Evolutionary Music Bibliography

to accompany the Evolutionary Music Tutorial given at GECCO 2005

This no-frills Web page provides links to many of the Web sites I reviewed for my tutorial on Evolutionary Music, which was last given at GECCO 2005 in Washington, DC. The aim of the tutorial is to provide an overview of how Evolutionary Computation (EC) has been applied to music, which is getting to be a big area, as I discovered when I began reviewing what people are doing (over 130 papers). Consequently, this bibliography is not complete or even very comprehensive, but it's a better start than what I could find when I began my review of evolutionary music systems.

I've organized the links to be largely consistent with the organization of the tutorial (slides available here). For each section, I've listed links to the research I directly cited first, followed by links to similar research by others that I didn't directly cite.

Again, this is far from a definitive bibliography of every paper that relates to EC in music. If you're aware of work in this area that is missing, please let me know. While I don't intend to actively maintain this site in perpetuity, I am very interested both in how EC researchers are making music and in how musicians are using EC, so I'll try to add things as time allows.

- Al Biles

Greatest Hits

These five references are my picks as the best places to start reading in this area. Three of them are available in print form only, so the links for those are to are to publishers. The first reference was published in April, 2007. Very exciting!

Evolutionary Computer Music. Eduardo Reck Miranda and Al Biles (editors), Springer-Verlag, 2007. Eduardo and I edited this book with contributions from many of the researchers whose work is listed in this bibliography. The tutorial that spawned this Web page forms the basis for one of my two chapters, and I contributed an evolutionary improvisation chapter as well. Besides myself and Eduardo, the contributers include Peter Beyls, Tim Blackwell, Palle Dahlstedt, Andrew Horner, Phil Husbands, Peter Todd, and Rodney Waschka II, with a foreword by David Goldberg!

Contemporary Music Review, 22(3), September, 2003. The whole issue is devoted to evolutionary music. Excellent collection of recent papers by significant contributors.

Creative Evolutionary Systems, Peter Bentley and David Corne (editors), Morgan Kaufmann, 2002. A superb, thought-provoking survey of EC-based music, visual arts and design systems. Even includes an excellent overview of the family of EC variations (GA, GP, ES, etc.) for those who are new to EC.

Frankensteinean Methods for Evolutionary Music Composition, Todd and Werner, in Musical Networks, Griffith and Todd, MIT Press, 1999. Great survey chapter on EC-based music systems. The rest of the book is a great survey of Parallel Distributed Processing (Neural Networks) applied to music.

Generation of Music Sequences with Genetic Techniques, Burton and Vladimirova, Computer Music Journal, 23(4), Winter, 1999. A good survey of earlier EC-based composition systems.

Conferences and Workshops

Several conferences, workshops and program tracks devoted to evolutionary music have sprung up in the last few years. Most have a Web presence and some provide the papers on-line.

EvoMUSART 2009 - Seventh European Workshop on Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design, held April 15-17, 2009 in Tübingen, Germany.

EvoMUSART 2008 - Sixth European Workshop on Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design, held March 26 - 28, 2008 in Napoli, Italy.

EvoMUSART 2007 - Fifth European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art, held April 11 - 13, 2007 in Valencia, Spain.

EvoMUSART 2006 - Fourth European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art, held April 10 - 12, 2006 in Budapest, Hungary.

EvoMUSART2005 - Third European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art, held March 30 - April 1, 2005 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

EvoMUSART2004 - Second European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art. One of eight program tracks at EuroGP/EuroCOP in April, 2004.

EvoMUSART2003 - First European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art. One of six program tracks at EuroGP in April, 2003.

ALMMA II - Second Artificial Life Models for Musical Applications. One of three special Workshops at ALife VIII in 2002. Papers available on-line!

ALMMA I - First Artificial Life Models for Musical Applications. Workshop at ALife VI in 2001. Papers available on-line!

SBC2003 - Ninth Brazilian Symposium on Computer Music, whose theme was Music as Emergent Behavior, and which featured several papers of EC interest.

GAVAM @ GECCO-2000 - Workshop on GAs in Visual Art and Music. Papers eventually published in Leonardo 35(2) and 36(1), April 2002 and February 2003, respectively.


There are scores of EC-based composition systems out there (pun intended), most of which are in the "toy system" category. I don't mean this in a negative way; these things are fun to build, but they all start looking alike. Many are class projects for EC or computer music courses. The typical toy system breeds a population of simple melodies for review by a mentor (my term for the human evaluator in an interactive genetic algorithm (IGA)). Some attempt an algorithmic fitness function. The musical results of most of these systems are not usually very compelling, but again, they can be a lot of fun to build.

The links I'm providing are to a diverse sample of early or otherwise noteworthy examples of composition systems that go beyond the "toy" category.

Horner and Goldberg (ICMC, 1991) The first paper to link EC and music, specifically to perform thematic bridging. Given at the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC). The link is to Andrew's Web site, which has his extensive publication list.
Yup, David Goldberg got in on the ground floor of this area too...

NEUROGEN (Gibson and Byrne, 1991) A remarkably mature early system with multiple levels and neural net fitness.

variations (Bruce Jacob, 1995) Interesting architecture, including a GA-based "ear" component. Sound samples, including a symphony composed by his system.

GP-Music (Johanson and Poli, 1997) Representative example of a "toy system," this one using Genetic Programming. Interesting because of the the emphasis on studiying the fitness problem. With sound samples.

GenDash (Rodney Waschka, II) Noteworthy because Prof. Waschka is a serious composer first and a technologist second, a rare person in this area... This recent paper gives a good overview of his approach. Link is to the ALMMA I workshop; his paper is the eighth one down.

Living Melodies (Palle Dahlstedt and Mats Nordahl) Coevolving agents whose communication forms the basis for music. Comprehensive update in Sounds Unheard of, Palle Dahlstedt's 2004 dissertation.

One final historical note on an early system that had widespread Web exposure. Jeffrey Putnam built a toy system in the mid 90's that lots of people still link to (www.nmt.edu/~jefu/bin/get-notes), despite the fact that the URL has been dead for several years. This was the first of the Web-as-a-fitness-function IGA music systems, and definitely was in the right place at the right time. In trying to find where this system ended up, I discovered that Dr. Putnam is currently at Eastern Washington U, and his Grammidity project has a MIDI manifestation, albeit without a Web interface.


A classic subtask of composition, specifically four-part harmonisation of a melody. This seems to be one area where EC is less effective than rule-based or algorithmic techniques.

Horner and Ayres (ICMC, 1995), the same Andrew Horner as above. This early effort was very successful, but on a more constrained problem (chords were given).

Phon-Amnuaisuk, et al (1999) compared a GA to a rule-based system for four-part harmonization, where only the melody line was given. The GA came out second best.


Another subtask of composition, basically generating drum patterns and rhythm loops.

Horowitz (ICMC, 1994) Early Interactive Genetic Algorithm (IGA) to breed drum measure loops.

CONGA (Tokui and Iba, 2000) Clever multi-level interactive system that combines GA and GP to generate drum machine parts.

SBEAT (Tatsuo Unemi, 2002). Compelling rhythms, good sound samples and clear papers. You can even download and run the program if you have a Mac.

Genetic Drummer (Martin Dostal, 2002-2007) Interactive Genetic Algorithm to evolve rhythm accompaniment, with some sound samples.


Fitness is a recurring theme rather than a separate topic in the tutorial, but these links focus on what is often the toughest single issue in composition systems.

Lots of melodic features (Towsey el al, 2001) Domain is extending student-generated melodic "seeds" in a computer-assisted composition learning environment. Along the way, they catalog over 20 melodic features suitable for fitness function fodder.

Automated Fitness Raters (Brad Johanson, 1997) The extension to his GP-Music system (see above) by adding user-trained neural network auto-raters. Human ratings were better than the neural nets that were trained on those ratings. Very thorough thesis.

Zipf-Mandelbrot Law (Manris et al, 2003) Derived Zipf-based metrics for a neural net fitness function that learned to recognize different musical styles. Interesting paper on-line here.


Improvisation is essentially simultaneous listening, composition and performance in real time.

GenJam (Biles, 1994-) My system. The site features a dozen or so papers, several recordings, a 15-minute demo video of GenJam and me performing in an art gallery, a list of the 250+ tunes we do, and lots of other stuff.

Spector and Alpern (1994-5) An early system that traded fours, but not in real time. Includes sound samples.

Papadopoulos and Wiggins (1998, see PW99 on linked page) Used weighted sum of melodic features as a fitness function to eliminate subjectivity. Definitely a "neat," (as opposed to "scruffy") philosophy, in contrast to GenJam.

Swarm Music (Blackwell, 2003) Swarm intelligence applied to improvisation. Sound samples included.

Live Performance

Aspects of live performance of music, including expressivity and real-time interaction.

Music Performance Annotation (Grachten et al, 2004) Classic GA-based parameter optimization for annotating expressivity in jazz performance.

Sound Gallery (Woolf and Thompson, ALMMA I, 2001) Installation artists that use EC to evolve their pieces in real time. Seventh paper down.

Enhancing public speaking voice (Yuji Sato) Not really music per se, but I couldn't resist this news item. It's always fun to see what the media does to a technical presentation, this one from GECCO 2000 (see Yuji Sato's publication list).

HPDJ (Hewlett Packard Disc Jockey by Dave Cliff) I couldn't resist this this one either.


This musical task is often overlooked and is often lumped in with fitness, but there's more to listening that just deciding what's good or bad.

variations (Bruce Jacob, 1995) His "ear" component was the first GA-based listener.

Male Singers, Female Critics (Werner and Todd, 1997) Male singers sing love songs to attract female critics. Mating choices basd on co-evolved aesthetics.

NEXTNOTE (Federman, 2000) Tries to predict the next note in a melody using a learning classifier system.

Accidental evolution of a radio (Layzell, 2002) Not really human listening, but again, I couldn't resist this evolvable hardware news item.


Synthesis technologies tend to be parameter rich, which provides lots of opportunities for classic EC optimization.

CSound Recipes (Horner and Ayres, 2002) Yup, same Andrew Horner and Lydia Ayres. Their book is a collection of CSound instruments that were evolved to match standard acoustic instruments. Culmination of an extensive series of publications on EC applied to synthesis as documented on their Web sites. They literally wrote the book on EC in sound synthesis.

GP Unit Generator topologies (Garcia 2002) Unit generator programs can be bred.

Optimize reverb parameters to match room transfer functions (Mrozek, ICMC 1996)

Timbre Trees (Takala et al, 1993) Early GP approach to breeding timbres to accompany animations.

Chaosynth (Eduardo Reck Miranda, 1995-) Cellular Automata based Granular Synthesis by one of the most prolific researchers in evolutionary music.

FOF Granular Synthesis (Johnson, 1999) EC to set parameters to a complex CSound generator.

Swarm Granulator (Blackwell, 2003) Granular synthesis version of his Swarm Music System.

Muta-Synth (Dahlstedt, 2001) EC exploration of the sound space of a commercial synth. Complete with Sound Samples. Comprehensive update in Sounds Unheard of, Palle Dahlstedt's 2004 dissertation.

Genophone (Mandelis, ALMMA I, 2001) Data-glove enabled hyperinstrument that uses EC to help users explore synth sound space. Fifth paper down.

Evolving Waveforms (Magnus, 2003) Interesting recent thesis. Chromosomes are waveforms, and genes are segments separated by zero crossings.

Generative Systems

I use Celestina Soddu's term "generative systems" to refer to systems based on cellular automata, fractals, chaos generators, and sonification of natural sequences like DNA. I largely excluded these types of systems in my tutorial simply because I didn't have time to cover them in any depth. Actually, CA and fractal music predate GA music.

Genetic Music - This term seems to have become a reference to the sonification of DNA strands and proteins. This site has lots of good links.

Cellular Automata Music - Using cellular automata to generate music goes back a while. This site is a nice introduction to the area by its foremost proponent, Eduardo Reck Miranda.

Swarm systems - I referenced Tim Blackwell above under Improvisation. Lee Spector and John Klein have also done work in this area as well.

Fractal Music has been around since Voss and Clarke (1978) noticed that music had fractal properties and speculated that a fractal generator might produce good music. Numerous attempts have been made ever since. This page has links to most of the standard sites.

© Al Biles, 15 April, 2005