Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls ... your time has come! Again.
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Artificial intelligence researchers in Spain recently got curious about pop music. Specifically, they asked: have qualities like pitch, melody, and loudness evolved over time?
To find out, they analyzed a digital archive of songs from 1955 to 2010, called the Million Song Dataset.
They used software algorithms to distill each song down to musical components. Things like: note combinations, tone variety, and the volume baked into songs during recording.
Then they compared differences over the decades.
Where does today’s pop music rank? Loud and homogenized. The researchers found that today’s pop has less tone variety and fewer transitions between note combinations. And loudness today? One word: Eleven.
The researchers say these changes show that our expectations for pop music evolve. It also suggests a handy recipe for bands experiencing creative droughts. Cover an old song, only simpler. And louder.
Ask Spinal Tap. They’ll tell you.
The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.