Thursday, 10 December 2009

Help evolve music: experiment - take part!

Want to take part in a fascinating experiment to evolve music? You have 1 more week to try it…

If you've not heard about it already, on the DarwinTunes website professor of evolutionary developmental biology Armand Leroi, in collaboration with musician Brian Eno, is running a "cultural evolution" experiment to try to evolve songs by "natural selection", modelled on evolutionary studies in labs of microbes and small animals (worms, flies). The video outlines what they're doing.

Who provides the "natural selection"? You do. DarwinTunes is a computer program, a Perl genetic programming evolutionary algorithm system developed by bioinformatician Dr Bob MacCallum based on his evolutionary system Evolectronica. (More on the technology behind DarwinTunes.)

The program randomly created (generated) a pair of songs, then let them recombine, mutate and "reproduce" to produce 100 "descendant" songs - normally each song is a loop of 4 bars in 4/4 time, played to you 2 or 4 times for rating.

You can hear examples of the starting populations (and I can't resist pointing out that this experiment obviously doesn't involve paying any heed to the condom ringtone, then!):

Visitors to the DarwinTunes site rate songs, and according to the ratings the worst songs are killed, the best are allowed to reproduce and then die off, and visitors can then rate their offspring, and so on.

There are examples of evolving hand picked "good" loops on their news pages (after 8000 ratings, 9000 ratings, for the rest see their news!).

Something I've noticed - the evolved songs all seem to be in C major. Is this because the starting population was mostly in C major? Or do humans just like that key…? (indeed, have we become genetically predisposed to like C major after generations of playing the easier white keys on pianos?)

If you want to have a go, the experiment has about a week left to run, so grab the chance to try rating songs to influence their evolution!

I can't wait to hear the results - you can keep up via their news pages or their Twitter account.

Via New Scientist.

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