Behind the Doodle: Celebrating Johann Sebastian Bach

Tabitha Dunn
March 24, 2019

Ever wanted to be a musician but didn't think you had any innate talent?

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in the small German town of Eisenach on this day in 1685.

Google users are first greeted by an animation showing the Baroque composer behind an organ, with a "play" button at the side that prompts interaction.

Google has a separate blog post that goes in to more detail on the technology behind the Doodle, including how it was trained on 306 of Bach's chorale harmonisations using a machine-learning model called Coconet. Or, if you're lucky enough to find the easter egg in the Doodle, you may end up with an '80s rock style hybrid.

For this particular project, the Doodle team created the art style and the interface but also sought help from other Google teams for the brains of the experience.

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Powering the doodle is machine learning which, in a nutshell, tries to learn rules on its own by analyzing hundreds if not thousands of data samples. Bach's chorales were known for having four voices carrying their own melodic line. Today's doodle is one such, and it's even more special if you are a Bach fan!

Google says, "The model used in today's Doodle was developed by Magenta Team AI Resident Anna Huang, who developed Coconet: a versatile model that can be used in a wide range of musical tasks-such as harmonizing melodies or composing from scratch".

Further, to ensure that people around the world could use the Doodle, the teams used PAIR's TensorFlow, which allows ML to happen entirely within an internet browser. His father played multiple instruments and worked as director of the town's musicians, while his eldest brother was also a musician.

Bach composed music at a prolific pace, but lived to see only a handful of his works published. Now, more than 1,000 of his works are performed all over the world.

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