Seventeen Fifty-Two: A Story of Literal Musical Growth.

Seeing writhing masses of musicians graduating each year, like lemmings into the void of uncertainty, makes me wonder just where their little corpses wash up.

We can probably never know for sure, but one can guestimate the extent of this movement, so I did some quick calculations.

Beethoven as I Knew Him

Ludwig Van as I Knew Him (Musician No. 148393)

Verily, it appears by averaging undergraduate graduation rates from American conservatories* (though they significantly vary between 40-85%), they generally settle around the 65% mark. Furthermore cohort size varies dramatically too, but let’s under-ball and assume cohorts of 50 are taken in per year – meaning 32.5 graduates are churned out at the end per music school.

*I chose America because there’s a large diversity of schools to average plus there’s a good public-knowledge website for graduation rates…

So thanks to the appropriately titled list on wikipedia I counted about 549 schools of music around the world. This means about 17843 new music graduates every year. Let’s “assume” this number will remain consistent for now.

The average lifespan of countries with music schools is approximately 79 years so if graduates graduate before the age of 23, by the time the first batch get old and die all at once on their 79th birthday (which they all share), and at which point equilibrium will be reached (i.e. as many new graduates as dying ones) then there will be the tantalising number of 999 208 music graduates in the world!

Assuming this is retrospectively the case for living memory, and as we made relatively low assumptions in the first place (some major university cohorts are in the thousands!), one can probably say with a comfortable yet vague sense of accuracy that there are over a million ‘trained’ musicians in the world at the moment.

This leads to a more interesting aspect:

Trained Musician Population Over Time.

The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is apparently the world’s oldest musical institution, founded in 1585. Before this point there were zero musical ‘graduates’.

With our two points of data (and you only ever need two, right?) we can plot a nice graph with a power regression as follows:

Musicians over time

Musicians over time

So, according to the regression y=x^2.280997725 the number of the graduate musicians will reach 5 million before the year 2400. Unfortunately this rate is considerably slower than population growth models, so musicians will ultimately become less and less of an overall percentage over time. By dividing a human population growth formula against the above regression, we can calculate that at the moment there is one music graduate for every 7233 people in the world.

Yet in 100 years the ratio will be one musician for every 17457 people. Curiously, according to this method (and it’s totally way off) the most densely musician-populated year in history was 1752, where there were 1778.55 people per trained musician.

1752 was a leap year, eye-gouging was declared a criminal act and Muzio Clementi was born. Clearly it just went downhill from there.

Compiled Clementi

Muzio Clementi: The Beethoven of his era…