Adam Cross

Editor - Newspaper, Swing Vote Chronicle

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Is making new music/sounds possible?

*I am excluding software created sounds.

Using any combination of instruments in a typical orchestra is it statistically possible to create a song which has never been played?

Now that all songs are being recorded how long until every song or composition is attached to an owner. Will humanity eventually run out of original songs?

Also, why has the invention of new acoustical instruments slowed to a stand still?

  • May 28 2012: Great question. My son is into progressive jazz, guitar and piano. In this 21st century, we're cursed . . . and blessed . . . with a great backlog of things that have already been discovered. The big bands of the '30's and '40's were always looking for that "new sound". Glen Miller found it, for example. So did Chuck Berry. But, with all that history, can we really do something that hasn't been done before? I think the concept of "original" is over rated. Some people, artists in particular, go to ridiculous lengths to come up with something "original", and wind up producing trash. (Most of modern art, for example.) I think if you're really trying for an original sound, it will wind up sounding like you're . . . trying. Forget what is original for the world, and just go with what is new and original and challenging to you. Since you're asking, I'm going to assume that somewhere, deep in your soul, is an original and beautiful new sound trying to find its way out. But, remember: it's in your soul, not the souls of others. (See Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on "Self-Reliance".)
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      May 30 2012: I think you are the first person I have talked to who has fully grasped this concept. I've met many musicians who are doing exactly what you describe, attempting to make new sounds and sounding like garbage. I am more inspired by a true reflection of humanism and reality. But most are stuck in a rut of nonconforming conformity, they strive to be different so much that they end up being exactly the same as everyone else.
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    May 22 2012: Here you go!

    Just a thought, I think what is 'pleasant' might be different for each individual.
    Oh, try looking at this composition:
    This is a very interesting piece! :D
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      May 22 2012: Great video! I'm on my way to the store to get some carrots and apples.
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    Aja B.

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    Jun 20 2012: I often wonder about this, but there seems to be no end to mankind's ability to create new forms of music. Have you seen Andrew Bird perform live? It's completely impossible for me to understand how he's able to create such intricate pieces alone and on the fly.

    Whenever I start to think that everything that can be done has already been done, something always comes along and surprises me.
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      Jun 21 2012: Actually I followed up on this and did some algebra. There are over 924 Trillion different possible combinations of notes on an 88 key piano. So at that point I realized that the possibilities (while not technically endless) are about as limitless as the universe itself, there might be an edge/end but we will not see it in our life time. I find this very inspirational.
  • May 31 2012: btw, in the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine is an article on how the wreckage of a house was set up in a breezy place, and the sounds of the wind blowing through the pieces makes sort of an interesting "music". Didn't hear it of course, but you can read about it in "Smithsonian", or probably go to the Smithsonian website and hear it. I'd give more details, but I'm a techno-phobe of the first water, and that's about the best I can do. Thanks for your comments!
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    Josh S

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    May 22 2012: There are so many variables in making a song/tune.
    1st- there is the note itself
    2nd- there are multiple ways to play a note, you can play a chord for example
    3rd- you can hold a note for however long you want,
    4th- the order of the notes you play.

    This was just a quick list of ideas but im sure there are many many other things that define music. What im trying to point out is how much variation there is. I guess there would technically be a limit to this, but i feel like for our purposes, it is essentially limitless.
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    May 22 2012: I remember a report from anthropologists that studied Papua peoples in the high mountains of New Guinea. Once a year those people traded with people on the coasts. The greatest thrill to them then was that they heard new musical sounds to bring home. Yet their music was still primitive to our ears.

    So to compose music from scratch isn't that easy, it seems to grow out of life and copied manifold over time.
    It is the translation from emotion into sound.
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    May 22 2012: Felippa is right, human creativity is limitless; there is a vastness of creativity for an open mind.

    Music is human expression:
    Some genres and cultural expression has been well explored and needs to remain well explored. Some have not be given such thoughtful admiration. For example, African music and the music of the Aborigines of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea has not been well explored. It could be thought that enough has been known about them; but it is because the media has created a homogenous identity for African,Carribean,Australasian music.

    It is possible to make new music and new sounds by the fusion of the sounds of the world's diverse cultures.
    Music has been a form of human expression. It wont change at its heart. For joys,pains,hope,love,agony and shame causes us to make music; the expression, through fusion, or just for its honesty, will always touch our hearts for its perfect mirror of our reality.
    It is possible for new musical instruments to be made. The possibilities of musical expression remains limitless.
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      May 22 2012: But I wonder if western music is in a rut when it comes to instrument invention. I agree that African, Aborigine, and other indigenous forms of music are unappreciated but what I am saying is this: Once everything is recorded, say 500 years from now, will we run out of original music? I once heard someone say "The key to making a good song is to remember a tune that everyone else has forgotten."

      And I absolutely agree with you that "Music has been a form of human expression. It wont change at its heart. For joys,pains,hope,love,agony and shame causes us to make music; the expression, through fusion, or just for its honesty, will always touch our hearts for its perfect mirror of our reality."

      I would like to believe that music is limitless but statistically music will run out of possibilities which are entirely original.

      Stored in Gracenote's music database is 97,206,484 unique songs from different countries, culture, genres, and recordings. Given the fact that a number of the songs are re-recordings and so on I estimate that 10% are copies.

      My point is that 97,206,484 +or- have been recorded since 1939. How many will exist in 500-1000 years?
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    May 22 2012: I personally don't think so. Human creativity is really limitless.
    I just found out about contemporary music, in which contemporary musician found new ways of playing existing musical instruments like piano, guitar, etc. They also uses new sounds (not software sounds), sounds which already exist in the world, but were always ignored. They found a way to make use of the sounds around us and create music.

    I also found an interesting video where people play music using vegetables! It is truly amazing what creativity could lead us to.

    As for music itself, I believe it will never stop until the very last day of humanity.
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      May 22 2012: I agree human creativity is limitless. However the 7 note scale in western music is limited by both the number of possible combinations coupled with timing and the ear of the listener. For instance anyone can play a piano and call it music but songs that are pleasant to the ear are much more difficult to compose let alone play.

      Please post the link of the people playing vegetables I think that is hilariously awesome!