Johann Sebastian Bach is getting a very modern celebration on what would be his 333rd birthday. The composer was honored with his very own Google Doodle – and the Doodle itself is making a bit of history: It's the first to be powered by artificial intelligence.
The AI Google Doodle allows users to create their own tunes, like Bach did back in the 18th century. The Doodle uses machine learning to harmonize melodies. It can turn your music into a Bach-inspired piece, or a hybrid of Bach and 80s rock – only if you find a hidden "Easter egg" in the Doodle, Google announced.
The advanced Doodle starts with a tiny animated Bach character teaching about harmony and melody. He adds a few notes until he gets a four-part harmony – Bach's signature contribution to music. The user is then invited to add some notes to the staff, and by clicking a "harmonize" button, the Google Doodle uses machine learning to create a harmonized tune. To achieve this, Google explains that its AI model, Coconet, was taught to analyze 306 of Bach's chorale harmonizations.
While Magenta handled the machine learning aspect, PAIR created a way for the machine learning to happen within the web browser. Then, Google's Doodle team brought it all to life. Google released a video explaining how the teams combined technology with art to create the first AI Doodle.
The reason for this elaborate tribute to Bach is that the composer was born in the small German town of Eisenach on this day in 1685 (under the old Julian calendar), Google explains. Bach composed music at a prolific pace and could build and repair complex organs. Google praised him for being a "humble man who attributed his success to divine inspiration and a strict work ethic."