Simplicity vs. Complexity

‘Sup Internet.

I’m currently a university student. This means that most of my time is spent in lectures, reading really long books and writing papers. Many of the things that I read are incredibly fascinating and I most certainly enjoy what I learn. Yet sometimes, things are just way too complicated. I always thought complicated was better. Until now.

I read a piece this week that talked about how the author analyzed the work of popular authors in order to figure out what reading level they were. His surprising discovery was that many of these esteemed pieces of literature were actually at a middle school reading level. This means that the information is comprehensible to a person who reads at a minimum 8th grade level. The most complex documents were academic pieces of writing. Why is this important? Because the more accessible the information is, the more people will want to read it and share it with those around them. This accessibility is what keeps people engaged and connected to the content. The author ended by encouraging a change in approach to the complexity of writing by advocating that simple writing be embraced.

Admittedly, I was quite challenged by this piece. Why? I like complexity. I like to be mentally stimulated by the things around me. I like complex music, books, films, conversations etc. Sometimes I see simplicity as not trying hard enough. I’m not really sure where this comes from. Perhaps it was because I’ve always been a big bookworm and I haven’t been intimidated by a mental challenge. Shoot, I used to read the dictionary as a kid and I always had one with me up to my mid-teens when I got dictionary apps that replaced my portable dictionary that I carried with me. So clearly, aside from being a huge nerd, I’m not afraid of complex things. Yet sometimes, complexity can be intimidating. I’ve had to learn that the hard way, as many times my intensity can scare people off. Now that’s not to say that I’m going to deny who I am and what I enjoy, BUT it does mean that I have to be willing to embrace simplicity. Why? Because when things are simple, more people can connect to them. Simplicity does not have to equal boring. Simplicity is sometimes what’s necessary in order to best communicate the message. Complexity has its time and place but so does simplicity.

Music can be like this. As an example, jazz is seen as an elevated, complex art form complete with elaborate improvisations and complex music theory. It can be seen as being very far removed from the rest of music — specifically popular music. However, at the present time, jazz is being combined with elements of R&B and hip hop to create a form of jazz that feels more accessible to the common listener. One of my favourite artists, Robert Glasper is only too good at this. His music has certainly caused me to have a greater appreciation for combining the complex and the simple to create an amazing musical experience. He uses jazz piano as the foundation of his music then layers in different musical elements to create his own unique expression. He’s truly exceptional. One of my favourite examples of this is his song I Stand Alone. Glasper features Common and Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy on this track and it is exceptional. The message and chorus is simple but the chord choice provides that intricacy that makes it stimulating to the listener. I’ve linked it here if you would like to take a listen.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Until next time.

Peace & Harmonies

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