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Music by the numbers: Scientists reveal a secret to great song writing

13 Comments
By Issam AHMED

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© 2019 AFP

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The scientists found that when the test subjects were relatively certain about what chord to expect next, they found it pleasant when they were instead surprised.

Conversely, when individuals were uncertain about what to expect next, they found it pleasurable when subsequent chords weren't surprising.

Makes sense. Also applies to romantic situations.

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Interesting, and it did give me a chuckle as I’ve always and absolutely hated UB40's "Red red wine" while absolutely loving ABBA's "Knowing me, knowing you."

And why Jack Black?

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Fizzbit - And why Jack Black?

Because Jack White was unavailable.

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The Jack Black reference is actually quite clever

When he was playing with the duo Tenacious D they had a humorous song called “Tribute” which was a tribute to “the greatest song in the world.”

A funny video, too.

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Ig Nobel Prize coming up.

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this is not the best comment in the world; this is just a tribute.

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Try that algorithm with intellectually challenging music, like jazz, rather than predictable consumer-friendly commoditized pap. That's why jazz evolved, developed its own language, and left predictable, anodyne Broadway show tunes, and even the blues, in its wake.

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That's why jazz evolved, developed its own language, and left predictable, anodyne Broadway show tunes, and even the blues, in its wake.

Nice! Although, I'll happily listen to all the above. Depends on the mood, etc. I couldn't initially get my head around Jazz - especially some of the more er, individual stuff like Sun Ra but I persevered and realized that it doesn't matter if you don't "get it". Just allow yourself to surrender to the sounds. It's just music.

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Depends on the mood, etc. I couldn't initially get my head around Jazz - especially some of the more er, individual stuff like Sun Ra but I persevered and realized that it doesn't matter if you don't "get it". 

Not all "intellectually challenging" music is something you need to like. I can listen to something because I find it interesting, fascinating even, but it is engaging a different part of the brain than the music I play again and again for pleasure. Somebody like Scott Walker, for example. His music is way out there and most people would turn it off after the first minute. Yet, it's very creative and engaging in a weird way. David Bowie thought so too. He stole a lot of his ideas and repackaged them into something easier to listen to. Both are fine. But I usually prefer listening to (and playing) music that comes from the heart rather than the brain.

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And they have software to write fiction novels. And you know what? The human element is missing. Software can copy but not actually create. When musicians create another good riff the software will copy that?

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The progression being written about is the I VI IV V7; probably the most dominant chord progression in pop music. As for the uncertainty of jazz - classic jazz is every bit as structured as pop. Improvisation largely occurs under a set of known rules, with even the most 'outside' licks generally resolving to the expected. Also, Neil Diamond wrote Red, Red, Wine (Not UB40).

One wonders where modern hip hop fits into all of this? The melodic content is quite restricted now and the progressions are often as simple as a I V or just a I IV.

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The Songwriting Magic Formula already exists how to compose instant hit vocal melodies with the backing chords at the same time watch the video below to see it in action there are two excellent examples, one halfway through and another near the end.

https://vimeo.com/367372385

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=the+songwriting+magic+formula&ref=nb_sb_noss

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Not all "intellectually challenging" music is something you need to like. I can listen to something because I find it interesting, fascinating even, but it is engaging a different part of the brain than the music I play again and again for pleasure. Somebody like Scott Walker, for example. His music is way out there and most people would turn it off after the first minute. 

Are we talking late period Scott Walker? Sure, not everyone's cuppa. But I like to be challenged, as well as relaxed. I don't necessarily see Walker or Sun Ra as "intellectually" challenging - just different approaches to music. I like to give music a chance. For instance, it wasn't until about 20 years after ABBA became a thing that I finally appreciated their perfect pop craft... far too long, on my part :-)

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