Great news for people over 35, die hard rock fans, and not only: according to a researchers in Spain, pop music is louder than your average songs, and sounds pretty much all the same.
Louder and scarcer
Scientists used a huge archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which basically breaks down audio and lyrical content into data which can be broken down and crunched, and studied a huge number of songs from the 1950s to 2010. The team was led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council; they ran the music through some complex algorithms and they found that pop songs progressively become louder and scarcer in terms of chords, melodies and sounds used.
“We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,” Serra 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.”
Practically, the homogenization of songs means they all start to sound more and more similar, all while getting louder and louder. But these aren’t the only problems.
They also found that the so-called timbre palette has become significantly poorer. Basically, the same note, played on a guitar or a piano or some other instrument has a different timbre, so as a result, pop music has a more limited variety of songs, despite all the technical advancements in the field.
The loudness war
The loudness war has been used as a pejorative term for the apparent competition to digitally master and release recordings with increasing loudness. The music industry has been accused of cranking up the volume at which songs are recorded in a ‘loudness war’ but Serra says this is the first time it has been properly measured using a large database.
So despite all this, given the evergrowing success of pop music, the study conducted by Serra and colleagues offers a fail proof method of recording hit songs: just record old songs, but make them louder.