While some research results from consistent processes, careful methodologies and detailed planning, much practice-based research resists these strategies, privileging knowledge that remains complex and unstable. This knowledge frequently sits outside sequences of analysis, such as testing or deduction. Yet there is nothing new about the kind of knowledge that resists clarity. In The Progressive Poetics of Confusion in the French Enlightenment, John O'Neal argues for complexity and confusion as essential parts of an Enlightenment project in writing from the eighteenth century, and claims that authors pursued these strategies ‘because they preferred in certain ways to see confusion, not order, as representative of a dynamic new state of mind and society awaiting discovery’. Alongside O'Neal's work, this article considers Gemma Fiumara's The Other Side of Language: A Philosophy of Listening, in which confusion is also central. The article explores these ideas in connection with a performance of Michael Finnissy's Confusion in the Service of Discovery. It argues for confusion as a positive aspect of research from beginning to end, rather than as a circumscribed phase that precedes outcomes. The inclusion of a musical performance demonstrates (performs) the different theoretical languages that the prose describes.
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