Arts & Culture

Will We Ever Run Out of Music?

Will We Ever Run Out of Music?
Yes. We will one day run out of music.

An octave is the interval separating two notes equivalent in frequency by a power that is a product of two. In simpler terms, if a note has a frequency of 440Hz, 440Hz being the standard pitch in music (a reference frequency, more specifically the standardized pitch of the A above the middle C) notes that are an octave away would have either a 220Hz or a 880Hz frequency. Through this octave, there are 12 generalized notes that most melodies are built upon.

How many combinations are there you might wonder? Let us begin with the humble two note melodies. There would only be 25, enough to count on five hands. There are 469 possible three note melodies requiring 94 hands to count, 7825 four note melodies taking up 1565 hands! and 122 461 five note melodies requiring all your 24 493 hands!

Now, what if we tried to bring all our hands together and count the number of melodies? We can create with 10 notes, each finger on Earth would be assigned to a different melody.

Let’s take this a notch further. In hopes of avoiding rhythmic monotony, humans invented rhythm variations. Half notes, quarter notes, eight notes, are all examples of different lengths of sound. Every one of those fingers would have a couple variations.

By multiplying the sum of 10 note melody possibilities by the rhythmic variations they could all adopt, we are assigning a melody to each finger and toe of every human on Earth. We also would need 530 million copies of our Earth.

Then how could we ever run out of music; you ask?

Axis of Awesome is a musical trio comedy act that gained popularity in the 2010’s. In July of 2011, they released their most famous work. A medley of 72 popular songs all composed upon a combination of the same four chords. In fact, thousands of songs are being discovered, while only being “remixes”. Why is nobody wondering why the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? opening “Let’s play” is the same as the 1959 “Turkish March”? Why is nobody wondering why the alphabet song is the same as Mozart’s “Twinkle Twinkle”?

There are 530 million Earths of fingers and toes worth of melodies, yet so many songs are overlapping. This can be explained by the definition of music. Most commonly, it is an art described as being the source of beauty. We can imagine that the combination of 10 notes could give birth to some very mediocre noise. And so, a limit is imposed by the necessity of music sounding good or expressing emotion.

Worry not, as there is plenty of music left for humans to discover, but remember that music is finite.

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