A group of researchers in germany have come up with an interesting way to get across some basic concepts of evolution, by combining music and evolutionary principles. They have developed a computer game which allows the user to generate new tunes through an evolutionary process, and have produced a video clip for a rock song that was generated using this software. The game works as follows: A primordial tune is randomly generated to start with. During the game, tunes behave like evolving living organisms. They reproduce and inherit traits such as the instrument(s) or rhythm. Offspring expresses traits of their parents, but can contain new elements, generated by mutation. The player listens to the different tunes within a generation and decides what he likes and what not. This rating affects the reproductive success of those individuals. Well rated ones reproduce better. Depending on personal preferences (“the selective environment”) tunes develop more in the direction of e.g. reggae or more of jazz.
This project was the result of cooperation between a core team of evolutionary ecologists (led by Prof. Nico Michiels at the University of Tubingen), and composers, musicians and film-makers. The project was funded by the Volkswagen Foundation as part of a creativity contest called “Evolution today”. Michiels says that the aim of the game and video clip is to attract attention from non-biologists and stimulate talk about evolution. Its certainly one of the more innovative approaches I’ve seen!