# Has all the Good Music Been Played/Copied/Completed?

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## Main Question or Discussion Point

Recently I read a quote/statement by a younger (20's) male member of a modern band: apprx: All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed... I do not think he was referring to classical but I am assuming just about everything else: pop, blues ,jazz, motown, country western. ( And in my opinion that was accomplished about 1960 to 1966)
Now for me and Im sure many others he is preaching to the choir. But what did surprise me was this statement made by a young person in the music world. Agree/disagree ?

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Recently I read a quote/statement by a younger (20's) male member of a modern band: apprx: All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed...
I personally think that is a sad view, pessimistic and a bit defeatist. I've played in a band once, I've composed music and would I have had that view it would do things much harder. Also, I think it's never a good idea to initially compare oneself with masters of a craft who have been honing their skills for a long time.

What I would say to a young musician/composer today is:
You may look up to others, but try not looking down on yourself.

Agree/disagree ?
Definitely disagree. Clarification edit: I disagree with what the musician was saying.

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PeroK
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2018 Award
Recently I read a quote/statement by a younger (20's) male member of a modern band: apprx: All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed... I do not think he was referring to classical but I am assuming just about everything else: pop, blues ,jazz, motown, country western. ( And in my opinion that was accomplished about 1960 to 1966)
Now for me and Im sure many others he is preaching to the choir. But what did surprise me was this statement made by a young person in the music world. Agree/disagree ?
Even if absolutely everything hasn't been done, a lot has been done and it is increasingly difficult to be truly original. This applies IMHO to classical, jazz and rock/pop. Essentially it's all been done.

I think it applies also to fiction, cinema , theatre and even art. It's not that there can be no originality any more, but we've seen so much that it's really difficult to do something now that is truly revolutionary.

All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed...
This topic raised some further thoughts of mine...

I seriously wonder if the leading persons in classical music, pop, jazz, blues etc. could have been thinking the same in their days, i.e. "everything has been done, it's hard to be original". In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all if some of them did.

Originality in art can in my opinion sometimes be subjective, and even more important, I am not aware of any genre of music that has arisen that was not influenced by previous artists, composers and genres.

I don't know very much about the origins of jazz, blues and country music, so I can't say anything of what may have influenced those artists and genres, but I am pretty sure it was something .

However, a few examples that I know about is in the genres of pop and rock and subgenres of them, so I want to mention a couple of other examples of influential artists and new genres during the 1960s to 1990s :

• 1960s: The Beatles (UK) were very much into, and inspired by, US blues and rock music, and they loved Elvis.

• 1970s: David Bowie (UK) is by many considered an original artist and IMO he broke new ground with his music in the 1970s. And his influence on other later artists is considerable.

• 1970s (late), 1980s: Here we saw the development of one new style of music which was quite different from previous decades, namely electronic music, pioneered by such artists as Jean Michel Jarre (France), Kraftwerk (Germany), Depeche Mode (UK) etc. Since then, the synthesized sounds are still very much present in modern music today. And a number of later subgenres have their origins in this early electronic music, including techno, house, trance, electronica, ambient etc.

Another new genre that arose in the US during this time was hip hop, which is still around today.

• Late 1980s, 1990s: One new style of music that arose in the UK was trip hop, which was a mix of "funk, dub, soul, psychedelia, R&B, and house, as well as other forms of electronic music." (quote from Wikipedia).

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Klystron
Gold Member
This topic raised some further thoughts of mine...

<snip>
• 1960s: The Beatles (UK) were very much into, and inspired by, US blues and rock music, and they loved Elvis. <snip>
Having lived through this great period in music, I agree with your statement about the Beatles in general, specifically John Lennon reacting to questions that Elvis 'hated the Beatles'.

Paul McCartney states several times that he loved Buddy Holly who influenced his early look, songs and playing style. Elvis so eclipsed Holly whose career ended abruptly that McCartney goes out of his way to praise "Butty"; also trashing the inferior movies made about Holly.

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Yes you had the 1st generation original style like soul and Motown that the Rolling Stones (Cry to Me) were very much influenced , by 2nd generation. But that's it , really no 3rd. And then when that TV show American Idol came on rewarding and promoting that awful half slow/fast female (some male) whining slop. I think that it was all over then. And the saps In the audience evidently bought it.

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Ray Charles is considered original soul but his soulful singing style was heavily influenced by black church gospel singers. He even had some gospel singers as back ups. An interesting derivative is Ray Charles playing Country&Western and it was a suprising and popular album. So on a positive note:

BWV
The new Mayhem record is good, so no

And the young (18 years old) and very talented Billie Eilish is very good, so no

"Bellyache" (released in 2017 when she was 16 years old):

... and she's got a great live voice which I simply love. It can be heard live here.

The new Mayhem record is good, so no
Woah, that is seriously fast drumming! What could it be, between 180 and 200 bpm?

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BWV
Woah, that is seriously fast drumming! What could it be, between 180 and 200 bpm?
16th notes at a tempo of about 165bpm so a pulse of around 660

TeethWhitener
Gold Member
A hummable melody will probably stay within an octave or so. 4 bars with quarter note melodies is 16 beats. 12 note chromatic scale plus 1 for the octave and 1 for a rest gives $16^{14}=72,057,594,037,927,936$ possible 4-bar quarter note melodies that stay within an octave. Surely there are a few good ones in there that haven't been discovered yet.

Edit: even if you stick to 2 bar melodies, there are still 4,398,046,511,104 possibilities. And that ignores every other musical possibility you could throw in there.

A hummable melody will probably stay within an octave or so [...]
Interesting calculations! (I haven't checked your calculations). It looks like you only included possible melodies. If you add the fact that each note can be a part of different harmonies, the possibilities of variations ought to dramatically increase.

As an example, an A note (flat, e.g. 440 Hz) can be combined with various chords and harmonies, e.g. D major, D minor, A major, A minor, F# minor etc, since A is a note in these chords. There are also various further chord variations that can be made in addition to the basic chords, by adding different notes.

TeethWhitener
Gold Member
the possibilities of variations ought to dramatically increase.
One simple estimate is to look at the size of a typical .wav file (which is basically raw sound data). A CD samples at 44.1 kHz (44.1 kbit/s). For a 3-minute song, this is $(44.1 \times 10^3) \text{ bit/s} \times 180 \text{ s} = 7938000 \text{ bits}$, so the number of possible "songs" at CD quality is $2^{7938000}$, which is astronomical.

BWV
but the vast majority of popular music is diatonic tunes over simple chord progressions. The analysis above is comparable to saying Borges' library of Babel encompasses all the possibilities of literature.

The new styles of popular music over the past 100 years have less to do with new melodic possibilities and are more about styles of syncopation (swing, funk etc) and new timbres (electric guitars, synths etc)

Having lived through this great period in music, I agree with your statement about the Beatles in general, specifically John Lennon reacting to questions that Elvis 'hated the Beatles'.
By the way, you might find this clip interesting. I posted it in another thread a couple of months ago. Among other things, Paul McCartney describes when he and the other guys in The Beatles met Elvis Presley in his home:
(he also briefly describes their relation to the Rolling Stones)

Paul McCartney Answers the Web's Most Searched Questions | WIRED

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collinsmark
Homework Helper
Gold Member
I don't think the idea that: "All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed... ," is valid. I don't think we've even scratched the surface.

I'll give three reasons why there is plenty of good music left to be created, and why it sometimes seems that all the good songs are taken:

Reason #1: The mathematics of it all.

Armed with only a little music theory, one can rule out vast swaths of potential songs on the potential, musical landscape. For a song to be good, I think it's save to assume that it must have some semblance of rhythm and melody. I'd say the vast majority of random combinations of notes can be ruled out.

But what's left is still huge. Enormous even. We haven't even come close to scratching the surface of what's left.

For example, maybe sometime in the future there will be a song, or maybe even a genera of music, that was originally inspired by some sort of combination between, say, today's Spanish Flamenco and Blue-Grass. It hasn't been explored yet, but the future wide open for such unexplored musical frontiers.

Reason #2: Every good song is inspired -- at least a little -- by other songs.

No good song comes out of the void. Every good songwriter and performer has his or her influences. A composer can positively add to the genera with his own little quirks and tweaks, but it invariably never comes from nothing before it. If a song sounded so different than anything already out there, no radio DJ (or orchestra or streaming service, etc.) would ever play it because it doesn't sound like anything that people listen to. Songs get played (get airtime, etc.) because they sound somewhat similar to other songs that people like at the given time.

As such, all new music (that has any chance of publicity) is going to sound -- at least a little -- like something that came before it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not a new and good song. A new song can still be good, even if the artist had clear influences.

Reason #3: At any given point in history, nearly all music produced at that time was god-awful crap.

Yes, I said it.

Your 20-year-old musician friend might say, "Music that was produced in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s was alright. I know because I often listen to an 'oldies' radio station that plays only music from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. But all the stuff today's bands are churning out now --and I listen to some of that too on the local Billboard Top 40 station -- is all derivative crap."

What your young friend might be neglecting is that the "oldies" radio station is only playing the good songs that came out of those decades -- those songs that stood the test of time. (And just to be clear, being #1 on a Billboard Top 40 chart is a weak indication on whether that song will stand the test of time. They are very often not the same.)

So when the young musician says, "the new music coming out today is derivative crap." Yeah. He's right. Nearly all of it is derivative crap. He's correct there. But that's nothing new. It's always been that way. Hundreds of years or more, it's been that way.

At any specific time during the '70s, '80s', and '90s, for every one good song by AC/DC, or the Police, or REM, we had to listen through dozens of crap songs of the likes of somewhat-country-yet-somewhat-rock-and-roll-duet, through a seemingly endless stream of hair bands. Oh, god. The hair bands. Do you remember the hair bands? Of course you don't. Nobody remembers the hair bands because we have correctly, and thankfully, eliminated the god-awful hair band songs from our collective memory for the greater societal good. It was god-awful. God. Awful. Jaysus.

----------------------------

But hope is not lost. For every few dozen god awful crap songs that come out today, there's a gem hidden in there somewhere.

Rest assured that in 2050 there's going to be a 20-year-old who says, "Back in the 2000s, '10s, and '20s, the music was alright. But the music they're churning out today..."

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pinball1970
Gold Member
Recently I read a quote/statement by a younger (20's) male member of a modern band: apprx: All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed... I do not think he was referring to classical but I am assuming just about everything else: pop, blues ,jazz, motown, country western. ( And in my opinion that was accomplished about 1960 to 1966)
Now for me and Im sure many others he is preaching to the choir. But what did surprise me was this statement made by a young person in the music world. Agree/disagree ?
What is 'Good' music?
Classical music hit a wall in the 60s and composers started Using all sorts of silly things to be original and let's face it most of it was just noise.
Fixing things to piano keys and things, horrible.
John Cage used silence which is nonsense.
I think this is a good question and a statistical analysis would help us out on this.
What are the variables? just looking at classical?
Key, first note, chord, length of note, tempo, timbre (sound)
Just taking the first three how many possibilities?
The second three are more sketchy.

PeroK
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2018 Award
I don't think the idea that: "All the good music has already been created,played,copied, completed... ," is valid. I don't think we've even scratched the surface.

I'll give three reasons why there is plenty of good music left to be created, and why it sometimes seems that all the good songs are taken:

Reason #1: The mathematics of it all.

Armed with only a little music theory, one can rule out vast swaths of potential songs on the potential, musical landscape. For a song to be good, I think it's save to assume that it must have some semblance of rhythm and melody. I'd say the vast majority of random combinations of notes can be ruled out.

But what's left is still huge. Enormous even. We haven't even come close to scratching the surface of what's left.

For example, maybe sometime in the future there will be a song, or maybe even a genera of music, that was originally inspired by some sort of combination between, say, today's Spanish Flamenco and Blue-Grass. It hasn't been explored yet, but the future wide open for such unexplored musical frontiers.

Reason #2: Every good song is inspired -- at least a little -- by other songs.

No good song comes out of the void. Every good songwriter and performer has his or her influences. A composer can positively add to the genera with his own little quirks and tweaks, but it invariably never comes from nothing before it. If a song sounded so different than anything already out there, no radio DJ (or orchestra or streaming service, etc.) would ever play it because it doesn't sound like anything that people listen to. Songs get played (get airtime, etc.) because they sound somewhat similar to other songs that people like at the given time.

As such, all new music (that has any chance of publicity) is going to sound -- at least a little -- like something that came before it. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not a new and good song. A new song can still be good, even if the artist had clear influences.

Reason #3: At any given point in history, nearly all music produced at that time was god-awful crap.

Yes, I said it.

Your 20-year-old musician friend might say, "Music that was produced in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s was alright. I know because I often listen to an 'oldies' radio station that plays only music from the '70s, '80s, and '90s. But all the stuff today's bands are churning out now --and I listen to some of that too on the local Billboard Top 40 station -- is all derivative crap."

What your young friend might be neglecting is that the "oldies" radio station is only playing the good songs that came out of those decades -- those songs that stood the test of time. (And just to be clear, being #1 on a Billboard Top 40 chart is a weak indication on whether that song will stand the test of time. They are very often not the same.)

So when the young musician says, "the new music coming out today is derivative crap." Yeah. He's right. Nearly all of it is derivative crap. He's correct there. But that's nothing new. It's always been that way. Hundreds of years or more, it's been that way.

At any specific time during the '70s, '80s', and '90s, for every one good song by AC/DC, or the Police, or REM, we had to listen through dozens of crap songs of the likes of somewhat-country-yet-somewhat-rock-and-roll-duet, through a seemingly endless stream of hair bands. Oh, god. The hair bands. Do you remember the hair bands? Of course you don't. Nobody remembers the hair bands because we have correctly, and thankfully, eliminated the god-awful hair band songs from our collective memory for the greater societal good. It was god-awful. God. Awful. Jaysus.

----------------------------

But hope is not lost. For every few dozen god awful crap songs that come out today, there's a gem hidden in there somewhere.

Rest assured that in 2050 there's going to be a 20-year-old who says, "Back in the 2000s, '10s, and '20s, the music was alright. But the music they're churning out today..."
The counterargument is, of course, what happened to Western classical music in the 20th and 21st Centuries. From your mathematical analysis there is still a wealth of possibilities. But, that's not the issue. The issue is that composers aren't inspired to do "more of the same".

With rock there are probably just as many good alternatives to what has been done. But, again, that's not the issue. For example, you could write an almost unlimited number of punk rock songs now. They may even be better than the originals. But, that genre has been done. You would
need to reinvent the genre in some original way, and that is what is hard.

In general that is the problem across all musical fields. To find a way to produce something that is unlike anything that has been heard before. Or, at least, significantly different.

It's not so much a question quality - there must be Mozarts, Beethovens and Tschaikovskies alive today - it's a question of what they are composing. They can't do what was done in the past, so what are they finding to do?

A hummable melody
The new styles of popular music over the past 100 years have less to do with new melodic possibilities and are more about styles of syncopation (swing, funk etc)
But what's left is still huge. Enormous even. We haven't even come close to scratching the surface of what's left.
Nope. For instance, I don't think we have touched different time signatures.
The vast majority of modern pop and rock music is in the time signature 4/4. Sometimes artists venture into 3/4 or 6/8 too. But there are a lot of other time signatures, and a song that is originally composed in 4/4 would sound quite different if it would be played in 3/4 (if it can be done, that is). And a song can also change time signature during the song, though it's quite unusual.

An example of a quite famous song that has an unusual time signature (actually time signatures) is Money by Pink Floyd, which is in 7/4, changes to 4/4 during the guitar solo and then goes back to 7/4.

Count the beats in each measure/bar, they are 7:

collinsmark
Homework Helper
Gold Member
Nope. For instance, I don't think we have touched different time signatures.
The vast majority of modern pop and rock music is in the time signature 4/4. Sometimes artists venture into 3/4 or 6/8 too. But there are a lot of other time signatures, and a song that is originally composed in 4/4 would sound quite different if it would be played in 3/4 (if it can be done, that is). And a song can also change time signature during the song, though it's quite unusual.

An example of a quite famous song that has an unusual time signature (actually time signatures) is Money by Pink Floyd, which is in 7/4, changes to 4/4 during the guitar solo and then goes back to 7/4.

Count the beats in each measure/bar, they are 7:
But that's sort of my point though. There's so few 7/4 timing songs out there now that there's plenty of room for a new band to make a new song in 7/4, add new hooks, use a different chord progression, and sing on a different modal scale such that the song uniquely contributes to the 7/4 timing genera. There's plenty of room left. Plenty.

BWV
But the 70s prog bands were all over odd time signatures, and there really are not that many distinctive ones, the basic categorization is

duple or triple (is the number of beats a multiple of 2 or 3?) so 2/4, 4/4, 2/8, 4/16 etc are duple and 3/4, 6/8, 15/32 etc are triple

simple or compound - whether the subdivision is 3 or 2 beats: 4/4 is simple, 6/8 is compound (the dotted quarter gets the beat with three eighth note subdivisions

then there is odd, like 7/4 or 10/8 where the beats are grouped in some combination of 2 and 3.

so 5 basic metrical patterns - simple (duple / compound), triple (duple / compound) and odd

less common is polymeters, where two different patterns are happening simultaneously, King Crimson's Discipline is a classic example where you have the guitars playing in separate meters like 5/8 vs 9/8 against the drums playing 17/16

a more recent example would be the Swedish metal band Meshuggah

But that's sort of my point though. There's so few 7/4 timing songs out there now that there's plenty of room for a new band to make a new song in 7/4, add new hooks, use a different chord progression, and sing on a different modal scale that the song uniquely contributes to the 7/4 timing genera. There's plenty of room left. Plenty.
Yes, and that was my point too.
My "nope" was me agreeing with what you said:

We haven't even come close to scratching the surface of what's left.
(but I see now that "nope" was an ambiguous response by me)

Another thing that I'd like to mention is the technique of suddenly skipping a measure in a song (and doing other various tricks with time, e.g. skipping chords, or suddenly playing chords twice as fast). It's quite unusual, but the US alternative rock band Pixies, which I am a big fan of, often did that in their songs. It's fun, and it messes up the natural beat in a song, making it surprising and pretty interesting.

Here is a song that is quite experimental with them (though I don't remember if they do it in this particular song). The guitarist is pretty fun in general, and in this song he uses a drumstick to "play" the guitar in a part of the song. I've seen them live once and they were great.

Pixies - Vamos (live)

Edit:
King Crimson's Discipline
Cool track, I've never heard that before!

Edit 2:
And here's another track by Pixies, with the time signature 6/4, which is very unusual for a rock song. Notice how the three (basic) chords* flow into eachother; it's almost like you expect a fourth chord after the third, but instead the expected fourth chord becomes the first chord in the next measure.

* there are also slight chord slides in between the chords, which makes it even less mainstream.

Here's a guy showing how to play it on guitar:

Pixies - Rock Music chords (rythm guitar play along)

And here's the original:

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StatGuy2000
The counterargument is, of course, what happened to Western classical music in the 20th and 21st Centuries. From your mathematical analysis there is still a wealth of possibilities. But, that's not the issue. The issue is that composers aren't inspired to do "more of the same".

With rock there are probably just as many good alternatives to what has been done. But, again, that's not the issue. For example, you could write an almost unlimited number of punk rock songs now. They may even be better than the originals. But, that genre has been done. You would
need to reinvent the genre in some original way, and that is what is hard.

In general that is the problem across all musical fields. To find a way to produce something that is unlike anything that has been heard before. Or, at least, significantly different.

It's not so much a question quality - there must be Mozarts, Beethovens and Tschaikovskies alive today - it's a question of what they are composing. They can't do what was done in the past, so what are they finding to do?
The question is this -- are audiences really seeking a musical genre that they haven't heard of before, or is significantly different?

In my own opinion, that answer is complicated. Many audiences may well seek continuity or consistency in the type of genre they are seeking. At the same time, I also suspect tastes in music (as with tastes in art, fashion, etc.) are subject to herding behaviour, leading to shifts in music consumption that may not be subject to any specific developments in a given genre.

For example, according to Nielsen Music's 2017 year-end report, R&B/hip-hop/rap has surpassed rock as the biggest music genre in the US in terms of total consumption.