On the Origin of Melodies*

After yesterday’s shoot with two talented musicians I was interested to learn today about a project that is applying the principles of evolution to the development of music.

If you think about it, music does change over the years, some styles survive whilst others lose popularity, similarly some instruments evolve whilst others change very little.  The violin, whilst having earlier origins, is largely unchanged from the instruments being made in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and whilst it is possible to buy electric violins these have not significantly changed the way the instrument is used.  The guitar by contrast has been transformed by electrification.

Two evolutionary scientists at Imperial College London have turned their attentions away from biology and used their Darwinian expertise to create a computer program that evolves music, and does so in much the same way that the species they study develop and change.

The program initially creates shorts loops of random music, but then by gathering feedback from listeners about those which people seem to like, it learns to abandon those traits which people find discordant or boring, and to create melody and rhythm which is more acceptable.

Initially the progress of the computer program was rapid in making changes but then slowed down to a more gradual rate of refinement.  The project is called DarwinTunes – give it a listen and see if you think it has a future.

Not sure what today’s subject will make of this.  He’s called Dean, he’s Sudanese and he smokes a cool cigarette.

*after Charles Darwin.

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