever necessary exchange with the world, it would not be able to exist with its own identity were it not to integrate disturbances. Such processes of self-organisation – which, triggered by external events, are capable of changing the state of the central nervous system – are thus innervated, are characterised by the construction of the world as it is experienced and therefore by the coming into being of our world within ourselves and by our knowledge about the world. This can lead to a new understanding of what a human being is and what we call a “disability”. If we take a giant leap of billions of years from the beginning of life to the state of human beings today, we could say: “Disability can be understood as the product of a developmental logic, of the integration of internal and external system disturbances into the system with the means of the system – disturbances that accumulate in the biography of an individual and are seen as both starting conditions and general circumstances.”

    This is also to say that: a disability is a person’s expression of her ability to lead a human life under her initial circumstances and general constraints.

    3.2. Limit Cycles

    Let us return to time. Its relevance to our subject is easily shown. We know from work experience that persons with severe mental disabilities or autism, who otherwise appear to be characterised by an inability to enter into or sustain a dialogue, become quite awake and oriented when we play music and engage them in rhythmical movements. They then become more approachable and partake more actively in a common activity. It is not so rare that they modify or omit stereotypical or even self-injuring behaviour. This sheds light on the causes of such seemingly “pathological” behaviour. External rhythm synchronises the respectively individual intra-systemic eigen-time of teachers or therapists with that of the children or students. A common phase space develops in whose “field” we then lead a dialogue, interact, communicate and co-operate. Consequently, what is important here are not particular individual talents that a child has, as is often claimed in the literature of the field, but rather, are the events that through their rhythmical structuring can be perceived and processed even under very impaired conditions. The exterior rhythmical structures synchronise the internal time emitters, determine their pace, stabilise them and in this way improve the ability to perceive, to think, and to act.

    If a person, due to a high degree of internal and/or external isolation, remains without quantitatively and qualitatively sufficient exchange processes, she will need to compensate for the growing informational and social deprivation, to generate her own intra-systemic eigen-time by taking recourse to her own (rhythmically structured) activities, that is, by making herself the object of the exchange – through rocking movements, beating herself, yelling – in order to hear herself. This leads to dissociative psychological states and to an unravelling of the person’s physical self-image, as has been amply documented by René Spitz[14] for hospitalised infants whose problem was not overcoming internal isolation but facing being deprived of their primary attachment figures, of the relationship and bonding necessary for life.

    In order to maintain the system’s inner structure, at least as much as is necessary for survival, structuring time has to be created by the system itself – an ingenious response available in any life situation – through rhythmically structuring movements that generate information in the system, trigger it and thereby stabilise it, resulting in positive emotions. The threat of chaos is reduced and thereby anxiety as well. Subjectively, this makes “sense” and serves as the basis upon which the person in question attributes meaning to her stereotypical, self-injuring or aggressive and destructive actions.

    Movement in space creates ‘time’, which, as a structuring process that represents extraordinarily complex and dynamic events, generates several elements and functions that are communicated as an integrated whole, namely:

    1. That of an internal operator who is in charge of organising the system, which we may see as connection patterns of the internally running processes, which in turn explains the structuring aspect

    2. That of a relations operator, who constitutes common super-individual phase spaces, enabling exchange with other systems

    3. That of attractors, which determine the direction and speed at which the system ‘drifts’, its line of development

    4. That of operators which bring about processes of transformation meaning that through the exchange processes structural changes become possible and development manifests itself. We could also say that learning (exchange) sets off development (structuring).

    It is these circumstances which allow those actions that, when seen from the outside, are evaluated as “pathological”, to be characterised as “developmentally logical”. These actions are secured on the level of “biological significance”. Time is – we can already conclude – the crucial factor that generates the unity of an evolving system, the unity through which a system (in the sense of energetically and informationally synergetic processes) is able to relate to other systems[15] and, with respect to its own evolution following exchange processes, is able to follow its world line, that is, to preserve itself.

    With respect to our species, we can acknowledge a species-specific phase space, in which, through a process of ontogenesis, we are able to realise our individual existence as part of the cosmos in accord with the phylogenesis of humankind. The model of the “limit cyclic phase space” clarifies this. If a living system crosses a certain border area, within which it is able to realise its species-specific life and thus exchange processes, it must, as we have seen, take recourse to time-generating forms of compensation so as not to drift into a kind of ‘chaos’ where the system is in a symmetrical state that does not generate time, leading to the system’s death, or else to prevent growing rigid in a single state of existence in which all movement “freezes”, also without being able to generate system-structuring time and likewise leading to the system’s death. There is no escaping from these limit cyclic states using only one’s own means. Pedagogical-therapeutic measures become necessary to enter again into a relationship where exchange, that is, ‘dialogue’ and co-operation, are possible. What better way to achieve this could there be than through creating music together?

    [8] Brunner-Danuser 1984, p. 95

    [9] ibid.

    [10] Prigogine 1981, 1985, 1989, 1993

    [11] Maturana/Varela 1987

    [12] This refers to an experiment conducted by Prof. Dr. Peitgen, University Bremen, on fractal geometry, which I used here for the purpose of developing these ideas. It was published in: Spektrum Videothek: Fraktale-Schönheit im Chaos, VHS. Immediately after taking the lighter away from the monitor, rotating structures that appeared as stripes continued to be visible on the left and right sides of the screen.

    [13] Piaget 1969, 1973, 1980, 1983

    [14] Spitz 1956

    [15] Haken/Wunderlin 1991; Haken/Haken-Krell 1992

    4. All Men will Become Brothers …

    In summary, we can conclude: evolution is always co-evolution, as any individual development can only be understood in the sense of the co-ontogenesis of systems. “The human being through You becomes I”, says Martin Buber – he/she becomes the I whose You we are to him/her! – a consequence that is hardly ever taken into account. With this conclusion at hand we cannot help but recognise that any limitation of an individual’s exchange with his/her environment – exchange that is necessary for both the individual and the entire species of which he/she is a member and includes culture-specific schooling as well as social exchange – will also limit his/ her development and not just modify it. Segregation and special labelling of people who are disabled, who display behavioural problems or whose mental health is impaired basically reflects sheer cynicism with respect to the learning and development of this group. It is neither academically reasonable with view to pedagogical goals nor is it ethically justifiable. The above only very briefly compiled insights into what gives rise to life and constitutes life and its development can only lead to the conclusion that persons who are classified as disabled need to be integrated into heterogeneous schooling, education and teaching systems but also into all other areas of life. They must be offered comprehensive opportunities to experience the world, relationships and co-operation, because: a human being gains access to things through human beings and accesses human beings by way of things.

    As far as human development is concerned, we have to understand that for any one person, it is primarily dependent on the degree of complexity of the respective other, whereas the means and abilities of the individual system always come in second place. Primarily we are concerned with what a person can become according to her possibilities, while what a person is at a particular moment, once again is of only secondary importance.

    Learning that sets off development, necessitates a developmentally logical didactical approach, one that lays out a general (integrative) pedagogy which is concerned with educating all children and youth without social segregation or confinement to, for example, areas of special education and without reductionist and parcelled-off education and learning opportunities. Foster, educate and teach. Mimi Scheiblauer writes: “Concerning children with seeing, hearing and speaking impairments, they should, whenever possible, be included in a regular classroom. So the damaged senses experience regular training, instead of the remaining ‘rest’ being left to atrophy. People with physical problems should neither be pitied nor singled out. Both lead to isolation. Only in an acceptance that is taken for granted can the greatest possible independence develop.”[16]

    Today, this statement is valid without qualification for people with all kinds and degrees of impairment.

    Let us conclude by directing our thoughts back to where we started. When we consider the consequences of social segregation and reductionist and parcelled-off pedagogical-therapeutic approaches, as they are represented by our entire educational system and especially the schools, and do so taking into account the insights and the experience that we have available today, we realise that the practice of integration should long be the norm. Understood as co-operation in a society constituted of members of equal value and with equal rights, which is what probably characterises them best, the line “All men will become brothers[17]…” from Schiller’s Ode to Joy, which I have chosen as the title for my elaborations and would like to use to conclude it, takes on a deep meaning. Set to the music of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, this statement comes to symbolise the meanings that we attribute to music and movement for the creation and shaping of human society today. In and through society alone is the human being able to evolve according to her possibilities, which she in turn owes society in large part. Trends determined by some Zeitgeist, as for example, self-realisation as an egomaniacal act that is disconnected from any social obligations and responsibility, should provoke serious pedagogical misgivings at all stages of education, socialisation and enculturation. That all men will become brothers and all women sisters describes a central concern of integration. In the context of a “general (integrative) pedagogy”, I therefore define schooling and education as follows:

    Schooling means bringing out the desire of persons for other persons and on this basis the structuring of the individual’s activity with the goal of achieving the greatest possible control over reality; whereas Education means the entirety of a person’s competences related to perception, thinking and acting, in the sense of her active self-organisation, found condensed in his/her biography.

    Integration, in basic schooling as well, as has been shown in our work experience over the last 22 years, is primarily a question of using the appropriate didactics and not a question of any particular child’s abilities or what we call disabilities. If we do not take this into account, we will ultimately keep practising educational, social and societal segregation, even if we hang the word “integration” over our work. The future of a humane and democratic basic schooling and educational system does not lie in the plurality of educational systems that select and segregate but in the unity of a basic schooling and educational system that fosters a nearly infinite diversity of human developmental possibilities and modes of existence.

    [16] Brunner-Danuser 1984, p. 137f.

    [17] Schiller (no publishing date), p. 394


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    Georg Feuser: “All Men will Become Brothers …” Time and Rhythm as Basic Processes of Life and Understanding. In: Shirley Salmon (Ed.) : Hearing – Feeling – Playing: Music and Movement with Hard-of-hearing and Deaf Children. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008. ISBN 3895006211

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