Pop music just evolution - study

2012-06-19 10:39

Washington - No talent necessary: The perfect pop tune can be engineered by a computer program and refined with the input of listeners, according to a British study published in the US.

The experiment, known as DarwinTunes, aimed to test the importance of consumer choice in shaping the music that becomes a hit on modern airwaves.

The program used randomly generated synthesizer beats, tunes and noise ranging from chime sounds to buzzing and beeping.

Online users voted on each the computer's eight-second-long creations, grading them from "I can't stand it!" to "I love it!" said the study.

The "loved" tracks were mingled in with other preferred tracks. The more of these "evolutions" a particular track went through, the better people seemed to like it, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


"We wondered whether consumer choice is the real force behind the relentless march of pop," said Armand Leroi, co-author of the research and professor of evolutionary developmental biology at Imperial College London.

"Every time someone downloads one track rather than another they are exercising a choice, and a million choices is a million creative acts," Leroi added.

"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."

Around 7 000 web listeners took part in the experiment for the published study.

The noise samples that got the worst ratings soon went extinct, while those that were more pleasing to the ear lived on.

"After approximately 2 500 generations under natural selection, the authors found that the loops quickly evolved from noise into appealing music," said the study.

"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," said co-author Bob MacCallum, a mosquito genomics bioinformatician in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London.

"Thanks to our students' and the general public's valuable input, we can confidently say it does."

The project is ongoing at

  • hondbyt - 2012-06-19 13:57

    There are strong indications to suggest that the species "Justinius Bieberius" followed the exact same unusual evolutionary mutations as the "Raphus cucullatus" (Dodo) species as it resembles all the exact same traits i.e. intensely annoying vocal broadcasts, dull and silly facial expression and hidden gender features making it difficult to identify its sex. Now we can only sit back and hope it follows the same path in the natural selection process...

  • Tony Lapson - 2012-06-19 13:58

    Gotta love sequencing and autotune. Making people believe they are musical geniuses since 2000.

  • doug.gass1 - 2012-06-19 14:04

    Its as if we live in world where both Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World have been realised. Orwell's "versificator" machine and the overload of pointless choices as described by Huxley.

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