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Music By Natural Selection 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the survival-of-the-grooviest dept.
maccallr writes "The DarwinTunes experiment needs you! Using an evolutionary algorithm and the ears of you the general public, we've been evolving a four bar loop that started out as pretty dismal primordial auditory soup and now after >27k ratings and 200 generations is sounding pretty good. Given that the only ingredients are sine waves, we're impressed. We got some coverage in the New Scientist CultureLab blog but now things have gone quiet and we'd really appreciate some Slashdotter idle time. We recently upped the maximum 'genome size' and we think that the music is already benefiting from the change."

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Music By Natural Selection

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  • Sine waves (Score:5, Funny)

    by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday December 21, 2009 @02:59PM (#30515980)

    "Given that the only ingredients are sine waves, we're impressed."

    This is different from all other sounds, including regular music, how?

    • by raymansean (1115689) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:01PM (#30516010)
      Because they have cosine waves too :-)
    • Re:Sine waves (Score:4, Informative)

      by Qzukk (229616) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:26PM (#30516342) Journal

      This is different from all other sounds, including regular music, how?

      Square waves [wikipedia.org], triangle waves [wikipedia.org], sawtooth waves [wikipedia.org], and the ever popular noise (play with a SID chip someday). Sure, they're approximated by putting together sine waves, and they might even just happen to "evolve" from selected sine wave combinations, but the meaning came across just fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fbjon (692006)
      Music does not decompose into sine waves, unless we're talking brain waves. This is because music is a perception, unlike sound.
    • by Nursie (632944)

      They are made with instruments. This is made by fourier series. Different.

  • by PIBM (588930) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:02PM (#30516020) Homepage

    No reply yet and the website can't even load.. now I understand why we don't RTFA!

  • Sine waves? (Score:4, Informative)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:03PM (#30516038)

    Given that the only ingredients are sine waves, we're impressed.

    All signals can be represented with a set of sine waves. That's what makes Fourier transforms so useful.

    What would be really impressive is if they had music that can't be represented as a set of sine waves.

    • It's called country music.

      Well, technically it could be represented by sine waves, but the sine waves refused to represent THAT!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Vintermann (400722)

      How about an infinite piece of non-repeating music, consisting of say, a beep at every prime second and silence otherwise?

      • Re:Sine waves? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:46PM (#30516580)

        How about an infinite piece of non-repeating music, consisting of say, a beep at every prime second and silence otherwise?

        This isn't remotely my area of expertise, but I believe that would be representable with an infinitely large set of sine waves.

        A simpler "gotcha" is a perfectly square pulse. For example, 1 HZ for 1 second, complete silence before and after that second. I believe that requires an infinite number of sine waves to model as well.

        • Technically, you can take the Fourier transform of any Lebesgue-integrable function, which all of these seem to be. Unfortunately, the simplest non-integrable functions tend to infinite values at some points (think integral of 1/x from 0 to 3), which would probably be pretty hard on the ears. So yeah, I'm gonna go with country music.
        • by shentino (1139071)

          What about noise?

          • What about noise?

            When you say "noise", I think you're talking about a random, unpredictable waveform, right?

            I think the right way to look at it is this: Once the noise has been generated, there's no longer any uncertainty about the waveform. It's going to be a messy waveform, but at least it's a specific waveform at that point. So Fourier transforms can still be applied, because they work on arbitrary waveforms, including noise.

            But I should reiterate that this really isn't my area of expertise.

  • WARNING: AntivirusXP (Score:5, Informative)

    by BabaChazz (917957) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:13PM (#30516162)

    The site has paid ads, one of which apparently has been taken over by the XPAntiVirus people. If you visit the site, it will install malware, unless you are using Firefox and Linux.

  • A long time ago when I was learning lisp, I worked through an interesting book [comcast.net] by Heinrich Taube called Notes from the Metalevel [amazon.com]. A very enlightening and interesting work for people interested in both music theory and computer science.
  • ...minimalistic electronic music.

  • I remember reading papers on this during my AI classes in the mid 90's. I don't see how this is impressive nearly 15 years later.

    Here's the first link I found on G.P. Music from '98 which actually had the computer rate some of the music.
    http://graphics.stanford.edu/~bjohanso/papers/gp98/johanson98gpmusic.pdf [stanford.edu]
    If you look at his references, people were doing this in the '80's.

    No, I didn't RTFA. I didn't even read the article I linked in this post, so don't get upset if they aren't completely related.
    • I remember reading papers on this during my AI classes in the mid 90's.

      And I was writing software to use genetic algorithms to generate and/or harmonize melodies in 95/96. And I'm still impressed.

      For one thing, even if the general idea isn't totally new, most of the world never gets off their butt and actually does *anything*.

      The other thing is that even when the general idea is fairly straightforward, getting an implementation that not only works but sounds pleasant can be non-trivial. It's often not as si

    • by maccallr (240314)

      It's not completely novel, no. Google weren't the first to do web search either ;-)

      An incomplete list of related work is at
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_music [wikipedia.org]

      Our goal here is to look in detail at the evolutionary dynamics and mechanisms, as well as just answering the basic question "does it still work if loads of people provide the fitness ratings?"

  • copyright? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:43PM (#30516548) Journal

    What keeps people from herding it toward an existing copyrighted tune? Even composers accidentally do this all the time.

  • by FlyByPC (841016) on Monday December 21, 2009 @03:45PM (#30516562) Homepage
    >...but now things have gone quiet and we'd really appreciate some Slashdotter idle time.

    Your wish is our Slashdotting! That's a name-brand CPU cooling solution you're running, right? Gooood.
    • >...but now things have gone quiet and we'd really appreciate some Slashdotter idle time.

      Your wish is our Slashdotting! That's a name-brand CPU cooling solution you're running, right? Gooood.

      I don't think that COTS is going to work. He'll have to have some kind of custom liquid cooling package. Maybe they could have a mic hooked up to the CPU and the sound they're actually trying to get is what happens acoustically when a CPU dies.

      Drew Curtis (of Fark) has the same kind of sentiment. "You want traffic? Be careful what you wish for."

  • That "27K ratings" sort of changes things, don't you think? Certainly, a "rating" sounds more rigorous than traditional, Darwinian, "useful mutations live longer/reproduce more".
    • Not really. Instead of thinking of it as music you like versus music you don't like, think of it as music that succedes and music that doesn't. By analogy, imagine the listeners are hunters and the music the prey, better music is equivilent to prey that is better at evading preditors.

      Maybe a more interesting experiment would be to have a baseline of human generated music which the computer generated music would have to hide in. Play it as a loop with computer generated music randomly interspersed with hu

  • grammidity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jefu (53450) on Monday December 21, 2009 @04:50PM (#30517328) Homepage Journal

    I've written a few genetic algorithm/programming things for "music" over the years. However, not being a musician, I approached it only from an algorithmic perspective. The last of these, called "grammidity" can attempt to evolve sequences of midi events based on a kind of grammar that evolves (loosely based on the ideas behind L-systems). I had it online for a couple of years, but it never evolved much of anything interesting. The source code (java) is on sourceforge [sourceforge.net] and includes ways to evolve "plants" and a fuzzer that generates html and which worked quite nicely to break browsers a couple of years back.

  • I was able to do some rating for a while, and I think the results are fairly cool, but it may not produce anything very interesting for a couple reasons.

    The first is that there isn't strong enough evolutionary pressure. There are too many people rating with very different opinions of what sounds good. I think it would be much more interesting to create different channels. Classical, jazz, ambient, electronica, whatever. It's still a very broad definition but not so much that our ratings aren't just n
    • by V!NCENT (1105021)

      "Secondly, the algorithms used to generate the music are really important."
      They are fundamentaly flawed...

      I Like ketchup, beer and chocolate, but put these all in a blender and it tastes like shit.

      To top it: evolution is no longer pressent. What is evolution? Those who are fit for their environment survive and all others die. Currently we are no longer adapting to our invironment, but adapting our environment to ourselves.

      Nice idea, but an utter failure, sorry...

      • by abigor (540274)

        Currently we are no longer adapting to our invironment, but adapting our environment to ourselves.

        You are incorrect. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that human evolution is not only still happening, but accelerating.

        http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/12/13/evolution.speedup/index.html [cnn.com]

        The rest of your post was equally nonsensical.

        • by V!NCENT (1105021)

          "You are incorrect. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that human evolution is not only still happening, but accelerating."
          Yeah... ever heared of traveling? The world is getting smaller you know...

          "The rest of your post was equally nonsensical."
          What do you mean? Did you even RTFA, all joking aside? It goes like this:
          Create random techno loops. Which ones do you like? Ah you like loop 1, 2 and 3 (ketchup, beer and chocolate).

          *statistics*
          *Auto song creation (the blender)*

          Ladies and gentleman. After a gazi

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        To top it: evolution is no longer pressent.

        I think that you might need to rethink this. Every time someone selects a mate and reproduces, they are reacting to their environment and, well, evolving! It's hard for me to fathom how you could successfully argue that there is no selection pressure on humans. Sure, the "death before reproduction" aspect may be all but gone in the developed world, but there's still quite a bit of mating going on - and plenty of selection. And in the developing world, well, you still have plenty of good old fashioned death

        • by V!NCENT (1105021)

          "Every time someone selects a mate and reproduces, they are reacting to their environment and, well, evolving!"
          Not really. Or at least not in the western world... It is humans that devine culture. It is culture that devines evolution. Todays hot, might be tommorows not. Skinny girls on TV? Suddenly that's hot. Remember the days that chest hair was cool? Now it's disgusting, suddenly. Being manly was the way to go. Today it's metrosexual...

          "It's hard for me to fathom how you could successfully argue that the

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Or at least not in the western world... It is humans that devine culture.

            I wasn't referring to pop culture so much... we select mates in ways that might surprise you. If you are a reader, you might enjoy "The Third Chimpanzee" by Jared Diamond... it has a whole section on mate selection.

            There is. Sure there is. It's just that we make our own...

            But some of us are better at "the game" than others, and this does change our genome.

    • by maccallr (240314)

      I was able to do some rating for a while, and I think the results are fairly cool, but it may not produce anything very interesting for a couple reasons.

      The first is that there isn't strong enough evolutionary pressure. There are too many people rating with very different opinions of what sounds good. I think it would be much more interesting to create different channels. Classical, jazz, ambient, electronica, whatever. It's still a very broad definition but not so much that our ratings aren't just noise.

      You're right, and this is why we wanted to do the experiment. Nearly a month ago we had 120 Imperial College students do 250 ratings each for us over a week. We replicated the experiment 3 times (40 students per population) and assumed that these students would have a mix of musical and cultural backgrounds. We got 75 generations out of it, and the results were much more musical than the random material we started with [darwintunes.org], but now we realise that 200+ generations is where it's at!

      Secondly, the algorithms used to generate the music are really important. I couldn't find any information on it, but the way the notes are put together seems fairly random. I think it's important to stick to what we do know sounds good... to an extent. For example, the gene could contain information on which way to move the current note, rather than the specific note. That way you could limit it to 2 or 3 steps and lay it over a scale or mode. The willy nillyness of it will guarantee that we pick 'safe' consonant sounding harmonies. 5ths and 4ths with beep boop melodies.

      Very interesting though, I can't wait to see what happens with this.

      Absolutely, the choice of 4

      • I did some ratings, and having a musical background I intentionally listened for and voted up stuff that was more adventurous. There were one or two that had some very nice dominant 7ths in them--not too far off the beaten path (since they're in every blues song ever) but more interesting to my ear.

        I stopped rating for the night because I noticed I was getting bored with the single-note drone that underlay all the loops I heard, which made it hard to distinguish among many loops. Something almost identica

  • I see their individual loops are covered by the creative commons license for non-commercial use with attribution, but I'm search of new On Hold music, so I'm hoping we can come up with some sort of solution. It's a problem when you have zero budget though. heh

    I'm looking forward to future generations when they start to do good transitions between different loops, that will be interesting.
  • Found myself with some time to kill, so I had a go at this. Here are my thoughts:

    1. The original loop (linked to in the summary) has a recognizable beat, even if many of the accompanying tones sound dreadful together. I'll put it this way: generation 0 sounded way better than a lot of the stuff I've seen try to pass for "electronic music" on YouTube. The original loop already had a fair amount of complexity to start with. I'd be more impressed if they began with a loop that had several sine waves with compl

    • by maccallr (240314)

      Thanks for the comments. I'll take them one by one (while I wait for the algorithm to tick over to 250 generations).

      1. to give a fair comparison with the hand-picked better sounding loops given in all the subsequent "tasters", the time=zero loops are also hand-picked. Rest assured that most of them sounded pretty horrific. Yes we did set a minimum amount of complexity (I think it was at least 8 different "tracks") in the initial Adam and Eve, but then let them evolve under no selection for a long time.

      2

      • by Eil (82413)

        2. yes we have to keep it short so that rating can happen in this lifetime :-) I have put several tracks together for my own projects (just me doing the ratings, and using pre-recorded samples as well as evolved synths) - here's the best example.

        Hey, I dig this. Also enjoyed Like Ani.

        3. there are no constraints on harmonies or anything, however the "palette" of notes is defined once (all evolved from random) and then the notes are picked from the palette. Mutations to the palette are going to be rare (beca

  • The phase space of this experiment is too large to explore with the simple rating system. No wonder the "survivors" all sound hyper-sequenced and repetitive, and nothing like Beethoven. What's happening is a bifurcation of the binary number space, because a music sequence is just a binary value occurring on a binary timeline, and each vote of plus or minus is a bifurcation of that space. An "i love it" vote is no less a simple plus, just a plus with extra survival chances.

    The problem is that within the regi

  • Anyone remember Terry Riley's In C? This reminds me of it; now if they just had several sources going through the fragments at different rates...

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