Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

On the origin of music by means of natural selection

Date:
June 18, 2012
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Do away with the DJ and scrap the composer. A computer program powered by Darwinian natural selection and the musical tastes of 7,000 website users may be on the way to creating a perfect pop tune, according to new research.

Imperial scientists may be on the way to creating the perfect pop tune, thanks to a computer program powered by Darwinian natural selection.
Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

Do away with the DJ and scrap the composer. A computer program powered by Darwinian natural selection and the musical tastes of 7,000 website users may be on the way to creating a perfect pop tune, according to new research published June 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Scientists from Imperial College London have devised a way of producing music from noises without a composer. They programmed a computer to produce loops of random sounds and analyse the opinions of musical consumers, who decided which ones they liked. The result is music filled with many of the sophisticated chords and rhythms familiar from modern songs.

The results could also help explain why popular musical trends continuously evolve and why traditional musical forms can persist for thousands of years.

The scientists set out to test a theory that cultural changes in language, art and music evolve through Darwinian natural selection, in a similar way to how living things evolve. They simulated this cultural evolution by harnessing the power of a 7,000 strong internet audience in an experiment that was designed to answer several questions. Can music exist without being the product of a conscious, creative act? If so, what would that music sound like? Does everyone's ideal tune sound the same?

Armand Leroi, co-author of the research and Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: "Everyone 'knows' that music is made by traditions of musical geniuses. Bach handed the torch to Beethoven who gave it to Brahms; Lennon and McCartney gave it to the Gallaghers who gave it to Chris Martin. But is that really what drives musical evolution? We wondered whether consumer choice is the real force behind the relentless march of pop. Every time someone downloads one track rather than another they are exercising a choice, and a million choices is a million creative acts. After all, that's how natural selection created all of life on earth, and if blind variation and selection can do that, then we reckoned it should be able to make a pop tune. So we set up an experiment to explain it."

The computer algorithm behind the study, called DarwinTunes, maintains a population of 100 loops of music, each eight seconds long. Listeners scored loops in batches of 20 on a five-point scale from 'I can't stand it!' to 'I love it!'. DarwinTunes then 'mates' the top ten loops, pairing them up as 'parents' and mingling musical elements of each pair, to create twenty new loops. These replace the original parents and the less pleasing non-parents. This process represents one 'generation' of musical evolution. At the time of publication, DarwinTunes had evolved through 2,513 generations.

The scientists then tested the like-ability of loops from different generations by asking listeners to rate them in a separate experiment. Without knowing the generational age of the loops, the volunteers consistently ranked the more evolved music as more appealing, thus independently validating the assertion that the music was improving over time.

Dr Bob MacCallum, another co-author and a mosquito genomics bioinformatician in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: "We knew our evolutionary music engine could make pretty good music in the hands of one user, but what we really wanted to know was if it could do so in a more Darwinian setting, with hundreds of listeners providing their feedback. Thanks to our students' and the general public's valuable input, we can confidently say it does."

Members of the public can continue to help the music evolve, by taking part in the DarwinTunes experiment at http://darwintunes.org. Individual loops can also be downloaded and used as ringtones or for offline music making.

Listen to Dr Bob MacCallum explaining the evolution of evolution of musical loops created by DarwinTunes, accompanied by a selection of loops from the website (mp3 download): https://icseclzt.cc.ic.ac.uk/pickup.php?claimID=84iHGVvekb442b2m&claimPasscode=tPtY3t77PuwENq2S&emailAddr=s.levey%40imperial.ac.uk


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. M. MacCallum, M. Mauch, A. Burt, A. M. Leroi. Evolution of music by public choice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1203182109

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "On the origin of music by means of natural selection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120618153716.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2012, June 18). On the origin of music by means of natural selection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120618153716.htm
Imperial College London. "On the origin of music by means of natural selection." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120618153716.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Sorry, Guys, Only Women Can Make Their Voices Sound Sexier

Newsy (Apr. 21, 2014) According to researchers at Albright College, women have the ability to make their voices sound sexier, but men don't. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins