Bach becomes the first AI doodle
When classical music and technology combine…
On March 21, many were surprised to open up Google and see Johann Sebastian Bach being celebrated on his birthday as a Google Doodle. Even more exciting was the fact that the doodle was first of its kind as the first artificial intelligent powered doodle ever created by Google. The doodle is an interactive process that first teaches users about musical harmony and melody. Users then are suggested to compose two lines of their own music. Afterward, the AI program analyzes the lines of music and provides harmonization in a similar style to how Bach would have written a piece of work. The program achieves harmonization by analyzing approximately 306 of Bach’s chorale harmonizations. The task was accomplished by Google Magenta and Google PAIR teams. Google claimed that the four-part harmonies (soprano, alto, tenor, bass lines) used in Bach’s choral music allowed the machine to understand the musical data because of the rigid structure.
Bach is considered one of the essential western music composers during the Baroque period of music and debatably in all of music history. The musician was born in Germany during 1685 (according to the Julian calendar). Organ and harpsichord were the primary instruments Bach was most known to play. He even was well versed in building and repairing pipe organs. The composer was a spiritual man who created church music and instrumental music at a rapid pace. Some of Bach’s most familiar pieces include the Brandenburg Concertos; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; and Toccata and Fugue in D minor. 1,000 pieces of Bach’s manuscripts have survived the present day and have impacted centuries of music after his departure. Who knew his music would also impact the development of AI?
The increasing use of artificial intelligence brings to light the idea that non-living systems can indeed produce creative outputs, such as music, which was once thought impossible or silly. People have begun to utilize technology in the pursuit to create music whether they are innately musically talented or not. Autotune and synthesizers especially have contributed to the sound of popular music and its creation. More and more music is being created not by traditional instruments or people, but machines.
AI has taken the idea of machine dependence to another level, which has the potential to cut out human input entirely. More and more ethical concerns have been debated pertaining to human decision making, bias, and technological errors. However, familiar AI programs have already begun to impact daily living through Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. AI holds the possibility to increase efficiency both personally and professionally. AIs not only impacts technology and music, but the future of the healthcare and business industry. The Google Doodle featuring Bach may seem like an insignificant or fun little distraction, but it has proven to be a stepping stone in AI development.