Scientific Reports                          volume  14, Article number: 14749  (2024 )             Cite this article

Trajectories and revolutions in popular melody based on U.S. charts from 1950 to 2023

submited by
Style Pass
2024-07-05 05:30:03

Scientific Reports volume  14, Article number: 14749 (2024 ) Cite this article

In the past century, the history of popular music has been analyzed from many different perspectives, with sociologists, musicologists and philosophers all offering distinct narratives characterizing the evolution of popular music. However, quantitative studies on this subject began only in the last decade and focused on features extracted from raw audio, which limits the scope to low-level components of music. The present study investigates the evolution of a more abstract dimension of popular music, specifically melody, using a new dataset of popular melodies spanning from 1950 to 2023. To identify "melodic revolutions", changepoint detection was applied to a multivariate time series comprising features related to the pitch and rhythmic structure of the melodies. Two major revolutions in 1975 and 2000 and one smaller revolution in 1996, characterized by significant decreases in complexity, were located. The revolutions divided the time series into three eras, which were modeled separately with autoregression, linear regression and vector autoregression. Linear regression of autoregression residuals underscored inter-feature relationships, which become stronger in post-2000 melodies. The overriding pattern emerging from these analyses shows decreasing complexity and increasing note density in popular melodies over time, especially since 2000.

The search for comprehensive scientific accounts of the history and development of contemporary popular musical cultures is still in its infancy. Here we examine popular music from North America and Europe as well as other culturally-related regions, with a focus on music that has reached the top of the U.S. Billboard music charts from 1950 to the present day. The fields of social philosophy, musicology, economics, sociology, and media studies have produced sophisticated and informed narratives throughout the twentieth century1,2,3,4,5,6, but the lack of digitized collections of popular music and methods for analyzing them systematically kept quantitative support for these narratives out of reach. By the early 2010s, the availability of datasets of popular lyrics, annotations, and recordings, in combination with the maturation of the field of music informatics, allowed for studies of popular music history that tested clear scientific hypotheses7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22, 23.

Leave a Comment