Science of Pop Music? Oh Yea!

 Much of the gathered evidence points towards:

  • an important degree of conventionalism,
  • in the sense of blockage or no-evolution,
  • in the creation and production of contemporary western popular music.

Thus, from a global perspective, popular music would have no clear trends and show no considerable changes in more than fifty years

Thus, beyond the global perspective, we observe a number of trends in the evolution of contemporary popular music. These point towards

  • less variety in pitch transitions,
  • towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette
  • towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.

Yet, we find three important trends in the evolution of musical discourse:

the restriction of pitch sequences (with metrics showing less variety in pitch progressions),

  • the homogenization of the timbral palette (with frequent timbres becoming more frequent), and
  • growing average loudness levels (threatening a dynamic richness that has been conserved until today).

This suggests that our perception of the new would be essentially rooted on identifying simpler pitch sequences, fashionable timbral mixtures, and louder volumes.

Hence, an old tune with slightly simpler chord progressions, new instrument sonorities that were in agreement with current tendencies, and recorded with modern techniques that allowed for increased loudness levels could be easily perceived as novel, fashionable, and groundbreaking.Each of us has a perception of what is new and what is not in popular music. According to our findings, this perception should be largely rooted on:

  • the simplicity of pitch sequences,
  • the usage of relatively novel timbral mixtures that are in agreement with the current tendencies
  • the exploitation of modern recording techniques that allow for louder volumes.

This brings us to conjecture that an old popular music piece would be perceived as novel by essentially following these guidelines.  In fact, it is informally known that a ‘safe’ way for contemporizing popular music tracks is to record a new version of an existing piece with current means, but without altering the main ‘semantics’ of the discourse. 

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