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Music is “the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion”

– Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1992


from pixabay, music-notes-abstract-159870/

Stephanie Przybylek, on Study.com, writes:

Music is a collection of coordinated sound or sounds. Making music is the process of putting sounds and tones in an order, often combining them to create a unified composition. People who make music creatively organize sounds for a desired result, like a Beethoven symphony or one of Duke Ellington’s jazz songs. Music is made of sounds, vibrations and silent moments, and it doesn’t always have to be pleasant or pretty. It can be used to convey a whole range of experiences, environments and emotions.

Almost every human culture has a tradition of making music. Examples of early instruments like flutes and drums have been found dating back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used music in religious ceremonies. Many other African cultures have traditions related to drumming for important rituals. Today, rock and pop musicians tour and perform around the word, singing the songs that made them famous. All of these are examples of music.

from What is Music? – Definition, Terminology & Characteristics. Study.com


Pop music has been getting simpler over time

“Pop music these days: it all sounds the same, survey reveals. Pop music is too loud and melodies have become more similar, according to a study of songs from the past 50 years conducted by Spanish scientists.”

Pop music these days: it all sounds the same, survey reveals. The Guardian (UK)

Jerry Coyne writes:

The video recounts some work conducted in 2012 by the Spanish National Research Council, which analyzed 500,000 recordings from 1955 to 2010. They dred three statistics for each song: harmonic complexity, timbral diversity, and loudness.

Over that period, the timbre (“the texture, quality, and color of the sounds within the music” or “richness and depth of sound”) has dropped steadily after peaking in the 1960s. Music has become more homogeneous among songs, with a progression called “The Millennial Whoop”.

Another study looked at what it called the “lyric intelligence” of Billboard chart-toppings songs: the difficulty of lyrics and quality of the writing; and that, too, has dropped over the past decade. Lyrics are getting shorter and more repetitive. Further, a huge swath of chart-topping music in recent years was written by just two men: the Swede Max Martin and the American Lukasz Gottwald, or “Dr. Luke.” This was new to me, but explains the monotony and homogeneity of so many recent songs.

Here’s a quote from the video:

“Music as an art form is dying; it’s being replaced by music which is a disposable product designed to sell but not to inspire. So we shouldn’t be so complacent in allowing systematic, cold, factory-produced music to dominate—or else the beautiful, soulful, and truly real music that we’ve all at some point loved, and has been there at our darkest times and our happiest times, could soon be a distant memory, never to be repeated.”

The TRUTH Why Modern Music Is Awful. Video

Related papers

Instrumentational Complexity of Music Genres and Why Simplicity Sells. PLOS One

Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music. Scientific Reports.


Change in music lyrics over time

Nathan DeWall, C. Nathan writes

word use in popular song lyrics—changes over time in harmony with cultural changes in individualistic traits. Linguistic analyses of the most popular songs from 1980–2007 demonstrated changes in word use that mirror psychological change. Over time, use of words related to self-focus and antisocial behavior increased, whereas words related to other-focus, social interactions, and positive emotion decreased.

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5(3), 200-207.

Tuning in to psychological change: Linguistic markers of psychological traits and emotions over time in popular U.S. song lyrics.

The Loudness war

The loudness war refers to the trend of increasing audio levels in recorded music. Many music critics as well as scientists note that this can reduce sound quality and listener enjoyment. Modern recordings that use extreme dynamic range compression and other measures to increase loudness sacrifice sound quality to loudness. The competitive escalation of loudness has led music fans and members of the musical press to refer to the affected albums as “victims of the loudness war.” (adapted from Wikipedia. Relevant links to be added.)

Musical literacy

What is music literacy and why is it important? Read Tragic decline of music literacy and quality

Music articles on our site

How record players work. Vinyl LP

Sources of sounds: A view from physics

Music of the day: What classical music have we been listening to in class?

Why pianos are never in tune? A view from math and physics

How the bank OK Go used kinematics in an amazing music video

The new Hi-Fi debate, and the science hearing sound

See the speed of sound at a Queen concert


Philosophy of music

What is music all about? Quora

The philosophy of music. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

HS-PS4-1. Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling within various media. Examples of situations to consider could include electromagnetic radiation traveling in a vacuum and glass, sound waves traveling through air and water,

Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework

The Arts Disciplines: Music

2.1 Demonstrate and respond to: the beat, division of the beat, meter (2/4, 3/4, 4/4), and rhythmic notation,

2.7 Identify, define, and use standard notation symbols for pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, articulation, and expression

5.1 Perceive, describe, and respond to basic elements of music, including beat,
tempo, rhythm, meter, pitch, melody, texture, dynamics, harmony, and form.

5.9 Demonstrate knowledge of the basic principles of meter, rhythm, tonality,
intervals, chords, and harmonic progressions in an analysis of music.

5.13 Demonstrate knowledge of the technical vocabulary of music


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