Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Johann Sebastian Bach and the story of today's groundbreaking Google Doodle

Google chose Bach to explore using artificial intelligence in a Doodle for the first time

Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. (Google via AP)
Google is celebrating composer Johann Sebastian Bach with its first artificial intelligence-powered Doodle. (Google via AP)

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the life of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and also marks a big first for the global search engine.

The interactive doodle is the first to be powered by artificial intelligence, using machine learning to identify and mimic the patterns of Bach’s signature style to compose a custom melody.

Bach is famous for creating the four-part harmonies, which changed the way music was composed.

Explaining the Google Doodle, Jacob Howcroft, a software developer for the Google Doodle team, said: “Bach’s music has all the rules of how to write good harmonies and melodies baked in, so it’s a really good resource for machine learning to learn music.”

Who was Johann Sebastian Bach?

Born in the small German town of Eisenach in 1685, Bach was involved with music from a young age.

His father was the director of musicians in the small town, and Bach learned many instruments as a child, including the violin and the organ, and was also a chorister.

It was as an organist that Bach really excelled, composing more than 1,000 pieces, however, Bach only lived to see a small handful of his works published. Since his death in 1750, his works have been performed around the world, making him one of the greatest composers of all time.

Today, March 31, marks 334 years since he was born.

Portait of German-born musician and composer Johann Christian Bach (1735 - 1782) Courtesy Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Portait of German-born musician and composer Johann Christian Bach (1735 - 1782) Courtesy Hulton Archive / Getty Images

What is so special about today’s Google Doodle?

Google Doodle’s take over the logo of the search engine’s landing page on a regular basis, celebrating events, milestones and the lives of some of the world’s best talents.

Today’s however has been a long time in the making. Google chose to do something different to mark the life of Johann Sebastian Bach, using artificial intelligence to mimic the composer's four-part harmonies.

A team has been working behind the scenes for months to make it happen, and Google has released a video to explain how it was done.

“We wanted to give people this unboxing experience, and one of our ideas was giving people this magical music box,” says Leon Hong, a ‘Doodler’ at Google.

The Google Doodle explains how Bach’s four-part harmonies work, before letting the user compose their own melodies with an interactive element.

“This Doodle is very much tech driven, combining art with technology and allowing people to create things they couldn’t create before,” says Hong. “We wanted to introduce machine learning in a way that’s familiar to everybody.”

“The thing that AI can do for us that I think a lot of people are missing is that it’s going to amplify what we can already do,” Howcroft added.

You can try it for yourself here.

Updated: March 22, 2019 10:30 AM

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