Photo: Don Stahl

Photo: Don Stahl

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The Most Wanted Song / The Most Unwanted Song (audio CD)


Members $10.36

Ever wonder what people really like in music? What they really hate? Komar & Melamid, the Russian duo who have long provoked the art world, team up here with Dave Soldier, also known for unconventional and disturbing projects. Together, they ran a poll on the world wide web asking people about their most wanted and most hated musical instruments, voices, forms, and styles. Check out the songs they constructed with the resulting statistics.

Publication Details

Dia Art Foundation
Publication date
Audio CD
Compact disc, 27 minutes; color booklet
Publication credits
Komar & Melamid

Artist Statement

This survey confirms the hypothesis that today's popular music indeed provides an accurate estimate of the wishes of the vox populi. The most favored ensemble, determined from a rating by participants of their favorite instruments in combination, comprises a moderately sized group (three to ten instruments) consisting of guitar, piano, saxophone, bass, drums, violin, cello, synthesizer, with low male and female vocals singing in rock/r&b style. The favorite lyrics narrate a love story, and the favorite listening circumstance is at home. The only feature in lyric subjects that occurs in both most wanted and unwanted categories is "intellectual stimulation." Most participants desire music of moderate duration (approximately five minutes), moderate pitch range, moderate tempo, and moderate to loud volume, and display a profound dislike of the alternatives. If the survey provides an accurate analysis of these factors for the population, and assuming that the preference for each factor follows a Gaussian (i.e. bell-curve) distribution, the combination of these qualities, even to the point of sensory overload and stylistic discohesion, will result in a musical work that will be unavoidably and uncontrollably "liked" by 72 plus or minus 12% (standard deviation; Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistic) of listeners.

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.

Art for the people—Your pal, Dave Soldier June 1997

Related Artists

Komar & Melamid

Vitaly Komar was born in Moscow in 1943. He lives and works in New York City. Alexander Melamid was born in Moscow in 1945. He lives and works in New York City.

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