Oxford University Press Blog: Encore! Encore! Encore! Encore!

How much repetition is too much repetition? How high would the number of plays of your favorite track on iTunes have to climb before you found it embarrassing? How many times could a song repeat the chorus before you stopped singing along and starting eyeing the radio suspiciously? And why does musical repetition often lead to bliss instead of exhaustion?

Music is repetitive, but just how repetitive remains a somewhat murky question. Repetition is found in the music itself, but also in your listening behavior. Your favorite track might feature a chorus that repeats several times, but you might also choose to play and replay this already repetitive track ad nauseam. David Huron estimates that more than 90% of the music people hear is music they’ve heard before. Victor Zuckerkandl explains...