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 United States on Monday.
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 synthesiser 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 7000 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 2500 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.”