Will We Ever Run Out of New Music?


Hey, Vsauce. Michael here. And the iTunes store contains 28 million different songs. Last.fm carries 45 million songs and the
Gracenote database of artists, titles, and labels contains 130 million different songs.
That’s a lot. If you were to listen to all of the songs in the Gracenote database one
after the other in a giant playlist, it would take you more than 1,200 years to complete. But since there are a finite number of tones
our ears can distinguish and because it only takes a few notes in common for two musical
ideas to sound similar, will we ever run out of new music? Will there ever be a day where every possible
brief little melody has been written and recorded and we are left with nothing new to make? A good rule of thumb might be to say that
if modern recording technology can’t distinguish the difference between two songs, well, neither
could we. So, let’s begin there, with digital downloads, MP3’s, CD’s, and a calculation
made by Covered in Bees. Digital music is made out of “bits.”
Lots and lots of bits. But each individual bit exists in one of two states: a “0” or a “1.” Now, what this means in that for any given,
say, 5-minute-long audio file, the number of possibilities, mathematically speaking,
is enormous, but mind-blowingly finite. A compact disk, which samples music at 44.1
kHz, is going to need about 211 million bits to store one 5-minute song. And because a
bit can exist in two states, either a “0” or a “1,” the number of possible different
ways to arrange those 211,000,000 bits is 2 to the 211th million power. That value represents every single possible
different 5-minute-long audio file. But how big is that number?
Well, let’s put this in perspective. A single drop of water contains 6 sextillion
atoms. 6 sextillion is 22 digits long. That’s a long number. But the total number of atoms
that make up the entire earth is a number that is about 50 digits long. And estimations
of the total number of hydrogen atoms in our universe is a number that is 80 digits long. But “2 to the 211 millionth power,” the number
of possible, different 5-minute audio files, is a number that is 63 million digits long. It is a number
larger than we can even pretend to understand. It contains every possible CD quality 5-minute
audio file. Inside that amount is everything from Beethoven’s “5th” to Beck’s “Loser” –
it even contains a 5 minute conversation you had with your parents when you were 3 years old.
In fact, every one of them. It even contains every possible conversation you didn’t have
with your parents when you were 3 years old. But, it is finite, not infinite. It’s cool
to think about, but it doesn’t come very close to answering the question of this video, which
is “how many possible different songs can we create and hear the difference between?” So, for that, we’re going to need to narrow
down our hunt. On Everything2, Ferrouslepidoptera made a
calculation that involved some assumptions that I think helped narrow the field down
in a really nice way. She took a look at the total number of possible
different melodies you could create within one octave, containing any or all of the intervals
we divide octaves into. Of course, sound frequencies can be divided much more granularly than that,
but giving ourselves more notes might mean we could make more technically different melodies,
but they wouldn’t necessarily sound any different to our ears. Now, given a single measure containing any
combination of whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth or thirty-second notes, she calculated
that there would be this many possible unique measures, which is a smaller number than we
had before, but, to put it in perspective, this is how many seconds old the universe is. Yerricde’s calculation is even more specific.
He stayed within one octave, but instead of looking at a complete measure, he only considered
the number of unique combinations of 8 notes. He also assumed that typical melodies, as
we know them today, only contain about three different types of note length. For instance, quarter, eighth and sixteenth or whole, half and quarter. To be sure, that will most likely not always
be true. Musical tastes hundreds, thousands of years from now will most assuredly be different,
but given melodies as we know them today, across 8 notes, over 12 intervals, there are
about 79 billion possible combinations. We’re getting relatively small here. I mean,
under this definition of melody, 100 songwriters creating a brand new 8-note melody every second
would exhaust every possible melody within only 248 years. But it’s still a huge number, way bigger than
the total number of songs that have been written that we know about. So, you can quite safely
say that, no, we will never run out of new music. But here’s the rub. If that’s the case,
why are there so many commonalities between songs? Even across hundreds of years, how
come so many songs kind of sound the same? I mean, if we have more possibilities than
we could ever exhaust, why is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” the “Alphabet Song,” and “Baa,
Baa, Black Sheep,” all the same melody? “My Country Tis of Thee,” and “God Save the
Queen,” interestingly enough, are the same song. “Love Me Tender,” is exactly the same as the
old American Civil War song “Aura Lea.” And a seemingly uncountable number of songs
merely sound like other songs. The Spongebob Squarepants theme has a very similar cadence
to “Blow the Man Down.” Soundsjustlike.com is a great resource for
exploring this further. It’ll show you two songs and how they sort of sound alike. And when it comes to musical chords,
it’s almost as if there’s no variety at all, as was famously shown by The Axis of Awesome’s
“4 Chords.” I’ve linked it in the description, it’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it
already. These guys sing more than 40 different songs using the same four chords… Even though the number of possible different
melodies is gigantic, us humans tend to gravitate towards certain patterns that we like more
than others and we are influenced by what came before us. Kirby Ferguson has a fantastic
series looking into this called “Everything is a Remix.” I’ve also linked that down in
the description. The commonalities he shows are pretty crazy. Well, even when it comes to lyrics, to writing,
even though, mathematically, there are more possibilities than we could ever exhaust,
we have gravitated towards a few. In fact, there’s a form of poetic meter that is so
common it’s called “Common Meter.” I’ve composed a verse using it to explain what it is. Line one contains eight syllables. The next
contains just six. For emphasis: iambic stress. That’s it, no other tricks. Here is a list of songs that are written in common
meter, also known as “Balad Meter.” The commonness of common meter is the reason you can sing
the Pokemon theme song to the tune of Gilligan’s Island. Or House of the Rising Sun. Or Amazing
Grace. You could also use almost any of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Sure, they’re different
melodies, but their lyrics are written in the same meter. There’s a great video on YouTube that I’ve
linked below in the description that uses captions to let you see just how these all
fit together. Oh, and don’t forget one of the greatest compositions
taking advantage of common meter’s commonness: Stairway to Gilligan’s Island. And you know what? Our brains may also be
keeping us from enjoying the entire mathematical space of available songs. For instance,
research has shown that the way a song compresses, using software, can help us predict how enjoyable
it will be. Too simple, too easy to compress, like, say, a rising scale, and the song doesn’t
challenge us – it’s boring. But too complicated, say, white noise, and the file won’t compress
very much at all, and, likewise, we don’t seem to enjoy it. There’s a magic zone where
a file is compressible by a computer, and also happens to be enjoyable by us. So, interestingly, even though mathematically
speaking, there are so many possible unique melodies that we can safely say, there will
always be room for new music, we don’t seem to be wired to care. We enjoy certain patterns
and melodies and calculating how many there could be is a lot less interesting than how
connected and similar all the ones that we enjoy are. It’s as if we have more space than
we need, more space than we could ever hope to see all of, or visit all of, or know all
of, but no matter what new place we go, in a general sense, new, popular music will always
remind us a bit of home. And as always, thanks for watching. Fantastic, you’re still here. If you want
to hear music from people like you, from Vsaucers, go check out WeSauce. You can submit music,
animation, short films, anything that you’re making and putting on YouTube to us and we’ll
feature it on WeSauce. It’s like a trailer for what Vsaucers are doing. Speaking of which, Jake Chudnow, who does
all of the music in these videos, has a brand new song out over on his channel,
which I highly suggest you go give a listen.

100 thoughts on “Will We Ever Run Out of New Music?

  1. Right now it's 2019 and there's even more songs……… Shit dude

  2. We should time travel to Roman Empire and start mumble rapping.
    And enjoy to be nailed in to a pole.

  3. You know that once you hear that music start at 0:50, Michael's going to make your brain do a think

  4. Check out Vsauce's first videos. His channel content has changed a lot for the better.

  5. As someone who makes music it’s easy to say no. Not only are they way too many possibilities of notes including chords and melodies and the instrument they are played on. But music changes, we have 808 bass in rap now. Music is also not recorded on CDs anymore

  6. shit I WISH we ran out of new music

    I can’t even keep up with new releases cuz im often listening to old tracks

  7. Sooner or later this guy will always end up talking about the universe. No matter wheather he is talking about a galaxy or woman periods, he will find a way to switch to his favourite topic lol

  8. Is was thinking about this so many times thanks for the video vsauce!

  9. It feels like we've already run out of new songs, every thing on the radio sounds exactly alike.

  10. Currently India has run out of music
    Just kidding the musicians are lazy here

  11. It’s a scary thought to run out of anything that we hear, use, write, (and maybe even need) and more on a daily basis.

  12. What does that numer entail exactly? Don’t you have to make a huge adjustment to the number of possibilities due to the fact that most of them are just random gibberish that don’t follow a certain key?

  13. no spotify yet. (when he mentions some at the time popular sites)

  14. And one of them is gonna just be Ade ads ade ads ade Aasde etc

  15. Honestly you look like my 7th grade music teacher but with glasses

  16. Guess these guys have never heard of earl sweatshirt before

  17. Right but music can always get longer and have more and more complex rhythms and go on for infinity. So…. we run out of 5 minute audio clips. Great. Make it longer.

  18. The video of course is concerning in 12 tone equal temperament…right?

  19. Of course we do.

    Baa Baa Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Alphabet.

    Gotye – Somebody I Used To Know.

  20. i dont like the video picture title because it has an E# and we all know it should be an F….QQ

  21. Since the duration of the musical piece can be endless, the amount of information about it is infinite, too, right?

  22. A comparison of this in a visual sense could be how Similar Michael and Vsauce is to Steve and Blues Clues..an eerie similarity.Love Michael and Vsauce , my absolute favorite channel! Vsauce is Blues Clues for Adults !

  23. So it's every possible five minute conversation, but it's finite? That makes no fucking sense

  24. Now do a calculation for great music and it will narrow it down dramatically…

  25. I just assumed that Some Nights sampled Cecilia. Is that not true?

  26. In Theory we will not because songs can be longer and longer until they are infintly long
    But 1. In practice you can't have infinite songs and
    2. You will have the parts of it existing already somewhere else, you just make new combinations

  27. reads title

    hellll no are you fucking kidding me?

    after video

    well, now that I think about it…

  28. **WE humans, not US!! surprised by this grammatical error coming from vsauce!!

  29. Am i the only one thats scared that the world will be dark if there will be no new songs?

  30. Will We Ever Run Out of New Series "mind freak"?
    !
    and back to the old days..

  31. A bit ironic that SME blocked the Mix and Match Lyrics video on copyright grounds.
    Music industry lawyers are scum.

  32. 4:31 why couldn't the demisemihemidemisemiquaver join in

  33. Interesting video, it depends on the way you think, us humans would never be able hear all the tones on Earth because of how limited our times are, some people might think it’s a sad news, but the fact is also reminding us how lucky you are when you are able to find the music you like.

  34. "Will we ever run out of new music?"
    Same exact Jake Chudnow song used in every Vsauce video begins

  35. Bill Nye: (eating)
    Vsauce: can I drink your other soda?
    Bill Nye and Vsauce: what if the soda drank me?

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