Scientific Study Shows Music Evolves In The Same Way As Life

first_imgLike any other living ecosystem, music also experiences evolution. It inevitably becomes a product of environmental factors, cultural effects, and human impact, which are all intrinsically influenced also by time. A study was published last year, entitled “The Evolution of Popular Music,” that sought to decipher such evolutionary trends within this artistic phenomenon. Research concluded there to be three main evolutionary leaps: soul, disco, and hip-hop.The study was fascinating, analyzing the musical fossil records from over the last fifty years. An engineer at Queen Mary University of London, Matthias Mauch, conducted his research by dissecting thousands of songs from the “U.S. Billboard Hot 100” between 1960 and 2010 and pursuing a comparative, technical study. His team analyzed 30-second samples of over 17,000 songs to determine the trends within this fifty year time span. Because music is highly mathematical, it can easily be separated between harmonics, chord changes, rhythm, and timbral qualities. Patterns are then identified using information retrieval and text-mining tools.Despite popular beliefs that diversity in music is decreasing over time, Mauch’s study found the opposite. The collected data provided no evidence of chart homogenization, however, it did show that music trends contain periods of stasis followed by quick rapid change. “You take something that exists. And that in biology would be genes. But it’s not genes here. You just take some styles. You recombine them, like genes are recombined, and you change them as well—a bit like mutation,” Mauch explains. Past trends suggest that while some might assume music to be in a plateau of unoriginal, re-presented content, we could actually be on the verge of some sort of musical revolution. Music, as an ever-evolving creature, has gone through it’s own fair shares of makeovers over the last fifty years. The future isn’t as bleak as we may think!IFLS demonstrates the evolutionary timeline perfectly:From 1960 onwards, the dominant seventh chord all but disappeared from music. Examples of this chord can be found in “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets or “I Feel So Bad” by Elvis Presley. This was treble-ing news as it signaled the ‘death’ of jazz and blues.Mauch says 1964 was the first of our three music revolutions: the rock and soul revolution. For rock, think “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones, and for soul recall “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.The dominant seventh chord was replaced with the minor seventh: “Lady Marmalade” by LaBelle or “That’s The Way (I Like It)” by KC & The Sunshine Band as the ‘60s crept towards the ‘70s.By the end of the ‘70s, Mauch comments: “We can really see the influx of funk, which is really turning into disco,” with hits like Tragedy by The Bee Gees.As the ‘80s rolled in, it signaled the disco, new wave and hard rock revolution in 1983. However, the ‘80s became a sluggish time for the progression of music. 1986 stands out as a period of minimum change in diversity where chart-toppers all sounded the most alike. For example, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by The Communards, “Living On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi, and “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna were all hits in 1986.Just when music was in a progression depression, it was saved by rap and hip-hop in 1991. Tracks like “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J led the biggest explosion of change in music since 1960. “This is so prominent in our analysis, because we looked at harmony—and rap and hip-hop don’t use a lot of harmony. The emphasis is on speech sounds and rhythm,” said Mauch, whilst discussing which elements of music they used to categorize the songs.This brings us to modern day music; anything after 2010 wasn’t included in the analysis. How would you define modern music? Is it the incendiary sounds of bands like the String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, and Phish? Or is it taking a more electronic route, selling out arenas with DJs like Bassnectar and Pretty Lights? Perhaps Miley Cyrus defines the contemporary moment of modern music. With the common denominator being passion, it all comes down to the musical DNA we all grew up listening to, how it’s influenced our creative trajectories, and how it comes together in a way that can be packaged, re-packaged, and sold in the end.As you can see, we’ve been here before. The only constant being change is what justifies this matter. Science says!“Mama Said Knock You Out”last_img

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