Meadville Tribune

Lifestyles

July 31, 2012

Study: Pop music has grown louder, dumber and all sounds the same

WASHINGTON — According to a new study from researchers at the Spanish National Research Council, the familiar complaint that contemporary popular music has grown loud, predictable and simpler than ever may be exactly right. While we often cast a skeptical eye toward quantitative studies of music like this one, a closer examination of the paper reveals that even for skeptics the analysis may have a point — even if the portrait it paints is incomplete.

Here's how the study worked. The analysts ran 464,411 recordings from all genres of popular music from the period of 1955-2010 (called the "Million Song Dataset") through a complex set of algorithms to analyze three metrics: harmonic complexity, timbral diversity and loudness. The results indicated that, on the whole, popular music over the past half-century has become blander and louder than it used to be.

To understand these findings, it's worth briefly delving into the terms in question. Most people are familiar with the idea that popular songs are constructed chiefly of a melody (usually the lead vocal line or tune) and supporting harmonies called chords (rhythm is the other chief component, but more on that later). The study found that, since the '50s, there has been a decrease not only in the diversity of chords in a given song, but also in the number of novel transitions, or musical pathways, between them. In other words, while it's true that pop songs have always been far more limited in their harmonic vocabularies than, say, a classical symphony, past decades saw more inventive ways of linking their harmonies together than we hear now. It's the difference between Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" (2012), which contains four simple chords presented one after another almost as blocks, and Alex North's "Unchained Melody" (1955), which, though also relatively harmonically simple (it employs about six or seven chords, depending on the version), transitions smoothly from chord to chord due to more subtle orchestration.

Text Only
Lifestyles
  • Which foods are the worst for the environment?

    As with most arguments about our food supply, though, it's not that simple. Although beef is always climatically costly, pork or chicken can be a better choice than broccoli, calorie for calorie.

    March 12, 2014

  • Old Spice attracting women in gender-bending win for P&G

    Young women are embracing Old Spice - long known as the brand dad kept in the medicine cabinet - even as P&G's marketing continues to focus on their male peers.

    March 12, 2014

  • news_planesearch.jpg Missing Malaysian jetliner confuses a world that's online 24/7

    The disappearance five days ago of a Malaysian Airline Systems Bhd. aircraft with 239 people on board is confounding search teams and a global audience used to around-the-clock connectivity and real-time updates.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_nycexplosion.jpg VIDEO: Aftermath of NYC building collapse

    Footage from the New York Daily News shows firefighters responding to a building collapse at East 116th Street and Park Avenue in Harlem. At least 11 minor injuries had been reported late Wednesday morning.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_google.jpg First Apple, now Google hit with kids' app lawsuit

    Last month, 4- and 5-year-old brothers in New York quickly spent $65.95 in real money to buy virtual goods in Marvel's Run Jump Splash game on the family tablet. They were able to rack up the charges without entering a password. And for that, the boys' mother has joined a class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against Google, accusing the company of deceiving consumers about its in-app purchase system, which critics say makes it too easy for kids to spend money on their Android devices.

    March 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • If you were a crustacean, would you feel pain?

    A scientist and a seafood chef walk into a bar. "We have a mutual interest," says the scientist. "I study crustaceans and you cook them." But the chef wanted to know just one thing: Do the animals feel pain?

    March 12, 2014

  • 20140309-AMX-SNAKES094.jpg Researchers tackle mystery of how some snakes can fly

    Flying snakes sound like creatures from a bad B-movie, but these serpents are elegant gliders that have evolved a special skill that sets them apart. In two new studies, engineers have used simulations to try to decipher how the wingless reptile manages to remain airborne despite its lack of flight appendages.

    March 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • missing-plane.jpg In this tech age, how can a plane go missing?

    Call 911 from the side of the road, and GPS satellites can tell dispatchers exactly where to send help. Airline passengers have access to detailed maps that show exactly where they are during their journey. Hop onto WiFi, and somehow Google knows whether you're logging on from Lima or London, and will give you detailed suggestions about what to eat.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • plane-skydiver.jpg VIDEO: Skydiver, pilot treated after midair collision

    A pilot practicing take-offs and landings got tangled up with a skydiver in Polk County, Fla., but amazingly, no one was seriously hurt.

    March 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2014-03-07 at 11.21.46 AM.png VIDEO: Chrysler orders community college to crush rare Dodge Viper

    Students at a community college in Washington are fighting to save a rare Dodge Viper given to them by the Chrysler Corporation. The company now says it must be destroyed for legal reasons.

    March 7, 2014 1 Photo

Business Marquee
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks