So you wanna play rough, huh, Jonathan?
An explanation: in the 1990s two Russian artists named Komar and Melamid did a kind of conceptual-art thing where they hired a market-research firm to determine the American public’s likes and dislikes in art. As the project’s pleasingly retro-90s* website explains,
In an age where opinion polls and market research invade almost every aspect of our “democratic/consumer” society (with the notable exception of art), Komar and Melamid’s project poses relevant questions that an art-interested public, and society in general often fail to ask: What would art look like if it were to please the greatest number of people? Or conversely: What kind of culture is produced by a society that lives and governs itself by opinion polls?
The project expanded to include preference polling in several countries; you can find the raw data here and paintings here. America’s most wanted painting has it all: an autumnal landscape with wild animals, a family enjoying the outdoors, the color blue, and George Washington.
The methodology Dave Soldier used to determine the most and least wanted songs is basically the same, though (it must be admitted) with a rather more desultory methodology. From a sample of 200 people, Soldier determined that
The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between
loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features
timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented
in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be
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). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music,
advertising jingles, political slogans, and “elevator” music, and a
children’s choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted
subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted
listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commercials and
elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no
covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator
music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200
individuals of the world’s total population would enjoy this piece.
To get the full lyrics you’ll have to buy the CD, but the opening soprano rap is especially arresting: lyrics are simultaneously rap and cowboy-related, while the vocal line is atonal and the bass is provided by a tuba. Note the bagpipe breaks.
Yo, I’m ropin’ up my saddle for the long long ride
Every time I see the desert there’s something inside says
Yo, yo, this is the life
Give me open land and a big ol’ knife
To get some bear, deer, even a snake
I light me a fire, do the shake and bake
I say yo, yo, I’m a cowboy now.
*Actually not retro, just old.