William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Bad Science Of The Year Nominee: Global Warming To Cause Bad Music

Perhaps climate change is the cause of this young man.

Perhaps climate change is the cause of this young man.

Strike the title. It’s probably wrong. But, if so, it was an understandable mistake. After all, it was based on the news article “Music: Will climate change give us the blues?“. The answer is, according to Oxford’s Karen Aplin,—drum rollyes.

Every part of the article contributed to the notion that Aplin’s study would make the shortlist of the uncoveted Annual WMBriggs.com Bad Science Award. Consider: didn’t the reporter of that article say “the weather has powerfully but discreetly influenced the soundtrack to our lives”? She did.

And didn’t Aplin herself say, “These assumptions we have about certain weather being good and certain weather being bad, like sun being good — that might change”? Aye. She did. She also said that though some were enjoying the current warm weather, they might not always. “But if it’s going to be 40 degrees (Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit) every summer for 10 years… that might change how people feel about the weather and the emotions they link to it.”

What of the study itself that hinted of its potential?

Aplin and five other scientists combed through databases of more than 15,000 pop songs, finding statistical backing for the assumption that our moods are strongly swayed by the weather.

These emotions, in turn, are expressed in the music that artists compose and what the public likes to hear…

They searched song titles, band names and lyrics for references to weather.

“We found about 800,” said Aplin.

And what did these songs say about the weather?

The sun was referenced most often, followed closely by rain, although “pretty much all types of weather came up”, said Aplin.

The seasons and wind or breeze were third and fourth most popular, while “frost” and “blizzard” were at the bottom of the list.

A quick YouTube search reveals one Gary Moore sang of the inclement weather one might find on descending from Heaven to that other place. And he didn’t sound too happy about it, either. Aplin concurs: “What we found about pop music was that the lyrics can be used very clearly to link the weather to a particular emotion, and usually the sun is positive and rain is negative.”

Who knew?

Of course, this is science, so she dug deeper. “An exception was some Country and Western songs, which ‘talked about rain as a positive thing: it brings crops and food'”.

So how does global warming figure in this? Aplin is glad you asked.

[There is the] potential for a shift in musical themes if climate change brings ever-more frequent extreme weather events, as predicted.

Chirpy songs about sunshine and gentle summer breezes could get elbowed in favour of darker, more dramatic fare…

“Under climate change, the type of weather people are influenced by to write might change,” said Aplin.

“You might find more songs about severe weather because that is more part of people’s live, or a backdrop to their lives, than the weather we have now.”

Now I ask you: based on these first appearances alone, wouldn’t it seem likely Aplin’s study was headed for a certain entry in this year’s BSA nominees?

Then it struck me. When did hip hop first attack the public’s ears? Right: the mid 1980s to mid 1990s. The same time global warming took off. And when did all that Techno and other such electronica, sounds designed to simulate music and cause incurable brain damage, infiltrate our shores? You know it: in the late 1990s. Just when the globe was doing some serious heating up.

Aplin might be right. What else accounts for phenomena like Justin Bieber and Beyonce? How else can you explain that we are forcibly made to hear execrable music in every public space? Since we’re no longer allowed to believe in Satan, climate change is the only possible candidate remaining possessing enough inherent evilness to do the job.

Lastly, I dug up this old scientific paper: Global Warming Increases Disastrous Music: A Scientific Paper. Abstract:

Global warming has reached unprecedented, dangerous levels. This is beyond question. Soaring temperatures are causing an increase in weather- and climate-related FEAM-tracked disasters (P < 0.001), thus stressing both the economies and the psyches of Western Civilization. These environmental and economic stressors are beginning to take their toll and have resulted in a rapid, unprecedented increase in musical awfulness (P < 0.001). If these trends are allowed to continue, music will soon have devolved into a debauched state so awful that hearing a pop tune will cause irreversible brain damage.

Update This (incomplete) list is apropos: Music that makes you dumb. Maybe somebody can “link it” to global warming.

16 Comments

  1. Real weather music from the Dust Bowl days: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stormy_Weather_%28song%29.
    By Harold Arlen who also wrote Judy Garland’s classic Over the Rainbow. See the YouTube version by Lena Horne.

  2. Sander van der Wal

    April 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Summers with 40 degrees Celcius are quite nice. It’s called the Mediterranian Climate. St. Tropez, Nice, Cannes. The places where the 1 % spend their time.

    Obviously, the1% doesn’t want the hoi polloi to have that excellent kind if weather. So they invented Global Warming as a threat.

  3. In 1983 the EPA published “Can We Delay A Greenhouse Warming”, in which, among other things, they stated they “could confidently expect major coastal impacts, including shoreline retreat… flooding, saltwater intrusion, and various economic effects.”

    In 1983, Stevie Ray Vaughan released the album “Texas Flood”. Coincidence?

  4. A “hot summer night” is nothing but trouble. Well, it used to be.

  5. These scientists simply have to be trolling on an epic scale. No one could be this tone-deaf.

  6. Briggs,

    Your update link shows the Beatles ranked higher than Sinatra.

  7. I’ve read Karen Alpin’s dissertation and I really enjoyed it. She did some truly excellent work with Gerdien condensers, and she wrote an interesting little book called “Electrifying Atmospheres”. It’s incredibly disappointing to see that she went from doing real science to this kind of fluffy AGW propaganda research. Anything for grant money and publicity, I guess.

  8. Briggs

    April 24, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    John M,

    Proving the weakness of statistics yet again. I’ll take comfort Beethoven ranked highest (but no Bach? sheesh).

  9. Briggs & John M

    You’ll notice that there Is a “Classical” category near the bottom (nearly the same as Jay-Z and below Bon Jovi). What does THAT mean?

  10. What does THAT mean?

    Most likely classic rock vs. alternative rock.

  11. Hmmm…

    Well, let’s see…

    Classical Music emerged from the end of the Little Ice Age, while Screamo Industrial Rap Metal seems to be on the rise today, at the hottest period in a thousand years.

    So, yeah, I’ll bite. I predict music will find a way to get suckier. Now that we’ve resolved that, I have to get back to my chain smoking chimpanzee to see if chimpanzees riding mobile threshers through suburban neighborhoods has the potential to do more damage than good.

    JMJ

  12. I love this: “But if it’s going to be 40 degrees (Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit) every summer for 10 years… that might change how people feel about the weather and the emotions they link to it.” Where I live that means nothing changes except we might be missing some of the 110 plus temperatures we get now. It would be cooler for those of us, who live in the Valley of the Sun!

    I live in Mesa AZ, it was a cool 80+ degrees today, that beat the hell out of what greeted my siblings in Minnesota yesterday, it was snow. Spring in Minnesota and North Dakota is pure hell one day it is in the 70s and the next it snowing on you. That the big reason I moved to Arizona, also I prefer my temperature reading with a + sign in front of them three months of weather with the -sign in front of the lows for the day and more often that one like a minus in front of the high for that day. I spent far to many days were the mercury never climb out of the -20s F, forget that. Give me the good 104 for the high for the day it beats the hell out of -22 high for the day.

  13. ‘it proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house… “We will each write a ghost story” Said Lord Byron’

    – Introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein.

  14. All popular music these days is in fact a form of jazz. So it’s cherrypicking really.

  15. DAV

    There is a Classic Rock category already, so a general Classical scoring low and Beethoven High makes no sense.

    (I’d have to double check if there’s an alternative rock)

  16. I’d like to coo with my baby tonight,
    pitch some woo with my baby tonight,
    but Mister, you take my baby tonight
    ’cause it’s TOO DARN HOT!

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