Pop music is also being studied in scientific circles. Through Scientific Reports we’ve found out about a study done by a group of Spanish researchers, presented under the title “Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music”. The team is made up of researchers from the Institute for Research in Artificial Intelligence (IIIA-CSIC), of the Centre for Mathematical Research, of the Department of Fundamental Physics of the University of Barcelona and the Group of Musical Technology of Pompeu Fabra University.
The research was carried out by analysing the Million Song Dataset, a free-access archive that brings together audio and metadata from about a million popular songs dating from 1955 to 2010. The study presents a series of patterns, regularities and measures that characterise Western popular music, within primary musical features like pitch, timbre and volume. According to their results, many of these patterns and measures have remained stable over the last fifty years. However, the researchers involved consider that “ we prove important changes or trends related to the restriction of pitch transitions, the homogenization of the timbral palette, and the growing loudness levels ”. In other words, modern pop is tending to sound flatter, simpler, more uniform and louder. From here, the researchers conjecture is that what we perceive as new could be fundamentally rooted in these characteristics, and “hence, an old tune could sound perfectly novel and fashionable, provided that it consisted of common harmonic progressions, changed the instrumentation, and increased the average loudness.”
If you’re curious about this, you can consult the key aspects of the study here.