Will We Ever Run Out of New Music?

I think we have. It seems like the most we can do now is remix, refurbish, and reinterpret what has come before us. Michael Stevens, the creator of the You Tube channel Vsauce, hasĀ  some interesting facts about the limited nature of music. It seems paradoxical that something that has the potential to create more 5 minute songs than there are atoms in the cosmos, gives us so many songs that sound alike.

Michael makes the point that our human brains are wire to like a small subset of possible harmonic variations. He does not go into why we like only a small subset but it is my belief that is why music can be challenging learn. When we learn music, we have to learn to avoid the billion quintillion possible harmonic arrangements that don’t sound so good. That’s what music theory is for. It provides a guide to the harmonies we, as humans living in this part of the Milky Way, like most.

Enjoy the video!

4 Responses to Will We Ever Run Out of New Music?
  1. George
    November 30, 2012 | 10:58 am

    I like what you are saying and teaching. It is a very clever and entertaining way to teach. I enjoy your way of breaking down the music structure to help students to see how harmony and theory works.

    • tmichero
      November 30, 2012 | 1:04 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. It just seems to me that music can be fun to learn and tell us something about the world at the same time. This video proves it to me.

  2. Earl Nesmith
    November 30, 2012 | 12:26 pm

    Very interesting analysis. The part of why so many songs sound the same or why we tend to ‘like’ the same patterns is something that I have discovered performing for ‘X’ years.

    “I” think that people in general deal with two aspects; ‘Listening and Hearing’. It is part of the consideration I employ as a live performer. It is also a consideration for the types of songs ‘I’ like.

    Most people ‘Hear’ and then get compelled into ‘Listening’. At this moment, I can ‘hear’ the radio and my wife in the shower, but I’m not ‘listening’. Music is a little more sophisticated in that concept.

    One of the most successful pattern in ‘popular music’ is, “1–6–4–5″ and its derivative, “1–3–4–5″. A case could be made for “1–4–1–4–5–4–1″ or something in that structure. But the former is at the heart of so many songs, particularly the ‘Doo Wop’ era, of the ’50′s. This pattern was/is comfortable on the ear as was/is the latter.

    So my reasoning as to why there seems to be a ‘limit’ to the music is because of patterns that have been ingrained into our subconscious that are ‘easy on the ears’. These patterns coupled with rhythms, not mentioned in the video but of significance, have been the ‘reason’ some conclude that there is ‘no new music’.

    All one has to do is begin to listen to the music of other cultures. Recently, I’ve been listening to some Indian melodies. Very different to the ear with the consideration of not only the melodies but the rhythms and instrumentation.

    At the same time Alternative music (I guess we have to call it ‘something’), while may sound different, in the end is just alterations to ‘comfortable to the ear’ patterns. The Avant Garde Jazz of the late 60′s early ’70′s was reflective of chaos in the social order, but once things began to settle culturally, the dissonance became abrasive to the ear, thus summarily rejected on the broad scale.

    This is an interesting piece and analysis, but I do believe that it over intellectualizes the subject a bit. I believe that in the end we ‘Hear’ and then, if comfortable on the ear, ‘Listen’, and in between if we are to transition, what we ‘hear’ must compel us to ‘listen’.
    Just a thought……….

    • tmichero
      November 30, 2012 | 1:01 pm

      Thanks for the insight. You’re right about different cultures liking different tonalities. One of the points Michael was making in the video, is that our minds are what limit our experience of music. There is plenty of musical variation out there if we are ready to “hear” it as you say. Good point.

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