Conceptual art meets musicology


Vitaly Komar and Aleksandr Melamid‘s The people’s choice music: The most wanted song/The most unwanted song (Dia Center for the Arts, 1997)  presents the results of a research project that used a questionnaire to determine the most desired and most undesired characteristics of popular songs. Two new songs—both composed by Dave Soldier, with lyrics by Nina Mankin—exemplify the poles of the questionnaire results.

The most wanted song is five minutes long and comprises a medium-sized group (guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, drums, violin, violoncello, synthesizer, and low male and female voices) perform­ing in a rock/R&B style. It narrates a love story and has a moderate tempo, volume, and pitch range. It will be enjoyed by approximately 72% of listeners.

The most unwanted song is 22 minutes long and features accordion and bagpipe (tied at 13% as the most unwanted instruments) along with banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, and synthesizer (the only instrument to appear in both ensembles). It involves an operatic soprano rapping and singing atonal music; advertising jingles, political slogans, and elevator music; a children’s choir singing jingles and holiday songs; and dramatic juxtapositions of loud and quiet sections, fast and slow tempos, and very high and very low pitches. Fewer than 200 individuals in the entire world will enjoy it.

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