Monday, April 12, 2021

Plaintive Songs

I heard the cultural historian Armand Leroi talk about the patterns in popular music from 1960-2010, which his team analysed on a mathematical basis to detect where the revolutions came.  It was a BBC special, The Secret Science of Pop Music, apparently not presently available. He sounded quite convincing, but I was only interested in the overview. (The revolutions were in 1964, 1981, and 1991. He makes the case.)

More interesting was his contention that culture does not change as quickly as we are fond of saying it does, citing as examples the recurrence of topics in personal observations and letters in British medical journals for over a hundred years, similar stability in New York Times bestsellers, and common themes in the pop music over those fifty years.  He specifically identified "a single female voice singing for other women about a broken romance."  He said offhand he thought it might go back further.

I would think so.  Not only was the torch song big throughout the 20th C, but we have the following from the 19th C

And this from the 17th (if not before).  I will speculate offhand as he did, that it goes back further still.

1 comment:

stevo said...

This gives me an opportunity to share my latest "deep" thought:
History of popular music
1960's Let's change the world
1970's Let's party
1980's Let's party stylishly
1990's I hate what we've become
2000's I want to die