Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 8, 2012

Has mankind’s creativity stalled out?

Suppose I was to say, “Today’s music is too loud and isn’t as creative as music from the past.” How would you respond? You might agree. You might give me a patronizing smile and say, “This criticism is nothing new.

"Every aging generation believes the newer music doesn’t measure up to the old. And you are, after all, a

granddad now.” Or you might have an open mind and invite me to back up my statement.

As it turns out, there is recent scientific research lending empirical support to those who are nostalgic about music of the past. They really don’t make it like they used to.

Apparently, there is a vast database capable of applying complex algorithms to the analysis of pop music generated for the past 50 years. This technological phenomenon is called “The Million Song Dataset.” Programs can tap into this database and apply numerical values to audio and lyrical content and these programs also can measure the “intrinsic loudness” at which a song is recorded.

A group of scientists at the Spanish National Research Council applied these programs to every pop song recorded from 1955 to 2010. The results of the study appeared in the Reuters Science News on Aug. 1. Here’s the headline: “Pop music too loud and all sounds the same: official.”

The study results appear in the most recent issue of the journal Scientific Reports. The researchers, headed by Joan Serra, an artificial intelligence specialist, found that music companies have gradually recorded songs at higher and higher sound and this practice produces louder volumes even if the amplifier is tuned to the same setting levels used to play older music. This increases what scientists call “the intrinsic loudness” of the music."

Many of us have suspected for years that the music industry has been waging a “loudness war” as it seeks ways to distinguish their offerings from those of competitors. Now, there is respectable scientific support for the suspicion.

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