DarwinTunes: Evolution of Music

Who needs composers when you've got ... Darwin! Robert MacCallum and Armand Leroi from Imperial College London wondered if music could "evolve" out of short bits of noises.

So the duo created DarwinTunes, where thousands of humans participate in the natural selection process:

The DarwinTunes tracks are all 8-second-long loops, each encoded by a ‘digital genome’ – a program that determines which notes are used, where they’re placed, the instruments, the tempo, and so on. The genomes of two parent loops can shuffle together in random ways to produce daughter loops, which also develop small random mutations. This mimics the way in which living things mate and mutate. It also mimics the way in which composers merge musical styles together, while inventing new motifs.

The experiment began with 100 randomly generated loops. On the DarwinTunes website, listeners could listen to these and rate them on a five-point scale, from “I can’t stand it” to “I love it”. Every time 20 loops were rated, the top 10 pair off, mate with each other to produce two daughters, and die. At any time, there are only 100 loops in the total population.

To date the loops have been evolving for 3,060 generations, and over 50,000 of them have been born. By taking loops from DarwinTunes’ entire history and asking volunteers to rate them, MacCallum and Leroi showed that they became more appealing with time. For example, they were more likely to contain chords found in Western music and they contained more complex rhythms. “We hoped for slightly more “advanced” music, but were very happy with the results,” says MacCallum.

Ed Yong of Discover Magazine's Not Exactly Rocket Science blog has the post: Link


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"We were hoping for slightly more advanced music, but were very happy with the results" I have a feeling that they're doing the same rational gymnastics that make me think my crappy cooking tastes good.
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