The Day the World Ran Out of Tunes

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The panic started small but scattered, as across the world bands and songwriters floundered in their hunt for new tunes.

“You can’t use that. That’s Love Me Do by the Beatles,” said an advertising executive in Manchester, when he heard the proposed new jingle for Asda.

“No. Eso es Beethoven,” said a drummer in a death metal band in Buenos Aires, when he heard the song the band was working on.

With each new pin prick of alarm, the truth shone through a little more clearly. Until finally there was no getting away from it: every combination of notes had been used, even the ugly ones. There were no more tunes possible.

Journalists leapt with enthusiasm onto one of the biggest feel-bad stories of the century. This was it, this was the moment when it could truly be said that the youth of today were fundamentally unoriginal, when the decline of society and the abandonment of all joy were a certainty.

Pseudo experts and professional doomsayers were linked up by satellite to talk about exactly what had happened and what it meant. From the dry to the melodramatic, every emotional response was covered.

“Well, it was inevitable, really. There are only so many notes and a finite combination of them.”

“We will be a music-less society, only time will tell just how this will affect us.”

“These are the end days, without music our souls will wither!”

As always the world carried on, people went to work, dogs were walked, coffee was drunk; but there was a sadness to it, a reverent quietness. The human race was in mourning. Nobody whistled or sang, afraid to be seen as insensitive. Work slowed, its dullness impossible to escape. Lovers looked at each other with shocked honesty, without the delusion of tune to hide the truth with romance. Radios played only white noise, the TV played credits in silence.

It lasted three days.

Then an impatient journalist started shouting across Twitter, he was a man who was practised pointing out the stupidity of the world

“Seriously? This matters? This doesn’t matter. Just recycle the old tunes. Play them fast, slower, sung by an elephant in a clown suit,” he tweeted.

“Nobody cares about music anymore, it’s all about the spectacle,” he continued.

The tweets quickly spread and became a hope, the hope became a belief and the belief became the truth.

And so the music played on, faster, slower, sung by elephants in clown suits. People tapped their feet and forgot there was ever such a thing as a new tune.

29 thoughts on “The Day the World Ran Out of Tunes

  1. Very thought-provking, and in many ways very close to the truth. In these days of manufactured ‘pop’ it really is a case of ‘ here today, gone tomorrow’.
    That coupled with the fact that, as one gets older, and with so much exposure to music, one can’t help but hear other tunes in new songs. Well written.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much. It amazes me how many tunes there are in the world. Like you say, music is more disposable now and we throw songs away without a thought. Hopefully there are a few more tunes to find…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Haha, yes! It always amazed me how so many variations of note combinations could exist. And even how very similar- if not identical chord progressions- can actually sound so different depending on what melodies are being played/sung over the top of them. There was an interesting vid I saw once- for the life of me I can’t remember who was playing/ what it was called- but it was of a person playing a bunch of famous songs, and each song consisted of 3 chords only, in the exact same progression. It was a remarkable demonstration. It was getting around the internet a bit at one stage, so you’ve likely seen it.
    Anyhoo, nice li’l story. A world without music definitely would be awful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t seen it, shall go looking now – it sounds bizarre, but it does answer my unspoken question of just how we’ve kept the new tunes coming this long. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You could say the same about stories. Somewhere I read that there are really only about ten, that just get repeatedly re-told in different guises. Words are finite, as are notes. But people still keep writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is curious, if you read stories from the past (eg from the Ancient Greeks) how the themes and wisdom haven’t changed that much. I think we humans need to keep telling ourselves stories to make sense of the world. I’m rambling, I guess I’m saying that words may be finite, but the need to tell stories doesn’t ever end.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I think what matters is how the other aspects of music are put together. How they all interplay, the tempo, the layers, the instruments, the melodies, solos and more. Even the non-musical aspects matter, the allegory, lyrics, atmosphere, mood and affective qualities. Voices matter because they are unique, rarely do they sound the same and they each add a certain color to the music. It is how it is with writing fiction, not about what story is being told but how and using what in combination with which techniques and so forth.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think it is the way our brains work – this need to simplify everything, in order to understand it. It’s necessary, but sometimes it’s good to remember just how complex the world is and how little we see.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Love the story. I’ve had the same thoughts about music recently. But the tune really is only a small part of the whole. Music is most often, in my opinion, more about the feelings associated by each individual to each song, so in a sense, musical inspiration and creation won’t end, ever. At least, that’s my conclusion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you like it. It’s been interesting to read yours and others’ comments and see how everyone believes the tune is just a tiny part of what matters with music. So the music can never end, as long as there are people to hear, feel and make it. It’s a joyful thought for a sunny Sunday 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Really well written and clearly, thought provoking story – I’ve been reading and scanning comments 🙂

    But I’m not going to dip into my usual run-away response.

    Great idea – great things to think about – and I’m always so excited and charged by your ideas and creativity 🙂

    Hope your weekend is/was excellent and the new week is wonderful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is fantastic. It does a great job of capturing the artist’s fear of being unable to say anything new, and I always love the touch of the absurd in your writings. X) It also made me think of this lyric from The Misfit’s Song by Floater: “So what’s left to say? By now all words have been spoken
    What is there to do? Everything has already been done
    Who should I fight? Everyone’s been defeated
    What should I sing? By now it’s already been sung”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it’s great you enjoyed it, I like a bit of absurd 😉 . I agree with the fear of being unoriginal, but while there are still problems in the world and people needing entertainment and solace, there will always be a need to write. 🙂


  7. Really enjoyed reading this. Not sure I entirely understood it however. So things grind to a halt when we seek originality, but the spectacle as it unfolds ( oftentimes obnoxious as an elephant in a clown suit) is what gives it life… Is that the takeaway?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, no I don’t think that’s what I’m saying. The starting point was just me thinking ‘Why haven’t we run out of tunes yet? There must be a finite number.’ And then playing it through, with maybe a little cynicism about how music is more spectacle than song sometimes, especially with people who make music a business or an ego trip.
      A lot of the comments on the story have elaborated on the idea, suggesting that what gives music life is the emotion and the way it is played, as much as the simple tune – and I agree with that.
      Glad you enjoyed it.


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