Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The End of Good Music ... a reprise

[This post is mostly from one I made in the summer of 2007 - I was reminded of this proof last evening and think a reprise is needed. I've made a few alterations. By the way, I will be traveling to NYC - the Beast - this afternoon and staying there through Thursday evening. No post for Thursday.]

I might as well start some trouble ;-)

Here are three postulates about the quality of recorded music.

1. No excellent music has been written since December 31, 1947.
2. No excellent music has been recorded since December 31, 1954.
3. The principal class of exceptions to Rules #1 and #2 is for (a) Broadway productions, (b) Classical Music, or (c) from great singers who choose to perform in the old ways.

For now, Rule #1 is an axiom based on the general level of complexity and taste. I'm working on a proof. ;-) I'm going to sketch out the proof for #2 and then provide examples to adduce #3.

I think I can "prove" the postulates #2 and #3 for the whole class of recorded music [in the US] considered as an ensemble. Perhaps there are a "few" exceptions, but these are mere outliers - singularities - and don't represent any substantial class.

Consider the widely accepted and empirically proven economic principal of "division of labor" in creating a complex good. Recorded music is a complex good, requiring skilled labor in four different skills: writing music, lyrics, instrumentals and singing. Few individual people have all four skills at any high level, even when an entire population is the source.

Assume the quality "Q" of any recorded music can be represented as the product of a normalized "skill" number [cf. an "IQ" in the skill] of the contributor in each skill, which are symbolized by M, L, I, and S for skills in music, lyrics, instrumentals and singing.

Q = M x L x I x S

The quality of "written music with lyrics" is M x L as each skill is required. For a big band jazz, lyrics are not required, BUT the performance requires many individual performances - at least 10 for a "big band". Hence its Q included I^n where n is at least 10. A "band" would require more than one I - perhaps 3 or 4.

Now assuming the likelihood of each skill being present in any single individual is independent, clearly the highest Q can be reached by selecting four individuals [more for bands]: one each with high M, L, I and S. And just as clearly, if we are required to choose only one individual, the probability of a large product of the single person's levels of M, L, I and S is exceedingly small. I think I could prove this mathematically, but I haven't done much applied math for a few years. But it does seem evident visualizing the distributions.

In 1947, Les Paul and Capital Records created the first multi-track recording where Les Paul played each of eight tracks with his electric guitar. This invention broke the requirement for the selection of many individual performers to create the sound of a "band" on a recording.

In the early 1950s, Les Paul and Mary Ford created revolutionary recordings where Paul's multi-track guitar playing was combined with Mary Ford's singing and rhythm guitar playing were records on separate track and overdubbing. This invention broke the requirement for separate performers for I and S.

In 1954, the eight track tape recorder was developed, which was the core technology for multi-track recording for the next 30 years until the digital age commence. This invention broke the requirement for the selection of many individual performers to create the sound of a "band" on a recording. This invention massively reduced the time and cost for creating complex sounds from very few performers.In 1953-4, the rock & roll era began, producing growing demand for a performer to write his/her own music and lyrics - for some unknown reason, perhaps part of the "idol" phenomena. This greatly reduced the likelihood of high M and L numbers in a recorded performance.

So by 1955, the economics of creating recorded music at low cost [necessary to maximize profit] required finding a few artists of simply above average skills and using technology to create complex sounds for a band and a song. No longer were separate EXCELLENT performers combined, but merely "GOOD" performances were combined from a few people. Almost no one was excellent in all the required skills necessary for recorded music. Combining several "good" quality skills of a person with perhaps one "excellent skill of those persons creates merely a slightly above average "good" recording.

Hence nothing excellent has been recorded since December 31, 1954. QED ;-)

Rule #3 provides examples that arise when the recording does NOT follows "modern" creation methods and hence adduce support for the proof.

Exception (a) follows immediately when the distinctions of the economic of Broadway are considered. A relatively few number of very high priced tickets are sold. And all the artists MUST perform separately live. There is NO value added for having the same person write the musics and lyrics. All performers are excellent and all music and lyrics are selected from the best available. So this class of music is a clear exception to Rule #2.

Similarly for (b) , recordings produced by orchestras of classical music have no division of labor loss of quality.

Finally, examples for (c) are Julie Andrews and Judy Garland - both simply sang great songs in their fine styles with music and lyrics written by others and accompanied by others, so their songs are excellent overall.

That proves Rule #3. QED ;-)

So a Julie Andrews performance of a Broadway hit show is still excellent. But a Bob Dylan performance of a song is merely good. The lyrics might be good, but the singing is ... horrible. ;-)

That should start some trouble :-)))))))

PS: Remember George M. Cohan of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" fame - that's a great movie. And although he wrote the lyrics and musics and danced in his Broadway productions, not even such a star deigned to perform the instruments for the orchestra of the productions.

PPS: I've been thinking about this for quite awhile. Some of the dates were chosen with the help of my father-in-law, who was listening to music during the key dates. I figured I needed to post this on the Internet to claim "precedence" for my proof ;-)

Addendum: I made a few changes, but the proof still holds up well, combining historical facts in technique and style, and the economic force of "division of labor"

Word of the Day

"Cogent" - adjective [$10]
Cogent means 1. having power to compel or constrain; 2. appealing forcibly to the mind of reason: convincing.
Sentence: Tim Geitner yesterday did not deliver a cogent speech to add to buyers' confidence, so when all the traders' bailed out en mass as usual, no buyers were bidding for stocks..

Le Mot du Jour

"S'enivrer" - verb - regular -er conjugation.
S'enivrer means to get drunk; to become intoxicated ('de' with)
La Phrase: Les baissiers s'ont enivré de joie hier quand Geitner a fait un flop.
Sentence: The bears got drunk with joy yesterday when Geitner flopped.


mern said...

1. No excellent music has been written since December 31, 1947.
2. No excellent music has been recorded since December 31, 1954.

im but this makes as much sense as your mid cycle slow down, thesis.

there is a whole scene u r missing. jam bands and jazz.

so miles davies didnt record anything gud like "bitches brew" in 1967?

jimi hendrix never recorded anything gud in the 60's live?

zeppelin in the late 60's and early 70's, r u friggin kidding me?

pearl jam is the early 90's, not gud? how about friggin awesome.

the chilli peppers, ya they suck!

dave mathews, the entire band r incredible. same with phish. check out widespread panic these days (with jimmy herring on lead).

janis never recorded anything gud?

clapton? the doors?

and i wont even mention the band that cared more than anyone, ever, about their finished product, on stage.

music is spiritual. its all about what u r looking for.

imo, not much was very gud since classical until the late 50's.

all big bands were rehearsed, no improve, no jazz sensibilities.

when i go to a show, i want to leave with nothing left in the tank. i want to dance, sing and LOL.

oops, bob marley never made any decent recordings???????? he changed an entire culture with his tunes.

now back to bed, im officially sick.

mfl59 said...

uhh mern you forgot the Canadian sensation Rush.....booyah!!!

Bunkerman said...

Most or all that music "pleased" the audience, but sucked from one defect or another.

All those bands you cited had crappy singers with no voices.

Most Jazz since the Big Trane has stunk. Even that was pure instrumental so "perhaps" gets in under the classical exception.

The instrumentals on most of those bands sucked, too.

Screeching electric guitars sound like a cat someone stepped on.

Bunkerman said...

heck, the music itself is second rate for most modern bands.

Raspy voices, screeching guitars ... "C-"

They are just a mass delusion of youth drawn out endlessly for 50 years.

Bud said...

so 3 players are telling SI that gene orza tipped of A-fraud of a drug test in...........september2004........while he was a yankee

but wait.....didn't A-fraud say he stopped juicin when he got to new york

A-fraud a f'ng liar

mfl59 said...

at least the Mets run a clean and honest organization.....hats off to Mr. Wilpon...he does it the right way...

mfl59 said...

Yes Mr. Frank...none of this is your fault....well done sir

pillow biter indeed....

Bunkerman said...

a far as jazz goes, the stuff since 1954 is not nearly as good as the jazz from the 1920s and early 1930s

Spin-em said...

Ahhh wth..go ahead Bud..I beat you to a bloody pulp yesterday....get some respect so you can live with yourself and show your face here........LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Spin-em said... time you mail one in?....make it a shorty ok?

mern said...

today if u want to hear great voices with a well rehearsed canned band, may i suggest the worst TV show ever, its called american idol.

me, when i go to to a show, i want to be surprised. i want to see crazy unplanned jams, where the audience is so focused that people in the audience r playing air guitar in stride with what they r listening to.

what i want is half football game/ half church, a complete and full release.

i want to feel like a hood ornament on a freight train. like hoping on a big 8 foot wave, and dropping straight down into that pit and finding the tube.

in jamaica bob busted out "book of rules" by the heptones into silvo-tequila-silvo-tequila-silvo.

silvo is a big band era song as is tequila, but for some reason i dont think back in the day it was played with the passion kenny brooks did on the sax, in jamaica.

"maybe im gonna to hell in a bucket but at least im enjoyin the ride"

"enjoy the ride"

i think her coin slot took ATM cards......

cant wait to watch these hearings!

Bunkerman said...

golly that was a long one .. but a quite cogent post, if I may say so


Bunkerman said...

well there is a little wiggle room for your thinking, mern ... the "theorem" is for "recorded" music.

mern said...

sure as death and taxes.

Without the tearful public ceremony that accompanied his retirement announcement from the Green Bay Packers just 11 months ago, quarterback Brett Favre has instructed agent Bus Cook to inform the New York Jets Wednesday that he plans to retire.


Bunkerman said...

off to the Beast in a few minutes.

Good luck with the ping-pong, etc.

Frosty said...

Bud's favorite group in turmoil as his idol warren ellis sues for use of his likeness...I will be kind to him today in his time of need.

"I luv to stay at the YMCA"...indeed....hang in there, it will be alright.

Frosty said...

on the birhgt side, certain you can drop a dime and rack it up your fav on the jukebox down at the blue oyster.

mfl59 said...

are you taking the Hummer or gold mist down to NYC Bunkerman?

Spin-em said...

Did he just say HONKY DORY??


Spin-em said...

This is like 4H club meeting......we collected 10,000 popcicle sticks... built pencil holders... after expenses...we made $67.32

mfl59 said...

These Congressmen couldn't find their dicks with 2 hands and a map.....

Spin-em said...


Spin-em said...

via private email bud wants to submit his band fave

ladies and gentlemen..I give you the gentle stylings of....



I realized the best part of love is the thinnest slice
And it don't count for much
But I'm not letting go
I believe there's still much to believe in

So lift your eyes if you feel you can
Reach for a star and I'll show you a plan
I figured it out
What I needed was someone to show me

You know you can't fool me
I've been loving you too long
It started so easy
You want to carry on
(Carry on)

(Now I'm) Lost in love and I don't know much
Was I thinking aloud and fell out of touch?
But I'm back on my feet
And eager to be what you wanted

So lift your eyes if you feel you can
Reach for a star and I'll show you a plan
I figured it out
What I needed was someone to show me

You know you can't fool me
I've been loving you too long
It started so easy
You want to carry on
(Carry on)

Frosty said...

Mark email the picture...enjoy the ride

Bud said...

i am a huge fan of air supply........some great stuff........somethin wrong with that????

PS........find that jerbel bob ???

mern said...

air supply roflllllll

mern said...

bob send me your email. i had a virus and had to crash my server and lost most email addresses

Bud said...

here bob's email

Frosty said...

here bob's email...LMAOOO 58 footer indeed.

mfl59 said...

great news Bunkerman...Cramer loves RIG, both technically and fundamentally