Musical selection. (Or how to evolve a hit.)

Science News examines one system for making music – by taking noise and using thumbs-up or thumbs-down votes to refine it:

Inspired in part by long-running experiments probing the evolution of bacteria, computational biologist Bob MacCallum and colleagues decided to see if pleasant music could evolve from a cacophonous mess when human listeners acted as the force of natural selection. The researchers started with a loop of simple audio wave forms and let it randomly evolve to generate a starter population with variation on which selection could act. Then more than 6,000 people listened to the audio loops and rated how much they liked the sounds on a five-point scale. The audio loops rated more favorably were allowed to mutate or combine with others to make a next-generation clip; the bad ones died off.

By 500 generations, the pieces developed into pleasant little ditties with chord structure and rhythm, MacCallum and his colleagues report online June 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They’re calling the project “DarwinTunes” and plan to extend the next phase to millions of users. So get your thumbs ready to compose….