Jan, Steven (2015) Computer Simulation of Musical Evolution: A Lesson from Whales. In: Study Day on Computer Simulation of Musical Creativity, 27th June 2015, University of Huddersfield, UK.

Simulating musical creativity using computers needs more than the ability to devise elegant computational implementations of sophisticated algorithms. It requires, firstly, an understanding of what phenomena might be regarded as music; and, secondly, an understanding of the nature of such phenomena — including their evolutionary history, their recursive-hierarchic structure, and the mechanisms by which they are transmitted within cultural groups. To understand these issues it is fruitful to compare human music, and indeed human language, with analogous phenomena in other areas of the animal kingdom. Whale song, specifically that of the humpback (Megaptera novaeangeliae), possesses many structural and functional similarities to human music (as do certain types of birdsong). Using a memetic perspective, this paper compares the “musilanguage” of humpbacks with the music of humans, and aims to identify a number of shared characteristics. A consequence of nature and nurture, these commonalities appear to arise partly from certain constraints of perception and cognition (and thus they determine an aspect of the environment within which the “musemes” (musical memes) constituting whale vocalizations and human music is replicated), and partly from the social-emotive-embodied and sexual-selective nature of musemic transmission. The paper argues that Universal-Darwinian forces give rise to uniformities of structure in phenomena we might regard as “music”, irrespective of the animal group — certain primates, cetaceans or birds - within which it occurs. It considers the extent to which whale song might be regarded as creative, by invoking certain criteria used to assess this attribute in human music. On the basis of these various comparisons, the paper concludes by attempting to draw conclusions applicable to those engaged in designing evolutionary music simulation/generation algorithms.

Computer_Simulation_of_Musical_Evolution_-_A_Lesson_from_Whales.pdf - Accepted Version

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