Science Proves Your Grandparents Were Right, Modern Music All Sounds The Same

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...

[Scientific Reports, via Reuters]

Image: Martin Fisch / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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    All the proof you need;

      I just checked my prostate, it's a little stiff!

    This is pretty much spot on in my opinion. It's hard to see evolution within music in this day and age whilst it is there, its not as common, has everything that's possible been done? Maybe, but that's only so if musicians stop experimenting and moving forward with their music.

    Music has really evolved in the last 50 years and Sam Dunn's (bloke behind Metal: A Headbangers Journey) TV show Metal Evolution showed this with just one genre of music, it showcased the early years before heavy metal music came about and it went through pre-rock n' roll, rock n' roll, pop rock until it evolved into metal with the likes of Black Sabbath & Deep Purple who experimented with new and unique ways, Sabbath playing heavy with combinations of their musical styles & influences created a new style & sound that was unknown to the audience at that time, then was Deep Purple who took a similar direction as Sabbath but added keyboards & organs by the amazing Jon Lord and strung it together with Ritchie Blackmores guitar & song writing .

    Whilst I listen to a lot of modern day rock & metal, it seriously does not compete with it's originators or the ones who revolutionised the genre. In a way it's sad that the bar is set so high, in another it's not because we're not calling everyone the next Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen or Slash or the next Black Sabbath or The Beatles & so on and so forth.

    Whilst there's some decent stuff out there today, I find it's far & few, I still find myself resorting to the stuff most of my generation would turn their nose up at because it's old..

    Whilst it's said that there has been no real genre changing albums (in at least rock & metal genres) since 1979, whilst this is true in ways, I beg to differ with albums like Master of Puppets by Metallica, Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses, 1984 by Van Halen, Powerslave by Iron Maiden & Back in Black by AC/DC come to my mind.

    Also Logan; Bach set to 11, we have that already check out neo-classical guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, he is amazing .

      Really interesting comment! Stuff like this is better than the actual articles.

        There is better and more interesting music now than at any point in human history.

        Chart and commercial music is nearly completely terrible. If thats what they used as the basis for this study then Im not surprised. But the internet and digital recording allows artists to find audiences for niche music that was never before possible.

        Every single person Ive had this discussion with is completely ignorant about modern music, and think that it is represented by east coast FM radio.

      "has everything that’s possible been done? Maybe, but that’s only so if musicians stop experimenting and moving forward with their music." I dunno, I think there comes a point where the only places to move forward are places where nothing good can occur. i.e. Everything worth doing has already been done. And its the "worth doing" part that matters. At the end of the day, anyone can do anything they like but the fact is that only certain things work and lots of other stuff just sounds like krap.

      "Whilst I listen to a lot of modern day rock & metal, it seriously does not compete with it’s originators or the ones who revolutionised the genre." As a casual heavy metal listener from back in the day - I owned a couple of Deep Purple albums in the 70s - I can't agree. You might prefer that stuff but modern production techniques suit that genre very, very well. There are also bands like Metallica, whose production is not always that good but whose song writing is incredibly strong. Then there are bands like Rammstein, Die Krupps and KMFDM, who you might protest at being considered in the heavy metal genre, who have pushed it forward in other directions.

      The reason you might think things have not moved is that genres create boundaries that stop it from doing so. The only genre I can think of that has really evolved is Industrial. In the late 70 and early 80s, it was all about heavy experimentation and repetition but many of the artists in the Industrial vanguard moved the sound in the same general direction until, by the mid-80s, Industrial music was very, very different with albums like Cabaret Voltaire's The Crackdown and newcomers like Nitzer Ebb turning it into something that was far more commercially viable whilst still bearing strong ties to the roots of the genre. Industrial became EBM which has since morphed again into Futurepop/Synthpop but is now slowly disappearing as it doesn't fit into the iTunes' genre classifications, which makes it difficult for new ears to get into. e.g. If you accidentally stumbled upon the latest Dance or Die album for some reason and really, really loved it (as you should) you might try searching in its genre for other albums. Sadly, even though those guys have never used guitar at all, that album is classified as Metal in the on-line database that WMP uses when ripping, so you are not going to find anything else like it within that genre. In fact, you probably won't find any other Dance or Die album there, either, as others show up as pop or dance (they are neither).

      Genrefication is a big part of the problem, especially in dance music where some genres are defined by production techniques or specific instruments used, which is totally absurd. Most genres cannot evolve because their fanbase won't allow it.

    The world is now a very small place compared to those days when only the wealthy could travel. It's become generic and bland, an amalgam of every thing blended together. Music today and I might add for the last decade or so has no real highs or lows, no real emotion or melody. I thank God that Rap is finally subsiding and hope that that most bland and emotionless noise that is what passes for country music these days gets drowned out by something else, almost anything else!!

      That might be true of popular music but there is still lots of interesting music being made if only you can find it. I think that is another really big issue. When I was first getting into music, I had JJ/JJJ to help me find the stuff I really like. Many of my favourite bands, from The Sisters of Mercy, to Clan of Xymox, Alien Sex Fiend and Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel were all things I first heard on JJJ. Even NIN and Ministry were being played by Tim Ritchie years before they achieved any recognition in the wider world. We also had TV shows like Rock Arena and The Noise (SBS) that would play absolutely anything - far, far greater diversity than Rage has had in decades. From there I could do the rounds of the import shops in the city - Angel, RedEye, Record Plant, Waterfront and Utopia, to find even more stuff. At Phantom they got to know my tastes so well they would put things aside for me that they thought I'd like. They were almost never wrong.

      By comparison, I've never found anything on the internet, that I wasn't already aware of, that stands up to repeated listening. The last new artist I picked up was Motor and that would be one album in the 60 or so I have bought this year and I got onto that via a guest vocal from Nitzer Ebb's frontman. Otherwise it would have passed me by completely (which would be no great lost, I would never have bought it at all if I wasn't so starved for mew music).

      The problem with the 'net is that it has become almost exclusively search driven, so you have to have some idea what you are looking for before you are likely to find anything. Amazon does a reasonable job of making recommendations. I know this because everything they recommend is something I already have, which makes it useless.

    Wait, people call that 'modern' noise crap music?
    Learn something new every day.

    You're kidding! Nicki Minaj is fantastic and a fresh new sound! We need more artists like this revolutionising the western soundscape!

      And folks, this is why we have a problem. Nicki Minaj is not a fresh new sound, I could say the same about people like Ke$ha or some other pop star and all I would be doing is lying to myself.

      Trololololo... hahahaha.... hohohoho....

    "I guess Bach on an electric guitar with the amp set to 11 would sound kind of interesting…"

    You need to listen to some Yngwie Malmsteen

      I said the exact same thing above, glad to know I wasn't the only one who had Yngwie come to mind when I read it!

    Overall this is hardly a surprise and I bet if they extended the sampling back to Baroque music it would still fit the same profile, simply because there are certain qualities in music that we find attractive. But I fear an agenda here, simply because of the volume element to the testing. It is irrelevant because we each have control of the volume of our own speakers. I could listen to Beethoven's 9th at twice the volume of Lady Gaga if I chose to. A full symphony orchestra is also going to be much louder than a solo acoustic set by some young hipster who is all the rage at the moment. That they have deliberately included volume is an indication to me that they are specifically going after the "loudness war", which is a direct consequence of modern production techniques.

    Problem is the record companies, pushing cookie-cutter crap coz the "stats say this is the in thing" bizo. Same ol shit. The fact is, all the greatest music from all genres' ain't on the radio - you have to find it yourself! Also, HipHop/Rap is always evolving (no, not that pop-rap shit you hear on the radio), and some amazing stuff has been coming out every year since the 1970s'

    Don't think it really takes a grandpa to work this out. I've been saying this to the GF for a while now. *Insert grumpy face*

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