I'll be Bach
March 20, 2019 10:57 PM   Subscribe

The coolest part of the doodle is there's a button to re-harmonize the little licks you make and the AI will keep coming up with different ways of doing it, it's so fun
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:40 PM on March 20, 2019

This is really neat!
posted by ominous_paws at 12:14 AM on March 21, 2019

Oooh, I made a little tune and it actually harmonized it very nicely. Cool!
posted by Harald74 at 12:46 AM on March 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Today I turned 335 years old, 41 years older than you. Fuck you, Bach.

- Wolfgang
posted by bendy at 2:19 AM on March 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Very cool but not AI, no AI involved.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:51 AM on March 21, 2019

Very cool but not AI, no AI involved.

At some point I feel "AI" as a term is going to be great friends with "literally" and whether machine learning counts will depend on your grammatical philosophy.
posted by solarion at 3:58 AM on March 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

You can say this is not AI, but then you have to throw out around 90% of what people currently call AI and say that's not AI either. Which you can do, of course; plenty of smart people have been doing it for decades.

Anyway, speaking as a machine language researcher and a music composition major, I think this is great. It's not perfect, of course, but harmonizing chorales isn't easy (ask any college sophomore) and 306 chorales is not a lot of training data. I was particularly pleased with how it managed to make some sense of melodies that were completely unidiomatic, despite not being trained on them.
posted by dfan at 4:42 AM on March 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

Another household name once took a crack at computational Baroque music. C. P. U. Bach was made by Sid Meier back in 1993 for the 3DO console. It made Bach-like music according to your precepts. The results are pleasing and a bit weird. Here's a video with 20+ minutes of C. P. U. Bach compositions (the generated music starts at 2:00).
posted by Kattullus at 5:02 AM on March 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

(I meant "machine learning", not "machine language", of course.)
posted by dfan at 5:03 AM on March 21, 2019

I gave it "Ein Feste Burg" and it spit out something that sounded like Hindemith. The minor-key "Frere Jacques" theme from Mahler's First Symphony turned out pretty good, though.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:14 AM on March 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

C. P. U. Bach was made by Sid Meier back in 1993 for the 3DO console

A perhaps more serious effort was David Cope's Experiments In Musical Intelligence; here is one of its productions in a Bach idiom.
posted by thelonius at 5:22 AM on March 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Cope is the place to look if you think this sort of thing isn't AI enough. (His results are impressive too and probably more inspiring if you're not thrilled about an unthinking neural network spitting out what is supposed to be creative output.)

"Sounding like Hindemith" is a nice assessment! It gives me a very human way to give this system the benefit of the doubt when it creates unidiomatic results.
posted by dfan at 5:27 AM on March 21, 2019

At some point I feel "AI" as a term is going to be great friends with "literally" and whether machine learning counts will depend on your grammatical philosophy.

Yeah, that AI horse has left the barn after teaching itself to walk and trying a few billion different routes out.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:08 AM on March 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

"Sounds like Hindemith" is pretty much the highest extent of my string instrument aspirations.

For now I'll be content if I can play the first page of Bach's Cello Suite #1 without a sour note.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:40 AM on March 21, 2019

For now I'll be content if I can play the first page of Bach's Cello Suite #1 without a sour note.

You might want to listen to this episode of Song Exploder. Or you might not.
posted by The Bellman at 6:53 AM on March 21, 2019

As someone who loves Bach and knows nothing about music theory but a fair amount about AI, this is delightful. Here's my little bit. Thanks for the tip Jon_Evil that you can reharmonize to get different outputs. There's also a BPM control if you prefer your harpsichord music danceable. This variant sounds entirely different to me, albeit also quite discordant. I think it misplaced a harmony.

Lol at the claim "this is not AI". The AI Effect is a well known challenge for AI researchers. The moment a computer solves a problem formerly in the realm of human cognition, the technique is considered no longer AI. I think the slow and unsatisfying growth of computer chess is probably the best example of that, it's hard to look at a minmax tree with some pruning heuristics and say "that is intelligence". Similar problem now with AlphaGo, although at least the giant pile of neural networks is sufficiently mysterious it's less obvious what mechanistic thing Searle's Room is doing.

Also: Bach in C comes out remarkably 20th century for something trained entirely on 18th century data. Alternate take by Keith Jarrettbot.
posted by Nelson at 7:00 AM on March 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

so a work crew is digging out the foundation for a new building in Leipzig, and one day they discover a mysterious door. the foreman opens it and steps through, revealing a little room where none other than Johann Sebastian Bach is sitting at a desk, meticulously erasing page after page of music. The foreman, startled, shouts "Mein Gott! Bach! What are you doing here?" to which Bach replies "I've been dead for hundreds of years! What do you think I'm doing?" He gestures toward the erased sheets. "I'm decomposing!"
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:32 AM on March 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

prev thread about C.P.U. Bach
posted by griphus at 7:39 AM on March 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

As a friend of mine says, "AI... isn't that the stuff that used to suck in the '70s?"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:44 AM on March 21, 2019

This is simply fascinating to me as a person with no musical talent or knowledge. I threw up some basically random notes and the results were pleasantly listenable. Voodoo magic.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:43 AM on March 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don’t have any musical background but I found this delightfully addicting!
posted by bookmammal at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2019

Eh, Imma Scrooge about this, and this is probably pedantic, but this Doodle is a pretty bad miss, IMHO, because it's not very good technically (I wrote a little melody that was very obviously in the key of A minor, and the computer couldn't figure that out after three tries), but it really misrepresents Bach's work and influence.

Bach wasn't (and isn't) known for his development or advances in harmony, he was a composer in a predominantly contrapuntal style; his brilliance w/r/t harmony was sort of incidental to that, and is mostly unnoticed even today because he didn't write any kind of text explaining his approach to harmony, key, etc.--but Jean-Philippe Rameau did (Treatise on Harmony, 1722), and that text is the foundation of Western music's conceptualization and application of Tonal harmony and four-part writing. AND, while Bach's harmonic thinking was brilliant (still is, most composers who study his music even today still don't quite suss out what he was doing), the common practice of western Tonal music was already established, he didn't invent that at all--functional bass, tertian harmony, four-part writing, keys, meter, etc., all worked out by the time Bach arrived in the world in 1685.

We use his (amazing) chorales as basic, essential teaching tools for undergraduate music majors because the craft is exceptional and sublime. Bach's innovations in harmony are not nearly as influential as his ability to actually craft multiple lines into interesting, interwoven parts that enhance and make clear the underlying harmonic progressions. His craft was so exceptional, in fact, that it helped to spark a fundamental cultural shift in creative interest, from line (counterpoint) in musical composition, to harmony. The generation of composers following Bach--including a couple of his sons--were proponents of a radical new style of composition, a style that dispensed with all the intricacy and floridity of contrapuntal writing and jammed on the harmonies, chord progressions and cool new sounds available from the hot new wind instrument tech: the Classical style. It's why Haydn's music sounds so dramatically different than Bach's.*

*-one of J.S.'s kids, C.P.E. Bach, was a leading cultural revolutionary in the new-fangled Classical style in the 1730s, and was more musically influential in the (relatively) short-term than his father:
C. P. E. Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father's baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. His personal approach, an expressive and often turbulent one known as empfindsamer Stil or 'sensitive style', applied the principles of rhetoric and drama to musical structures. Bach's dynamism stands in deliberate contrast to the more mannered galant style also then in vogue. [...] Through the later half of the 18th century, the reputation of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach stood very high, surpassing that of his father. Haydn and Beethoven admired him and "avidly" collected his music. Mozart said of him, "Bach is the father, we are the children." His work is full of invention and, most importantly, extreme unpredictability, and wide emotional range even within a single work [....] He was probably the first composer of eminence who made free use of harmonic color for its own sake.

posted by LooseFilter at 9:17 AM on March 21, 2019 [10 favorites]

Via a friend of mine, much more detail: Coconet: the ML model behind today’s Bach Doodle. Talks in great detail about the development and training. There's also a second composition tool coucou that lets you interact with the note-filling algorithm in a more complex way.
posted by Nelson at 9:41 AM on March 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

LooseFilter, if you click on the big red button with the white star (it's on the lower left side of the Doodle), you can change your key.

Other Easter eggs I found:
- If you click on the amp to the lower right of the Doodle, you get music in rock style.
- If you click on the yellow stickie notes on the left side of the Doodle, you get pre-programmed songs.
posted by tickingclock at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Adam Neely's take; The Google AI Bach harmonizer doodle is a fun thing to play with, but it...gets it wrong, a lot. I’m going to play with it, explain why it’s wrong, and why you probably won’t be able to cheat with it on your music theory assignments any time soon.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:15 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

it...gets it wrong, a lot.

The A# thing.....on another Youtube channel, where the host is providing excellent playing advice but somewhat confused lessons on music theory, a poster corrected him for saying that a C diminished triad is made with C, D#, and F#. And rightly so! Triads are made of roots, thirds, and fifths, not roots, seconds, and fourths. This is not controversial. So I was amazed to see the vehemence with which at least one other commenter reacted, with the usual cliches: all that matters is the SOUND man, they are the same notes so this is totally pedantic and WHO EVEN CARES. * I wouldn't be surprised if comments like that are already piling up in Neely's video.

*Not caring is fine, if that's what people want to do, but, if someone represents some material as a theory lesson, and it's just wrong (on the INTERNET! even) , they cannot be defended with the "theory doesn't even matter, dude!" card, since they were the ones who initiated the musical science-dropping.
posted by thelonius at 12:31 PM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

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