Natural selection expresses the idea that organisms (i.e. their genes) vary and that variability has consequences. Some variants are unfit and go extinct, others adapt and do well. This process, repeated over millions of years, has given us the variety of life on earth.
Many authors have played with the idea how to combine these insights from evolutionary biology to changes in culture, the notion of ‘memes’ being one of them. Richard Dawkins proposed that human culture is composed of a multitude of particulate units, memes, which are analogous to the genes of biological transmission. These cultural replicators are transmitted by imitation between members of a community and are subject to mutational-evolutionary pressures over time.
Recently researchers at Imperial College London started yet another attempt to try to show if, and how, natural selection might play a role in music. They are currently running an online experiment hoping to find support for this idea:
The online test can be found here.