Listen to the loudspeaker as you walk past a store or some such place where the radio is set to a current-pop-hits station. Dr. Boli does not suggest that you spend a long time listening, but just enough time to confirm his observation that current popular music is obsessed with the first three notes of the diatonic scale.

Now ask yourself why that should be. Formulate a hypothesis, and see if you can accumulate enough evidence to elevate it to a theory. Dr. Boli will start the game. It is his hypothesis that sticking mainly to the first three notes of the scale makes composing a serviceable melody the least possible effort, and causes an occasional foray up to the fourth or even the fifth to strike the dulled senses of the casual listener with an unexpected thrill.


  1. The Shadow says:

    As supporting evidence of the assertion here, I present:

  2. The Shadow says:

    Now for my own theory! Clearly, like any other reference to three things, this has a deep correspondence to the Trinity.

    For the three notes make up but a single melody, and that melody is usually used to carry a message of love – its very triteness serving as a vivid contrast with the Divine Love.

    The three notes give way to each other in an eternal perichoresis… Or at least, it often feels eternal.

    Any other notes beyond the first three correspond to created things, which are less than rust on the scales, and hence must be minimized.

    And of course, pop music is certainly a great mystery! (I can’t understand why anyone listens to it.)

    I am certain that the theological profundity of pop music would provide matter for at least one dissertation, if not more.

    • KevinT says:

      Absolutely insightful! Thank you for your erudite exposition. Perhaps you can expand it to a discussion of Three’s Company.

  3. tom says:

    I was astonished to learn that there was still “pop” “music.” Not to mention “radios.” You learn something new every day.

  4. von Hindenburg says:

    The last store that I entered ( to buy smoked herring, lingonberry jam, and other Swedish staples had ‘If You’re Irish, Come Into the Parlor’ playing on the PA.

    Clearly, this is popular music, considering that it is a (certainly authentic) Irish tune playing in a Scandinavian store in Pennsylvania, but it did not conform to the author’s hypothesis.

  5. Belfry Bat says:

    Is it Easy to distinguish Ionian and Mixolydian?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *