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The "Bubbles" experiment - What is contemporary music worth?

61978 Views 2164 Replies 70 Participants Last post by  Forster

I would like to introduce you to an exciting experiment that I discovered.

It's about the Dutch composer Alexander Comitas. He wanted to test whether the modern atonal art music, which is usually promoted nowadays, can be distinguished from hitting random keys on the piano.

For this purpose he "composed" a piece called "Bubbles" by letting his young children, who had no musical education, play random notes on the keyboard. In the end, the children only divided the notes among the instruments. However, the composer did not tell anyone how the piece was made.

And indeed: Alexander Comitas received a grant of 3000 € for this composition! The jury, which consisted of a composer, a musicologist and a conductor, found the piece to be of high quality and even better than the previous (mostly tonal) compositions by Comitas.

You can take a closer look at the story under the following links:

'Bubbles' and Beyond: An Ongoing Musical Saga (Aristos, March 2013)

And here the composition Bubbles:

What do you think about this? I find the experiment very exciting, as it confirms what I had been thinking for a long time: A lot of modern classical music can hardly be distinguished from random notes.
I have seriously studied the composition methods of modern composers like Boulez, but came to the conclusion: No matter how "structured" these compositions seem on paper, they are irrelevant to the listener, since these structures are simply not audible.

However, instead of criticizing these compositions constructively, advocates of atonal music are often amazed at the "complex" and "innovative" structures of the compositions - even if they do not exist, as the Bubbles experiment shows.

I think that such experiments should be performed more often so that it becomes clear that the avantgarde mentality is causing damage to modern classical music and hindering the development of new music that actually relates to the way humans perceive music.

What do you think?
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It's interesting and I have several thoughts. The first was that as an experiment, much like the original Sokol hoax, it's pretty weak given that all it really shows was that he was capable of "fooling" the handful of people judging that particular piece. It's a big leap from that to concluding that all 12-tone music has no audible patterns and the entire endeavor is a case of Emperor's New Clothes. At least the Sokol Squared hoax tried to remedy this problem by reproducing it with several more trials. I actually think such experiments would be good if they were more common as it should help to keep such things/people honest.

My second thought is that there often IS a fine line between actual randomness/chaos and truly original art. I have no doubt that Wagner sounded like complete chaos to many of his contemporaries and it took time for them to recognize the patterns in Wagner. You might can argue that actually patterned music should creative an intuitive sense that such patterns exist, but I'm not sure this is always the case and if there's any real difference between our initial experience of chaotic music and chaotic-sounding music that is actually patterned.

My third thought is that I'm also not convinced that such patterns are even necessary for making great art. One of the great experiments of postmodernism has been seeing what can be done artistically and expressively with chaos and pattern-less art that mimics the chaos of our own lives. That trend started with Modernism, but most of the modernists sought unifying, cohering elements that the postmodernists have not. As with most things it seems some efforts have been more successful than others, but to take an example in music I think Schnittke's 1st Symphony, with its chaotic juxtapositions of many genres/styles, is quite impressive.

As for 12-tone music, I largely agree that the patterns are not audible, but I don't conclude that means all 12-tone music is bad or that it's all equal. There's a lot of 12-tone music I like (Berg's Wozzeck and Violin Concerto), much I don't (most everything by Webern), and much I'm in the middle of (most of Schoenberg). I tend to prefer the composers that were not slaves to 12-tone methods, but also didn't just retreat to pastiches of older styles: composers like Messiaen did this, and Scriabin had done it contemporaneously with the 2nd Viennese School. Even without tonality it is possible to create patterns by other means, such as rhythmically, dynamically, and with note durations. Patterns exist on multiple levels in music and I've never thought tonality had a monopoly on such patterns.
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I think that is a rather poor example of the point you are trying to make. The Schnittke piece in question is full of patterns, even within in the form. I can go into it if you’d like (I am not referring to what I am going to say below).

The thing is, is that any listener can only comprehend something in a context of a short-term memory. Music unfolds in time, little by little, not all at once. We can only recall how something sounds EXACTLY as it is the very moment it sounds. The further we are from the sound event, the less reliable and less exact we remember it. We are placing what we are currently hearing in the context of what we remember hearing in the past, which is dwindling as time goes on. This means that the juxtapositions of genres that Schnittke is doing in the piece is of very little effect since the “chaos” is on a scale of longer periods of time in which the point of reference for comparison is large. If the “chaos” were happening literally every second or fraction of a second, the effect would be more poignant. The way it is, it is basically no different than a “medley” of multifarious styles, rather than anything truly “chaotic”. And one can develop an expectation of patterns with the frequency of changes over time.
You can explain the patterns in the form of the Schnittke if you want (I'd certainly be interested), but even if you do will it then just be an example of patterns existing in the seemingly-random chaos of such juxtapositions.

I don't disagree with your point about musical memory, but that's part of the reason why genres, forms and conventions are popular because they provide a kind of intuitive "road map" of what a piece/song is doing, providing immediately recognizable patterns. When original and innovative music eschews these conventions then it can be difficult for people to pick out the patterns, assuming they exist; and even if they do exist if people don't like the music, which many (most?) don't with 12-tone music they aren't going to strive to discover them. As for the Schnittke I'd still argue that such juxtapositions of genres can sound chaotic precisely because they are not expected and I don't think the longer time span matters much here. Hypothetically, even if a piece lasts an hour one wouldn't expect to hear a section of bebop or pop or funk in the middle of an otherwise classical symphony.
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Yes, one can also create patterns through rhythms and texture but all significant composers of the CPT-era in fact did this along with creating patterns through tones. If you remove (audible) tone patterns, like some modern composers do you are removing an entire dimension of musical expression, which I consider to be a huge loss.

Btw. I also like Scriabin and Messiaen and a reason is that they DO create very salient patterns through tones, and they do it in a similar way as Common-Practice-Tonality does: Through characteristic scales and chords. Traditional tonality uses the major/minor scales and triadic harmonies to create coherence, whereas Scriabin and Messiaen use their own distinct scales (e.g. Acoustic scale or octatonic scale) and their own characteristic harmonies (e.g. the mystic chord) to create patterns. I find that modern composers who follow this kind of approach tend to be the most enjoyable, probably because it lends itself well to salient patterns.
I think all I'd say regarding the first paragraph is that removing one method of creating patterns (tonality) certainly opens up the door for creating new ways in which other patterns are heard and experienced. Even within tonality it's possible for composers (or even songwriters) to de-emphasize tonal patterns and emphasize others. It's like the oft-repeated criticism that most pop music is harmonically simple and, while true, it rather ignores the fact that pop generally de-emphasizes harmony to focus on other musical patterns. Yes, you can do both simultaneously, but that very much changes the feel of the music, just as removing audible tonal patterns altogether does. All three things (strong & focuses tonal patterns, a lack of audible tonal patterns, de-emphasized tonal patterns) create very different aesthetics.

I would also agree about Scriabin and Messiaen while simply adding that even though they maintained some elements of tonal patterns they weren't the same as those as CPT. Messiaen especially experimented with a lot of music in which the primary organizational patterns were rhythmic (especially focusing on foreign rhythmic ideas) rather than tonal.
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...Musicology, i.e. the analysis of composed music and its psychological and acoustical properties is a very much a science indeed!
This is only true if you want to get really lose with what qualifies as "musicology" and "science." Science involves inventing hypotheses that seek to explain a set of data/phenomena and then devising experiments to see if that hypothesis bears fruit in the form of empirical predictions. I don't know much of any musicology that does this. You might say musicology's attempts to reduce to music to models (via specified technical language and symbols) is analogous to science's own model building; but, again, science is actually required to test its models, not just build them. The most science-like field I know of as it relates to music is neuroaesthetics.
My bar for what is quality music is apparently somewhat different than yours and theirs.
Quoting someone’s post and changing the wording and meaning of the post without a clear explanation that it has been changed and why should be against the TOS if it isn’t already.
Dude, that's what "FTFY" is meant to indicate. Welcome to the internet ca. 2005.
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There are definitely scientific experiments in cognitive musicology and music psychology.
I don't know if the most influential musicologists draw on these disciplines but if they don't, then I consider it a fatal flaw.

Funny enough, one of the first blinded experiments was performed in a musical context (from the Wikipedia article on blinded experiments):

In 1817, the first blind experiment recorded to have occurred outside of a scientific setting compared the musical quality of a Stradivarius violin to one with a guitar-like design. A violinist played each instrument while a committee of scientists and musicians listened from another room so as to avoid prejudice.

Experiments like that should be performed more often to ensure a more objective and unbiased assessment of musical works.
Yes, those two things you mention I'd include under the field of neuroaesthetics, but I don't think they are representative of what the vast majority of musicologists do. I have no issue with experiments of any sort (assuming they're well-designed), but it's not possible to take bias and subjectivity out of musical assessment unless one is being purely descriptive.
I think the problem is that we are talking about two very different things. You are talking about "randomness in the compositional process". However I am talking about perceived randomness in the hearable result. If your compositional method is highly structured, but the final music sounds similar to randomness, then that puts these techniques into question. Why use complex processes to achieve something that can also be achieved by just throwing dice?
Most art (hardly just music) is a balance between order/pattern/design/intent and chaos/surprise/chance/unintentional. This mirrors our own experiences of life and our perception or the co-existence of order and chaos. Psychologically speaking, order tends towards the pleasant, secure, and safe, but also towards the boring after a while; while chaos tends towards the unpleasant, insecure, and anxious, but also towards excitement. That's the balance and trade-off. Throughout history, most artistic evolution happened when old order got modified by new chaos, that usually produced new methods of order.

I do agree that there's a distinction to be made between what we might call objective (ontological) order, meaning that there is some definite method for generating the art in questions and patterns within that art; and subjective (perceptive) order, meaning that we have an intuitive method for sensing those patterns. It seems to me that throughout history most artists were more concerned with perceptive order than objective order, while in the 20th century artists have been willing to sacrifice perceptive order both for objective order and even for various chaotic methods. Why this is so probably has multiple socio-cultural explanations, and it may even involve how much we've psychologically conditioned ourselves towards only intuitively perceiving certain kinds of order.

My general view is that for people who only care about perceptively ordered art there is a wealth of it out there. One could spend a lifetime only listening to tonal music and not run out of new things to hear ranging from centuries past to today. Within that massive world of perceptively ordered art there is a tiny amount that experiments with perceptive chaos and (sometimes) the alternate methods of objectively ordered methods of producing them. I've never seen the harm in allowing both to co-exist, both for the people who enjoy perceptively chaotic art, and for its potential to eventually find its way into perceptively ordered music even if just as an occasional technique.
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I’m not surprised that given how long the internet has been around that you would think that FTFY would be a mystery to anybody, but over the years it’s been my experience that those who indulge too much in psychology think they ‘know’ and others don’t.
If "FTFY" was not a mystery to you then why the hell did you say "Quoting someone’s post and changing the wording and meaning of the post without a clear explanation that it has been changed and why should be against the TOS if it isn’t already"? Because "FTFY" is a "clear explanation that it has been changed," and the "why" should be obvious to anyone familiar with how the term is used. I even bolded and italicized the text that was changed for added clarity!
Change of culture is a natural thing and so is resistance against it. There is a balance. However the problem starts when people get very smart and think culture always changes so resistance against it is pointless. At this point change gets accelerated like crazy, there will be no balance anymore up to a distopic-apocalyptic state.
Some people have always thought that, and yet there are always just as many people resisting the change anyway. I have no idea how you get form accelerating cultural change (which is due as much to accelerating technological advancements as anything else) to a dystopic-apocalyptic state. Holy slippery slope, Batman!
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The accelerating technological advancements are important. In earlier times technology was bad and people had to compensate this by being very good as humans. With the accelerating technological advancements people can afford to be worse as humans and cultural beings. The technical advance makes cultural decline affordable. But I think this will not work forever. Avant-garde music already sounds much like a dystopia. A sign?
I don't think your first sentence is true at all: people were better humans when technology was worse? What is this based on? Statistics actually show that we're living in the safest, most peaceful time in human history, with violence having steadily decreased over the centuries. Humans seem to me to be much worse to each other when they're having to fight for resources. Technology has given us the ability to meet our basic needs efficiently without having to fight all the time, and even though the latter still happens it isn't as frequent as there's less need to.

I don't know what you mean by being "worse as... cultural beings." Technical advances in terms of culture have simply given more people the means of both producing and experiencing works of culture, as well as a much greater variety for what kind of cultural works can be produced. The vast majority of people these days have access to a phone that can take photographs and film video, as well as access to the internet for sharing both with the whole world. This has made culture much more egalitarian rather than something that's accessible (both creatively and receptively) only to a handful of the social elite.
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A composer like Beethoven is acknowledged as a great composer. But that has nothing to do with whether someone responds to his music positively.
No, but it seems to have everything to do with the fact that a lot of people respond to his music positively, which then suggests we're judging greatness by consensus (or "polls" to go back to StrangeMagic's old analogy).
I watched a documentary on Charles Ives and there was a wonderful quote: "My God, what does sound have to do with music?" This might seem to be a flippant statement, but I think Ives is getting at the crux of the problems in this thread.

Music is more akin to architecture than sound. IOW, composers work at putting things together (that is the entomology of the word), building aural structures which develop over time.

Too much time is taken up on TC with talking about what something sounds like, and not enough on what the composer was doing with the materials. But this is natural with a mostly unprofessional group of fans.
The simplest definition I know of music is "organized sound," and I don't think you can strip away half of what makes music music and decide it's all about the organization rather than what's being organized. I remember ages ago reading a book on the history of jazz and I think it was Louis Armstrong (I could be wrong here; memory is fuzzy) talking about how he'd often practice for days playing a single note, working on all the different ways he could get it to sound, because within those different sounds were analogies with different emotions, tones, feelings.

Obviously the way in which sounds are organized is incredibly important as well, just not vastly more important than the sound of what's been organized. I don't begrudge composers for being fascinated by the architecture and tools of organization, just as I don't begrudge any professionals who are interested in the techniques of their art, but the vast majority of people (and this even includes many of those professionals) are always going to care more about what kind of sensory, emotional, tonal, aesthetic experience the final work creates rather than the technique that went into making that work. One analogy is that most people care more about how the food tastes than what went into making it.
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My point that music is differently created and perceived by different cultures, meaning that the particular sounds are less important than what is going on among them. Noise is sound and what differentiates music from noise is the organization.
I don't disagree that music is created/perceived differently by different cultures, nor that what separates sound from noise is the organization; but I don't think the conclusion that the organization is more important than the sounds follows necessarily from either claim. Even if we take noise, there's a reason that things like fire alarms are pitched to around 3kHz-4kHz, and that's because human hearing is very sensitive to sounds in that region and we typically perceive them as unpleasant, and thus react to them quickly; meanwhile, alarms for less crucial things, like most timers or watch alarms, tend to be significantly lower.

Further, our awareness of geometric patterns almost certainly manifests in the kinds of harmonies we find pleasant/unpleasant even if there's also a lot of cultural bias available for more ambiguous example. It's also natural that the sounds of any given instrument playing any given note makes us feel different things than if that instrument was playing a different note, or if a different instrument was playing the same note. You can't take the opening motif from Beethoven's 5th and transpose it to any other instruments or much higher/lower keys and have it feel the same way. I'd think that most composers take all of this into account when composing.

When Stravinsky started The Rite of Spring with a bassoon solo in a much higher register than was typical for most music written for the instrument, he did that deliberately knowing what kind of sound it would produce. In fact, given that he took the opening melody from a folk song it's likely he thought this effect of the sound was probably just as important at the melodic organization given that the latter wasn't even his own creation. One French critic who attended the premiere even said this about the opening: "You hear the prelude, where a wind instrument is dominant. We ask each other, which instrument can produce such sounds. I reply: ‘This is an oboe.’ But my neighbor to the right, who is a great composer, assures me that it is a muted trumpet. My neighbor to the left, no less learned in music, opines: ‘I would rather think that it is a clarinet.’ During the intermission we ask the conductor himself, and we learn that it was the bassoon that put us in such great doubt."

Which brings up back to the OP, i.e. how can randomness create music.
FWIW, I don't dispute randomness can create music, and even good music.

I am highly suspicious when I see people attempting to apply acoustical science to musical attributes such as intervals, triads, scales, etc. Since I see this as off target from how music was originally made, naturally, and with little or no technology interfering.
I'm not sure why you'd be skeptical of applying acoustical science to music just because early music was made without things like set intervals or much of what we know as "music theory" at all. If we agree that music is organized sound then there are always principles for that organization even if they vary tremendously and even if they aren't formally established. Acoustical science might can explain why we like some methods of organization even if it doesn't explain why every possible method of organization is/isn't liked, and obviously cultural bias plays a huge role too. As with the old nature/nurture debate, the answer is almost always "some combination of the two."
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My aim was to show that the perception of music isn't just subjective, but that there are in fact objectively measurable components to the listener's experience, in this case roughness.
At most what you're showing is that humans subjective perceive certain objective features in predictable ways, though I'm skeptical of how universal that predictability is. It's difficult to account for the cultural bias variable.
Composers choose certain sounds or timbres to set their music - but it is the organization which helps determine if a composer is any good or not. So, IMO, organization is more important since different instruments or sounds could be substituted without doing as much harm if the organization is changed. It is how a composer organizes the sound that creates his work.
We may just have to agree to disagree about this. I'm not trying to discount at all the importance of the organization, I just think it's foolish to so radically discount the importance of the sound. Sound is responsible for so much of what most listeners (including many composers) enjoy about music.

Acoustical science is based on mathematical descriptions of musical elements. However, when humans sing we do so using non-precise divisions of the octave, and even smaller intervals. So, I don't place much stock in a mathematical analysis of musical elements since it starts from a flawed premise, i.e. that those precise divisions exist in human performance.
Now you've lost me, or at least I think we're talking about different things. My first thought is that one can use mathematical descriptions of non-precise divisions and intervals as well. Second thought is that most human performance since the invention of equal-temperament has aimed for such precise divisions even if it's not always successful at achieving it. When humans sing most contemporary tonal music without landing on those precise divisions we call them "pitchy" if they're far enough off the pitch they were aiming for, and most perceive this as a flaw. Final point is that there can obviously be viable music made without such precise divisions, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a scientific/mathematical reasons so many humans seem enamored with music predominantly made utilizing these precise divisions. Hell, most contemporary pop and rock music is so enamored with it that we've invented a lot pitch correction software programs designed to help singers align more precisely with those divisions. Even rhythmically it's common practice now to copy/past beats into extremely precise temporal divisions. A lot of people seem to like such things, even if many others miss the more human imperfections that "live" music traditionally provided.
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I am not "radically" discounting the sound of music, after all that is what we experience first hand. But, the sound of the music is a surface quality. Composers take themes and create cathedrals of sound. The majesty of music, for me, is in the composer's development of often very simple sonic material.
Sorry if I misjudged you, but that was the impression I got from your first post on the subject (with the Ives quote). Though I understand what you mean about sound being the surface, surfaces are often responsible for evoking intuitively whatever depths they contain. One can say the same thing about, say, story and plot when it comes to films and literature; they may be the "surface," but most of the technique and art and craft of those mediums is about making them both as compelling as possible in their own right, but also evoking whatever themes, depth, and nuance is going on underneath and between them. Further, if people don't like that surface most are not going to bother exploring beyond it just too appreciate those depths, the same way nobody is going to bother figuring out what technique goes into creating a dish of food that they don't enjoy eating.

When people sing in a choir a cappella, they lapse into just intonation, whereas when singing with accompaniment, especially a piano, they are forced into equal temperament. IMO, equal temperament is not progress. It is a case of technology trumping humanity.

There are a number of composers working in just intonation precisely for this reason: it is more humanly natural. We don't need instruments to make music, we certainly don't need fixed pitch keyboard instruments. String and wind instruments can mimic the human voice's flexibility. But over the last few centuries, the piano has become more and more dominant. Something I do not celebrate.

We are living in an age that coined the idea of "trans-humanism". Artificial Intelligence is part of the zeitgeist. Computer technology has offered the illusion of perfection, which is an illusion. Audio/studio technology has turned music-making into a product of auto-tuners, and seamless digital correction of "flaws" in a performance. Even in classical music different takes are spliced together in an effort to achieve a perfect performance.

We are in danger of losing our humanity if we allow technology to completely overtake our humanity.

This is partly why I am suspicious of so-called scientific analysis of music. I also do not think if offers an accurate methodology of increasing our understanding of music and composing. Science is good at analyzing the properties of sound. It cannot tell us why or how music charms us.
Again we're talking about different things. I'm not against using just intonation and doing so will sound just fine unless someone tries to switch keys without adjusting for it. The intervals are pretty close with equal-temperament anyway and one would probably need a trained ear to hear the difference in isolation. Many electric pianos even present the option for both equal-temperament and just intonation, so there's not even really an issue there unless someone insists on acoustic. What I was referring to was merely that within equal tuning people aim for that precision because, well, that's what the tuning is. If you're using just intonation then things are different, and that's fine too; but in either there will be a level of precision that's desired in terms of hitting the correct notes.

I don't strongly disagree with you about the movement towards "perfection" with studio music, but I also think it's hard to deny that that's what people seem to like; at least for now. It may just be a trendy fad and perhaps people will move back towards enjoying production that presents something closer to a less-than-perfect live sound. There's always been a bit of a push/pull between artists that pushed towards a kind of artificial perfection--even in the age before auto-tune and DAWs you had bands Steely Dan who'd use a billion takes until they got everything sounding pin-point perfect--and those that preferred a sound that was more reflective of how they actually sounded live. I would agree that recently music has gone too far into the "chasing perfection" direction lured by what various technology has made possible and easy. Of course, part of it is practical too as DAWs and auto-tune means much more efficient use of studio time, which otherwise costs a lot of money.

As for scientific analysis of music, any science should be descriptive rather than prescriptive, so as long as it's doing that I think it's valuable. I also don't put the questions of why music charms us outside the realm of science. I already think neuroaesthetics has done more than centuries worth of aesthetic philosophy, most of which is little more than the erection of linguistic edifices for justifying our subjective tastes.
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This old man disagreed:

One factor here is urbanization. One treats others that he knows better than unknown people. In a small village one knows 100% of the people. In a modern big city one knows less than 1% of the people. People are also more different to each other in modern big cities.
You really think the anecdote of one guy doing an interview trumps the mountains of scientific studies on this subject? I'd highly recommend picking up Stephen Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature and giving it a read. People thinking people were better in the past are just living in an Edenic-fueled fantasy.

Also, the vast majority of murders, rapes, abuse, and violence happen between people who know each other. When violence happens between strangers it's usually because of the poor and dispossessed who become desperate. It's also difficult to compare the crime rate between big cities and small towns because with so few people any small increase/decrease in crime can skew the rate tremendously, which is why most crime is measured per 100k people.

People always fight, it is in their nature. Old concepts like the "honourable merchant" and the "word of honour" are less relevant today. "Honor" overall seems like an old school concept today, doesn't it?
The issue isn't about fighting/not fighting, but about how common that is. Plenty of people are not naturally aggressive and will/would only fight if necessary; and even others who are aggressive often find better outlets for that in a civilized society (sports, video games, etc.) rather than actually fighting with others.

But the craftsmanship was better in earlier times, because there was less technical help. For example look at the introduction of DAW in film music. The musical craftsmanship in film music has become worse because of the limitations of the DAW. DAW is nonetheless required most of the time, because there are some non-craftsmanship related advantages, like you don't need an orchestra.
I think your take is much too general and broad. Craftmanship has changed, certainly; whether it's gotten better or worse is a really subjective judgment call and even for me would depend on individual examples rather than making some big, sweeping, general announcement. One thing that happens is that when everyone is suddenly able to do something (like how most anyone can make/record music now) one of two things happen: either you get more competition and the best-of-the-best reach the top, or you get a greatly expanded audience that enjoys/appreciates more diversity. I think we're seeing both of those at work now; you still have a handful of people at the peak of any artistic fields, but you also see a lot more people making a living at the arts by finding smaller audiences. Whether this is better or worse than when a few people controlled the music industry is really down to personal taste and there are pros and cons both ways.

Yeah all the kids that look all the time at their smartphone. I guess their brain takes heavy damage.

When I read old books or watch old TV from more than 50 years ago, the language is much better and clear. The thoughts and ideas of these people were more clear.

The IQ is in decline:

I don't think people using smartphones causes brain damage; it's merely that smartphones have replaced dozens of other devices we used to use: phones, watches, calendars, PCs, music/video players, etc. People use their phones for everything so they're really convenient.

I don't know what you mean about the language being "better and clearer" in old films. Are you talking about the writing or the actual dialogue being easier to hear, or both, or neither?

As for IQ being in decline, the Flynn Effect was difficult to explain when it was happening and it's just as difficult to explain why it's reversing. I'd caution against drawing any conclusions when even experts don't really know how to explain it. There are a lot of hypotheses but precious little tests providing evidence for any of them.
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I think the OP is rather imprecise, but I still consider the general idea behind it sound. I think that well-designed blinded experiments could show if the methods employed by composers can be told apart from randomness by unbiased and musically experienced listeners.

If such an experiment succeeds (i.e. most listeners can tell which composition is the real one with relative certainty) then it means that the compositional techniques created by the composer translate into actually perceivable musical structures (or at least some of them).

If the experiment fails (i.e. listeners cannot tell the difference between the composition and randomness) then it means that the theoretical structures behind the music are not fit to differentiate the hearable result from arbitrariness. Granted, there may be some people (outside of the experiment) who think that the music sounds highly structured and purposeful. But thanks to the experiment we will understand, that this perception is largely the result of personal bias.
Actually, such an experiment wouldn't mean any such thing. This assumes that novel structures and organizational principles do (or should) be perceivable by people (experts or not) that aren't use to hearing them. I can almost guarantee that Wagner and works like Beethoven's Grosse Fugue probably sounded like a lot of random noise to people at the time who were shocked by music unlike any they'd heard before. New and radically different music always has a tendency to sound like random chaos to people that aren't use to hearing it. The real test isn't in whether people can immediately hear or intuit such structure, it's always been in whether or not people like it enough, or are intrigued enough, to keep listening until either they do hear them, analyze the work in order to find them, or keep listening despite not hearing them and liking it anyway.
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Yes, but my experiment accounts for that. The idea was, that participants can listen to presented pieces as much as they want (they may even be required to listen multiple times) before they make a decision.

Also, it is possible that, before the actual experiment, the participants are given other compositions by the same composer (unaltered versions) to allow them to develop a feel for the composer's "voice" (that is assuming the other pieces are written in a similar style). So they certainly have a chance to get used to the new musical idiom.
It often takes more than listening multiple times. It often takes years, sometimes decades, to come to grips with the innovations and influences from such radically new styles and approaches, and it's also often a community effort; not one person on their own listening and figuring it out.
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