Regarding Our Intelligence

Here is a substantial excerpt from Mr. Mayhew’s Honors course “Writing Jazz” blog:

“Intelligence, in any field, is driven by the desire to discover the inner logic of things, how things work from the inside out. Education, even at the highest levels, tends to emphasize the acquisition of knowledge, but erudition is not intelligence.

“If you take an approach to learning that is oriented toward discovering how things work, you will acquire a lot of erudition along the way, but, more importantly, you will develop real intelligence, which I define as the capacity to draw connections within and between complex systems.

“In some sense the knowledge (erudition) is the easy part. For example, if you asked me analyze the rhythmic interactions between Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, and Red Garland in the Miles Davis quintet rhythm section, it would be very difficult. It would require a lot of close listening and analysis… Jazz provides a good opportunity to exercise this kind of intelligence because of its complexity and subtlety. Since jazz is already a complex musical style, and takes place as one part of a complex culture, then interpreting its place within culture involves relating two complex systems to each other.

“Now I think you’ll say that to this you have to be very, very intelligent… I would put it another way: the way to become intelligent is to do things like this. This shouldn’t really be a wholly new approach for you. I think good students figure this out for themselves eventually. Sometimes very intelligent students, however, don’t really get it. They still think of education mostly as acquiring knowledge and doing well in classes rather than trying to figure out the secret logic of things.”

(Who was it who referred to revealing the hidden structure of things? Metzker? Naw. G. Spencer Brown? Nope. It’ll come to me… Anyway, the point is — one of the points is — that we get smarter through the doing. We don’t need to know what or how before we start out on something, but rather at the middle or the end (ideally; no guarantee, of course). Ah, it popped into my head: the hidden structure quote might be from Emmet Gowin, in the video we have and will likely watch in class soon.)

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