Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about a Nashville record producer titled “Dave Cobb Puts the Live in the Studio” (February 10, 2016, (paywall)). Midway through the article he describes a technique he used with a country band “to break the ice and steer them toward unexpected sounds”:
Mr. Cobb sent them on a hunt through the dollar bins of vinyl record stores. “He was like, ‘Pick out three or four records you definitely never heard or artists you never heard of,’” recalls Ms. Price. “We’d come in every day and we’d just drop the needle and see if any track or any groove inspired us. It was an experimental way to come up with fresh ideas and tempos that felt really good.”
Poking through record bins for unknown music truly is a random search. Apparently it worked, too. The group, Lake Street Dive, was inspired and produced a successful new record. But notice how constrained this random search was. First off, they did not listen to random individual notes. They listened to complete musical works which had been performed and produced. Moreover, I’m sure their random search was also constrained. I doubt they picked any records of Beethoven piano sonatas or polkas. They would have chosen within the genre of country music.
But this form of random search is ages old. We do it every time we walk into a bookstore or library and pull interesting sounding books off the shelf. As intelligent readers we are able to absorb thoughts, arguments, concepts, and facts into the holistic worldviews we all possess. This is high level stuff most definitely based on the ability of intelligent agents to integrate information and to understand it. It is not at all analogous to any low level Darwinian process involving minute random changes.
Randomness = looking for records we haven’t heard in a … record store? If they had been looking for records in a town dump, that might have been a random search.
Much Darwinism today just means replaying the themes people still react to.
See also: New findings on evolution and probability
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