Pop Music All Sounds The Same, Getting Louder, Say Researchers
It turns out cranky old geezers were right. Pop music does all sound the same, at least according to a report by Spanish researchers that analyzed 55 years of chart-toppers. And it's getting louder. The Spanish National Research Council ran the music through a set of algorithms and determined that pop music has become less varied in musical structure and increasingly gets louder over the years.
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"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," Joan Serra, lead researcher on the project, told Reuters. "In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations - roughly speaking chords plus melodies - has consistently diminished in the last 50 years."
The study also found a diminishing amount of timbre in modern pop music, meaning it has a limited variety of types of sounds such as the difference between a guitar and a piano. Researchers pulled their songs from the Million Song Dataset, a free online database designed to give researchers around the world metadata and audio features that covers the enormous popular music catalogue.
Researchers also discovered that the volume level of pop songs has increased as variety has diminished. Modern pop songs sound louder when played at the same volume level than older tracks. They attribute this to modern recording techniques, which record songs at higher volumes in the studio so they sound louder in clubs and bars.
Martin Haro, a researcher at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University, believes that the change in music reflects the change in music's role in society.
"Nowadays, you don't want to think about what the music is telling you. In the 1950s and 60s, music was more artistic and for getting messages, things about politics, across," he said. "'Now it's about dancing and relaxing, rhythm and energy, with groups and bands not so interested in experimenting with sounds and chords."
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