Sunday, 3 October 2010

Why Don't We Run Out of Music?

I have been thinking about this for a long time. It's quite a conundrum.

Every time I hear a really catchy, melodious tune, I think "How come no one discovered that before?"
There are only a finite number of musical notes, and humans have been composing music for centuries. How come we don't deplete that bag of permutations that contain of catchy tunes?

And if by any chance we haven't used up all the possible combinations of musical notes, I ask the question: "Will we ever run out of new music?"


Kian Seng said...


Recently, a friend of mine lent me a book- "Imaginary Numbers, An anthology of marvelous mathematical stories, diversions, poems and musings" edited by William Frucht.

I highly recommend that you get it. Its so thought provoking!

Srikanth said...

I thought of this too but i found an answer.You see there are two important factors- time and combination.

A particular tune may have been present in a certain segment of another piece but with different instruments.What's more the rest of the piece may be completely different.

Time is pretty straightforward. An exact copy of a piece may be 'recomposed' with decades interim for people to forget it.

Further, music unique to a particular culture may be introduced in another.Its something i have noted but cultures work within a premises of
some sort that gives it its unique identity.

Basically, most of music isn't new its just new to most of the listeners.

Srikanth said...

By the way what's a curiosity to me is the uniqueness of the music of a given geographical locality. More importantly on the ever puzzling question of how, even with these varieties there is a surprising level of agreement on whether a piece sounds good.