The Friday Morning Listen: Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age Of Wireless (1982)

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A couple of mornings ago, me and one of my music nerd friends were having a good chuckle over the results of a recent scientific study, the distillation of which was published online at The Economist. The study employed all manner of swank statistical analysis on the sound levels, beats, chords, and melodies of half a gabillion popular songs. They came to the conclusion that modern popular music (since 1955) has gotten louder and more homogeneous. Or, to use the words of your parents, it all sounds the same.

Well, fricken DUH! They needed somebody from the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in Barcelona to churn through the data to tell us that?

Kudos really should go to The Economist for providing the “For Dummies” version of the original report. (You can read here if you’d like. Go ahead, put that sucker up on your big flat screen monitor at work. Ooooh, frequency-rank distributions in full color! Impress your colleagues!) I read the thing and can see what they’re getting at, but our ears have known this for years. And who knows? Maybe the complexity will swing back in the other direction after a bit.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Thomas Dolby talked with us about his interesting career in music, media, video games, ringtones and, yes, in … “science!”]

I’ve grown kind of impatient when it comes to scientific analysis of music. There are so many books on related topics and while they do have their interesting points, they tend to take the mystery out of what is for me, the ultimate entertainment. So while I can see the good coming out of this kind of research (the field of music therapy is particularly promising), sometimes the technology overshadows the art.

There are times when I hear a particular series of notes — or maybe even a single interval — and I’m moved to tears. I really don’t want to know the why of this. I’m sure it’s all very complicated and fascinating…but it just needs to be left alone.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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  • JC Mosquito

    Oddly enough – I just played that album last night as I was driving around town doing chores. I came to the conclusion that “Europa and the Science Twins” might be one of the saddest songs of all time, right up there with the Stanley Brothers’ “Rank Strangers” or Springsteen’s “Wreck on the Highway.” It doesn’t matter how it happens, through death or circumstance – a loss is a loss.

    “Her eyes were gone forever as they drove her away…
    Oh my country / Ta republique….”

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