Noise filtered through generations of listeners eventually becomes melodic, offering insights into how our tastes evolved.
Robert MacCallum of Imperial College London and his colleagues asked 120 undergraduates to listen to continuous loops of the computer-generated tunes and rate them on a 5-point scale that ranged from “I can’t stand it” to “I love it.” The tunes were also posted on the Web (at darwintunes.org/evolve-music), where anonymous critics added their feedback.
Each time tunes were rated, the half that came out on top were selected to contribute to the next generation of music. Each successful melody would mate with another successful melody, spawning similar-but-not-identical daughters before expiring from the collection.
Tunes that didn’t make the cut were relegated to the evolutionary trash heap without leaving behind any musical legacy.