Komar and Melamid are a team of Russian experimental graphic artists who from 1994 to 1997 commissioned polling companies from 11 countries around the world to conduct a scientific study on what people wanted to see in paintings. A survey was also given on Diacenter’s website , and between 1995 and 1997, 3001 visitors completed the online poll (founded in 1974, the Dia Art Foundation has played a great role in initiating large scale artistic projects. It’s an institution in the art realm). The results have been tabulated and can be seen online, along with the Web’s Most Wanted and Web’s Least Wanted images. Check them out here (and check out the survey results here).
This project was called “The People’s Choice“.
One of the artist with whom Komar and Melamid collaborated in the 90’s was Dave Soldier, an experimental American composer and performers known for his unorthodox working methods and unusual collaborations. Just to illustrate the span of Soldier’s projects, he conducted the Thai Elephant Orchestra, a musical ensemble consisting of sixteen elephants, and participated in the famous Mozart Effect, a set of research results that indicate that listening to Mozart basically makes you “smarter”.
In 1996, along with the two Russians, Dave Soldier composed “The People’s Choice: Music” amounting in the creation of The Most Wanted and The Most Unwanted Music based on a online-survey completed by 600 people.
The Most Wanted Song
According to the survey, the most favored song requires:
- a moderately sized group (three to ten instruments) consisting of guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, drums, violin, cello, synthesizer
- low male and female vocals singing in rock/r&b style
- lyrics that narrate a love story
- listening circumstance at home
- music of moderate duration (approximately 5 minutes)
- moderate pitch range, moderate tempo, and moderate to loud volume.
Following these factors, the musical work that will be unavoidably and uncontrollably “liked” by 72 plus or minus 12% of listeners.
Have a listen:
The Most Unwanted Song
Again, according to the survey, the most unwanted song:
- is over 25 minutes long
- veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos
- features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition.
- features cowboys lyrics
The most unwanted orchestra is:
- large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles).
- Features an operatic soprano rapping and singing atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and “elevator” music, with children choirs singing jingles and holiday songs.
Fewer than 200 individuals of the world’s total population would enjoy this piece.
Enjoy this 26 minute musical masterpiece:
Are Greg and I the only ones here who prefer the most unwanted song? Then that means there are only 198 people left on this planet who share our musical tastes. Let’s hope it’s you guys.
All jokes aside, this isn’t a scientific research project, or an empirical study on musical tastes, The People’s Choice is just a crowdsourced project conducted through a blunt and crude approach. Soldier, Komar and Melamid simply asked people what they liked and disliked in music, put everything in two separates piles, and composed the songs accordingly (and let us keep in mind this is 13 years old).
What I find truly interesting in The People’s Choice is not so much the results, but rather the polling method used to obtain these results. Two weeks ago we talked about the art of crowdsourcing art, well these experiments follow along those lines. The use of polls was meant to mimic the American democratic process, and set the artist as the a leader. The counter-culture and counter-political movement on display with this project also represents the first artistic crowdsourcing experiments ever to be conducted online.
Thanks to BeatCrave for reminding me about this!