Complexity; it gets everywhere!
The BBC News website has recently posted an item outlining some scientific research into evolution of western music. The research used some complex analysis of the musical structure of over 17,000 tracks from the USA Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1960 and 2010. The researchers suggest that, “while musical evolution was ceaseless, there were periods of relative stasis punctuated by periods of rapid change”. They identified three major revolutions that occurred in 1964, 1983 and 1991 and these were associated with the expansion and contraction of specific musical styles.
It sounds to me like they have also added weight to the idea that the evolution of western popular music is yet another complex adaptive system that has shown generally slow and reasonably stable (regulated) evolutionary behaviour with occasional bifurcations and phase transitions to new attractor basins within the phase space of musical styles, which in terms of the spectrum of complexity probably means it is a low to medium level complex system.
This would also suggest that the development of music is not that sensitive to change, so anyone out their who wants to change the world of pop music by being radical is probably onto a looser.
It would be interesting to take their raw data and do some analysis on the complex behaviour of this musical development.