After analysing a database of 464,411 samples containing music from numerous popular Western genres, including, pop, rock, electronic and metal, a group of Spanish researchers have uncovered a “great degree of conventionalism in the creation and production” of tunes recorded in the past 50 years. Turns out our oldies do have a greater appreciation for music.
The paper containing the findings, published on July 26 by the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, concludes that during the period of 1955 to 2010 (the years covered by the sample database), pitch transitions became “restricted”, the timbral palette “homogenised” and volumes louder.
To analyse the samples, the researchers selected the aforementioned musical qualities — pitch, timbre and volume — and constructed “codewords” to effectively compare songs:
…for each year, we sample one million beat-consecutive codewords, considering entire tracks and using a window length of five years … This procedure, which is repeated 10 times, guarantees a representative sample with a smooth evolution over the years.
The results apparently pointed to a “sense of blockage or no-evolution”, with “no clear trends” or “considerable changes” in 50 years. It goes on to mention that, given its findings, a classic song remodulated to fit these homogenised parameters — along with a fair bump in volume — could, to our ears, sound “novel and fashionable”:
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 ground-breaking.
I guess Bach on an electric guitar with the amp set to 11 would sound kind of interesting…