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Evolution of Music by Public Choice

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Abstract: Music evolves as composers, performers, and consumers favor some musical variants over others. To investigate the role of consumer selection, we constructed a Darwinian music engine consisting of a population of short audio loops that sexually reproduce and mutate. This population evolved for 2,513 gener- ations under the selective influence of 6,931 consumers who rated the loops’ aesthetic qualities. We found that the loops quickly evolved into music attributable, in part, to the evolution of aes- thetically pleasing chords and rhythms. Later, however, evolution slowed. Applying the Price equation, a general description of evo- lutionary processes, we found that this stasis was mostly attribut- able to a decrease in the fidelity of transmission. Our experiment shows how cultural dynamics can be explained in terms of com- peting evolutionary forces.

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