While the success of electronic music often relies on the uniqueness and quality of selected timbres, many musicians struggle with complicated and expensive equipment and techniques to create their desired sounds. Instead, this paper presents a technique for producing novel timbres that are evolved by the musician through interactive evolutionary computation. Each timbre is produced by an oscillator, which is represented by a special type of artificial neural network (ANN) called a compositional pattern producing network (CPPN). While traditional ANNs compute only sigmoid functions at their hidden nodes, CPPNs can theoretically compute any function and can build on those present in traditional synthesizers (e.g. square, sawtooth, triangle, and sine waves functions) to produce completely novel timbres. Evolved with NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies (NEAT), the aim of this paper is to explore the space of potential sounds that can be generated through such compositional sound synthesis networks (CSSNs). To study the effect of evolution on subjective appreciation, participants in a listener study ranked evolved timbres by personal preference, resulting in preferences skewed toward the first and last generations. In the long run, the CSSN's ability to generate a variety of different and rich timbre opens up the intriguing possibility of evolving a complete CSSN-encoded synthesizer.
Title of host publication
Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Conference on Genetic and Evolutionary Computation : GECCO '15
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