Generating Rhythms with Genetic Algorithms

Damon Horowitz

My system uses an interactive genetic algorithm to learn a user’s criteria for the task of generating musical rhythms. Interactive genetic algorithms (Smith 91) are well suited to solving this problem because they allow for a user to simply execute fitness functions (that is, to choose which rhythms or features of rhythms he likes), without necessarily understanding the details or parameters of these functions. As the system learns (develops an increasingly accurate model of the function which represents the user’s criteria), the quality of the rhythms it produces improves to suit the user’s taste. This approach is largely motivated by Richard Dawkins, who succinctly summarizes the attraction of IGAs for artistic endeavors in stating: "Effective searching procedures become, when the search space is sufficiently large, indistinguishable from true creativity" (Dawkins 86).

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