The Musical Cliff

Matt Storm, co-host of the Crash Chords Podcast, once proclaimed on its very first episode, “As long as human beings have creativity, they will think of something different.” That’s a proud and optimistic statement, warm to the touch but nonetheless brimming with Homosapien zealotry. I’d have loved to hop on board, and yet I couldn’t help but ponder the truth of the matter.  In this glorious age of information, with genres erupting into existence at breakneck speed—via osmosis, mitosis, metamorphosis—it seems almost unthinkable that there could actually be a limit to what we can create.  Indeed, this flourishing scene might sound like an artistic utopia, but the sobering irony is that quite often, the more knowledge we share, the less individuality we bring to the table; the less unique our upbringing, the more ubiquitous our artistry.  So, has it come time to question whether this brave new world of ours could one day… plateau?

Just below is a provocative video that raises the question from a scientific standpoint, and reaches some fascinating conclusions.  Spoiler alerts: the binary permutations possible for a 5-minute audio track are finite, the unlocked possibilities of the western tonal language are VERY finite, and the popular trends that pervade our chords and our melodies are SO finite, Matt might eat his words.

So… with that mind-bender behind us, I suppose we can all rest easy knowing we’ve at least got a few solid millennia of musical pioneering left ahead of us. Just think of that chillingly tangible number as yet another dig at our cosmic mortality (as if we needed any more gentle reminders). But that’s why I’d like to briefly relate this video back to my unremitting fuss over ingenuity in composition:

I don’t know about you guys, but with all these possibilities at our disposal, I’m not eager to hear many more “axis of awesome” chords in my lifetime; the stockpile is just so heaping as it is. I would liken such mindless rehashing to a small-town/island resident who never travels abroad, nor wants to. Sure we’re all entitled to return to the comforts of home every once in awhile, to bask in those timeless melodies… that’s what recordings are for. As for new material, I’ve always believed that the key to true growth is to constantly challenge ourselves. We’ve only one life to live, after all; we should be exploiting the musical palette with everything we’ve got! And IF, by doing so, we just happen to hurry humanity a bit closer to that musical cliff, then this is one case where I can shamelessly say, “Après moi, le déluge!”

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