Show Details

Pop Music Redux

May 13, 2015

Powerful computer tools are helping musicologists study the evolution of popular music.



Flavia flickr CC-BY 2.0

(Flavia/Creative Commons License BY 2.0)

Musical insights from computers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Every genre of music has its own chords and tones, from the major chords of pop and rock, to the minor 7ths of disco and funk. In the journal Royal Society Open Science, musicologist Matthias Mauch at Queen Mary University of London and his colleagues report on their work using computer algorithms to listen for these signatures in 17,000 hit songs from the year 1960 to 2010. The big revolutions in music like rock, disco and rap stand out clearly, along with more subtle trends. Mauch says the work is a warm up for a more ambitious goal: analyzing the past century of music worldwide.

MATTHIAS MAUCH (Queen Mary University of London)

We want to actually see how geographic patterns, how genetic patterns, how language patterns influenced the variety of music that we see around the world.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.