Friday, April 18, 2008

Komar & Melamid & Soldier & Mankin: Most Wanted/Unwanted Songs

Good Morning!

Jackson here.
I remember sitting in traffic a few years back, listening to NPR and a segment came on about these two Russian artists who had created a database of everything that people liked and disliked in a popular song.

They then took those parameters to composer Dave Soldier and he and lyricist Nina Mankin created two songs:

The Most Wanted Song and the Most Unwanted Song.

For the Most Wanted Song, the team found that "the most favored ensemble, determined from a rating by participants of their favorite instruments in combination, comprises a moderately sized group (three to ten instruments) consisting of guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, drums, violin, cello, synthesizer, with low male and female vocals singing in rock/r&b style. The favorite lyrics narrate a love story, and the favorite listening circumstance is at home. The only feature in lyric subjects that occurs in both most wanted and unwanted categories is “intellectual stimulation.” Most participants desire music of moderate duration (approximately 5 minutes), moderate pitch range, moderate tempo, and moderate to loud volume, and display a profound dislike of the alternatives.

The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and “elevator” music, and a children's choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commercials and elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world's total population would enjoy this piece."

-Composer Dave Soldier

Obviously enough, the Most Wanted Song is pretty instantly forgettable. A bit of musical fluff you'd happily tune out in a dentist's office or in line at the DMV. Nice enough, but totally unmemorable.

The twenty-five minute magnum opus known as the Most Unwanted Song is a masterpiece.

Here are links to both:

Most Wanted Song

(about halfway down the page under the heading: Let the People Decide)

Most Unwanted Song

(SF Note: Both of these pieces were composed by the incredibly talented Dave Soldier, and the lyrics were written Nina Mankin. We regret not including this information in the original post.)

Which do y'all prefer? Let us know:

Thanks to boingboing for jogging the ol' memory!


dave soldier said...

I composed the music, and Nina Mankin the lyrics. The concept is by me with Komar & Melamid. Please change the attribution accordingly.

Jackson said...

Whoops! So right you are.
I've updated the site.
May I say that I am intensely flattered that you've read this blog.

All my best,