Philosophical question on simplicity

When I was at college I came across a quite strange book written by a Victorian pianist giving advice to aspiring musicians. The book contained a strong sense of the concept of mastership, which seemed distinct from professionalism.

He had an analogy that stuck with me. He said that learning the piano was like a going around a circle. At its starting point is simplicity, then it moves into complication and difficult, before returning to simplicity. Mastery was defined as the return to simplicity.

I have found this with various things in life, but not all. For example South Indian konnakol I understand in that manner that it has returned to simple, although I am not a professional performer. Similarly with reading music notation as a teenager I had a moment where it all made complete sense, even if I could not play everything.

My question, have people experienced something similar with SC? I am still in the phase of things being complicated and confusing, but I hope I might have that experience of returning to a simplicity. This is not to say one does not need to read or study more, but the basic and intermediate understanding is so sophisticated that there is kind of a grand overview that harmonises one’s understanding.

In another thread here, I described “mastery” of programming in terms of: moving more directly toward the clearest correct solution because you’ve already tried and discarded many of the flawed or unclear approaches. Referring to the piano analogy: simplicity (unable to approach complex problems because of a limited programming vocabulary) → complexity (capable of more complexity but it’s hard to evaluate quickly which solutions are likely to be better) → simplicity (able to move quickly toward a clean factoring of complex functionality – from experience, to recognize bad patterns before developing them too far).

By that standard, I’m no master btw! My summer programming project is… I’d say, medium ugly (and I had to throw out over 500 lines at one point because of some poor design decisions initially).

A lot of this came home to me from picking up Pure Data starting a.few years ago. I went through exactly that process: not clear which of 5 different ways to do x is the best → “well I already tried those 4 ways” and just going right to the 5th. Now it’s almost like I know what I’m doing or something :laughing:


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Interesting response JamShark

I think this is a large part of getting very good at something. I can’t remember the source of the quote but there is the saying ‘in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the master’s mind few.’ I think that is what you are also saying.

In addition I sense there is I think a moment where a huge pattern is suddenly made sense of. Almost like artistic inspiration but more an inspiration of understanding, where perhaps several concepts that have been being processed subconsciously are solved at the same time.

I basically agree with James’ description of the simplicity-complexity dialectic. In my own work, I also tend to use more simple setups again – at least compared to some years ago. However, sometimes you really gain something by modularizing complicated stuff. You have to cope with it at first, but then you might enjoy the fruits of a more simple interface.

This thread and Nathan’s linked blog also deal with the question of simplicity:

BTW, I recently read an interesting book about learning, which refers to music a lot:

The music connection is an empirical study by Anders Ericsson on professional violin players, carried through in Berlin 30+ years ago. He coined the term “deliberate practice”, which, at its core, means a reflected practice that incorporates the continuous expansion of skills and feedback (in contrast to sheer effort and hours of work).

Certainly, you can also apply elements of this to learning a language like SC (although the task of learning an instrument is much more clear to define). What astonished me most during the reading was that, from the viewpoint of psychological science, the evidence for an entity like “talent” seems to be very weak. That’s definitely good news: no mystery and exclusive gifts, learning is a matter of time, will and refined method.

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