Is It Mathematically Possible To Run Out Of New Music?

If you think music repeats itself and that some songs sound exactly the freaking same, there could be a reason for that (well, other than piss poor artists being gobbled up by the machine): there's a finite limitation on how different songs can be. There is? Yep, says maths.

The thinking is that there are a finite number of tones our ears can distinguished and a few notes in common in different songs can make the song sound similar. So will we ever reach a point where every melody has been recorded already? Watch the video and let maths figure it out for you. [YouTube]


    Two things. 1: Got drunk on the weekend and ended up watching the Axis of Awesome on youtube randomly, then they are mentioned in this vid... Mind Blown. 2: When I was a kid I knew that the combiation was finite, but never bothered to prove it to myself. Didn't know it was that large though.

    The problem is, that a song can have no fixed length. So technically we'll never run out of tunes, the same reason why we'll never run out of stories to tell. Sure if you limit it to, say, a page, there's only a finite number of word combinations you can have. But books can be hundreds of pages long.

    It can't be as simple as that. You can't just throw a ton of different notes together and it will sound good. It could sound absolutely disgusting. Theoretically it could be a melody but it wouldn't be pleasing to the ear nor publishable.

    I spose that's the same reason that we tend to hear similarities in songs. There are patterns and keys that just sound better than others to our ears.

      You're just bound by conventional ideaz of music maaaaaan. If music can be defined by 'organised sound', there's surely infinite possibilities (see Edgar Varese, and yes I Googled it to remember his name).

      You can't just throw a ton of different notes together and it will sound good. It could sound absolutely disgusting.
      You just described most music since the mid 90s :P

    I'm not surprised, really. When you listen to some of the stuff that's played today, I think we're already there.

    So Justin Bieber's musical output isn't infinite? Thank heavens for that.

    This is a fairly simplistic overview that misses a lot of important points. For example, there may be 28million songs on iTunes but they are not all different songs. Not even different versions as the same album will often be present multiple times (original, remastered, bonus tracks, etc.).

    He completely ignores tempo, which can make the same melody sound very different. Mire tellingly, the calculations involving notes on a scale only count single notes. Add in the ability to play chords and that number blows out by many more orders of magnitude.

    Timbre is also ignored. Playing a song on acoustic guitar or on piano can give very different results. It will still be the same song but some listeners will like one, others the other.

    But we enjoy music because our brains are pattern recognition machines and we like to hear/see things repeated in pleasing patterns. A song that never repeated the same phrase or sequence of notes would not sound good to most of us, no matter how well performed and recorded it might be.

    Not too mention blue notes that can be anywhere between two actual notes, i.e. bending a string on the guitar to infinite different positions. Whilst there might be a finite number of melodies its what you do with those melodies that counts. Take the 12 bar blues for instance that same chord progression has been used in hundreds (probably thousands) of songs that range from very bad to excellent.

    There's that guy who wrote that dance music that is generated from pi. Pi never repeats, thus the song would never repeat.

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