This thesis studies rhythm from an evolutionary computation perspective. Rhythm is the most fundamental dimension of music and can be used as a ground to describe the evolution of music. More specifically, the main goal of the thesis is to investigate how complex rhythmic structures evolve, subject to the cultural transmission between individuals in a society. The study is developed by means of computer modelling and simulations informed by evolutionary computation and artificial life (A-Life). In this process, self-organisation plays a fundamental role. The evolutionary process is steered by the evaluation of rhythmic complexity and by the exposure to rhythmic material. In this thesis, composers and musicologists will find the description of a system named A-Rhythm, which explores the emerged behaviours in a community of artificial autonomous agents that interact in a virtual environment. The interaction between the agents takes the form of imitation games. A set of necessary criteria was established for the construction of a compositional system in which cultural transmission is observed. These criteria allowed the comparison with related work in the field of evolutionary computation and music. In the development of the system, rhythmic representation is discussed. The proposed representation enabled the development of complexity and similarity based measures, and the recombination of rhythms in a creative manner. A-Rhythm produced results in the form of simulation data which were evaluated in terms of the coherence of repertoires of the agents. The data shows how rhythmic sequences are changed and sustained in the population, displaying synchronic and diachronic diversity. Finally, this tool was used as a generative mechanism for composition and several examples are presented.

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