Re: [rumori] curve of sound innovation

From: matt davignon (
Date: Tue Mar 13 2001 - 08:51:59 PST

Every Man done gone and wrote:

>I have online friends who are fighting hard to defend the heavy "changes"
>in top 40 music, but I just don't see it anymore. There's a huge
>difference between top 40 in 1980 compared to top 40 in 1990,
>but a significant LESS difference comparing 1990 to 2000.

You touched upon a rantable subject for me.

There are a couple of things that I would attribute that to. The first is
that in 1965, Rock 'n' Roll was still pretty much an undiscovered, uncharted
country. It was still pretty new and there was lots to do. By now we've
heard tons and tons of techniques. Lots of people (not me) feel that all
that can ever be done with pop music has already been done. We've had the
sugary sweet bubblegum pop groups. We've already had pop groups try to shock
us and gross us out as much as possible.

On one end, top 40 music has become extremely corporate-icized. Sure, it can
be argued that this is how it was since the beginning, but I don't think
it's the same now. Now it is extremely easy for major record labels to get
their record singles and pop groups on every radio station and television in
America (or the world). Outside of major cities and cultural centers, I get
the feeling that most American music fans aren't really aware that there is
any music out there other than what they can buy at the local Sam Goody.

On another end, I think that a lot of aspiring musicians seek to be
successful by imitating the successful formulas of their favorite bands.

Thirdly, I think there are too many trends in pop music that are almost
considered a requirement of being a standard pop song:
- The instrumentation of a band: guitar, piano, sax, drum, bass guitar,
synthesized strings, and "techno synth" (i.e. Rebirth). You don't hear very
much music that isn't created from these elements, or that doesn't imitate

- The use of the instruments: Does a guitar HAVE to have distortion every
time it's played in a rock song? Sure, it does sound nice, but haven't we
learned to do anything else with it by now?

- The same verse/chorus structure in EVERY pop song. ABABCBB

- 4/4 meter

- The physical appearance of the pop stars being marketed as something that
makes the band "good".

There are still tons of stuff to do with music, even pop music. I just think
the record industry has dug itself into a rut on this one. I don't believe
they're going to get much further with their self-congratulatory stance.
(How many music awards shows are there now? And how do these people get
"best album of the year" award for imitating last year's music?)

I think the fate of pop music rests with us. Not us as in the Detritus list,
but us as in the musicians who are creative and sure enough about what we
want to accomplish musically that we're not willing to fall into some
cookie-cutter shape that a potential record label may assign to us. Okay,
admittedly, most of us here don't really consider ourselves 'pop' musicians,
but if we were to put out 'pop' albums, I believe it would turn the world on
its ear.

Matt Davignon

>From: Every Man <>
>Subject: [rumori] curve of sound innovation
>Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 09:01:17 -0500
>This is FINALLY something worded in a more logical way to help back
>up what I've been trying to articulate for years now!
>I have online friends who are fighting hard to defend the heavy "changes"
>in top 40 music, but I just don't see it anymore. There's a huge
>difference between top 40 in 1980 compared to top 40 in 1990,
>but a significant LESS difference comparing 1990 to 2000.
>Or 40 from 1985 compared to top 40 from 2000
>It's significant, but not nearly as much as say:
>Top 40 from 1965 compared to 1980.
>It appears as though the curve of sound innovation has come
>to a slowing halt.
>I took a music seminar FIVE YEARS AGO where a classical
>music instructor told our class "all that can be done with natural
>sound progression, has already been done...the way we are teaching
>our students to innovate now is by combing their instruments with
>computer technology....we're encouraging them to SAMPLE their
>own work to create something new....without sampling, sound has
>come as far as it can go"
>Every Man, March 13, 2001
>Quotations left below since they are relavent, and encouraged to
>be read before replying.
>At 10:35 PM 3/12/2001 -0800, you wrote:
>> >Don,
>> >
>> >I call what you're talking about here the "curve of sound innovation."
>> >distinguished from musical innovation, which is quite probably endless.)
>> >best illustration of what you're saying is by comparing pop music
>> >itself in ten year intervals. If you compare music made in 1940 to 1950,
>> >there is quite a difference, which can be attributed to not only musical
>> >innovation and changes in culture, but to recording techniques and high
>> >instrumentation advances.
>> >
>> >Do so again: 1950 to 1960, and there is still an incredible curve of
>> >innovation and change--not just to the songs that are rendered, but also
>> >the types of sounds that comprise them. And again, compare 1960 to 1970,
>> >which probably marks the most dramatic change in this respect, with
>> >distortion entering the mix, and advanced sound synthesis.
>> >
>> >1970 to 1980 was probably the last 10 year interval of major innovation
>> >sound, although on the decline as recording fidelity and multi tracking
>> >more or less mastered. 1980 to 1990, the music at each end begins to
>> >very similar. 1990 to 2000, I can barely tell the difference. I really
>> >that we can expect it all to sound the same from now on.
>> >

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

Rumori, the Discussion List
to unsubscribe, send mail to
with "unsubscribe rumori" in the message body.
Rumori list archives & other information are at

Home | Detrivores | Rhizome | Archive | Projects | Contact | Help | Text Index

[an error occurred while processing this directive] N© Sharerights extended to all.