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NATURAL SELECTION is a real-time performance environment for computer and midi-equipped acoustic piano.

In Natural Selection, the musical syntax was conceived in parallel with the development of an 'instrument' comprised of a piano interfaced with a large interactive computer program running on a Macintosh computer with the Max programming environment. The software for the piece consists of a set of tools that can be configured to match changing performance situations. While all performances of Natural Selection exist within the same landscape of possibilities, each performance is unique and original. Natural is an "interactive" composition.

The original software was developed by Tom Mays with support from Richard Dudas. Later Edmund Campion became the primary developor with help from several graduate students including Jeremy Hunt.

In Natural Selection , every detail of the electro-acoustic surface is initiated from some action on the part of the pianist. The computer compares incoming note streams and chords to a pitch matrix which upon positive identification outputs an influence variable. The influence variable may or may not be used by the patch to generate a response. There is no linear or prepared score for Natural Selection . The computer and the composer follow one another in accordance with a fixed set of constraints that bind the actions of the two. In addition to pitch information, the computer also analyzes and is influenced by velocities, delta-times, key-splits, etc....

In performance, the pianist/composer is able to control all aspects of the patch by the use of harmonic 'types' or sets. Certain sets of pitches will enable and/or cancel certain effects. In this way, the hands of the composer/pianist never leave the performance instrument to initiate or trigger some response from the computer. In Natural Selection , the composer is free from the mediating responsibilities of coordinating with an ensemble, tape, or computer. Most importantly, he is liberated to interact with the computer's response in an instantaneous fashion. This immediate feedback is highly generative and is a major source of inspiration for the entire work.

Natural Selection was commissioned by IRCAM in 1996.