Date of Award

Spring 2018


Capstone - Open Access


Computer Science, Minor in Mathematics

First Advisor

Zachary Kissel


Is music getting less sophisticated over time? That is the question which this study aims to answer, with the goal of improving upon previous analysis done on the topic. The blog posts which inspired this project lacked accuracy and dimensionality. Realizing that a larger data set of songs would make a significant difference in the precision of our analysis, we set out to design a piece of software constructed with the capability to analyze several thousand songs. Mimicking previous works which analyzed sophistication of music, the software focuses on the lyrics of songs. Three metrics were used in order to measure the sophistication of a specific song. The first being the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Index. This was the baseline of our study, as it was the only metric used in the previous analysis done on the topic. In an attempt in increase dimensionality, we also calculated the Coleman-Liau Grade Level Index and the Shannon Entropy measurement for each song. These metrics required that our software be able to count the total number of syllables, characters, words, and sentences in each song, as well as calculate the probability distribution for each unique word and stanza. The results show that, for the most part, songs have not gotten more or less lyrically sophisticated over time. Lyrics from 1959-2016 have been fairly consistent in terms of grade level and entropy measurements. However, it is important to consider that analyzing songs based on their lyrics might simply be an inaccurate measure of sophistication. Therefore, the overall conclusion of this study is two sided. Either music has not gotten more or less lyrically sophisticated over the years or the metrics used in this study do not capture the entire picture.