Download PDFOpen PDF in browser

The Decline of Harmonic Schemata in Popular Music Chord Loops

EasyChair Preprint no. 10295

6 pagesDate: May 30, 2023


Several accounts of popular harmony focus on schemata that repeat across songs. In contrast, de Clercq & Margulis (2018) note that there is considerable stylistic variety in popular music, suggesting that listeners rely more on dynamic expectations for harmony (guided by extensive repetition within songs) than schematic expectations (from patterns occurring across songs). However, they do not situate their claims in a specific era of popular music. Thus, we perform an analysis using tools from information theory and natural language processing to predict how frequently short-term expectations may be engaged in two popular music corpora from different time periods: the McGill Billboard corpus (1958–1991) and the Yale-Geerdes Billboard Corpus (2002–2021). Three key results emerge from this analysis. Firstly, the Yale-Geerdes corpus is significantly more repetitive than the McGill corpus. Secondly, a large majority of chord loops in each corpus appear in only one song, but the most schematic loops in the McGill corpus appeared in more songs than the most schematic loops in the Yale-Geerdes corpus. Thirdly, the average repetitiveness of loops appearing in one song was also significantly higher in the Yale-Geerdes than the McGill corpus. Much twenty-first-century popular music thus affords the engagement of dynamically adapting expectations for distinctive harmonies.

Keyphrases: corpus studies, expectation, harmony, loops, popular music

BibTeX entry
BibTeX does not have the right entry for preprints. This is a hack for producing the correct reference:
  author = {Aditya Chander and Ian Quinn},
  title = {The Decline of Harmonic Schemata in Popular Music Chord Loops},
  howpublished = {EasyChair Preprint no. 10295},

  year = {EasyChair, 2023}}
Download PDFOpen PDF in browser