Guide by the Perplexed — Concerning Idiots

american song

In exposition, where precision is of the essence is in the tight spots — there where you least want ambiguity to clog the flow; where first teachings reside, upon which further teachings helplessly depend. Yet there ambiguity supervenes, often as not.

Here’s a gobbet of it:

… The ascending interval C – E and the descending interval E – C… is a major 3rd regardless of direction as intervals are named from the lowest note.

At face value this statement is incomprehensible. I understand it (I think) in spite of what it says, not because of it.

A series of guides “for idiots” on every conceivable subject has been popular in this country for many years: “Prosody for Idiots”; “Counterpoint for Idiots”; Electro-Mechanics for Idiots.” Etc. Their influence has been pervasive in the field of instructional literature for the curriculum-challenged.

The idiot guides, however, have a fatal flaw: the premise that complex topics are made simpler when explained in fewer words. Concision courts ambiguity, not clarity. In general, idiots need more words, not fewer. Good words, and plenty of them, are for us what flowers are for butterflies.

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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