Every now and then, the Google logo transforms into colorful, interactive doodles to celebrate the world's pioneers, holidays and more.

Who was Johann Sebastian Bach? Google honors German composer in first AI-powered doodle

In honor of what would have been renowned German composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s 334th birthday, Google’s doodle team created its first AI-powered doodle for the search engine homepage Thursday.

The interactive doodle, made in partnership with the tech giant’s Google Magenta and Google PAIR teams, encourages users to make music with Bach “to harmonize your melodies” in his “signature style.” It’s all possible, according to the Google doodle blog, through machine learning, “the process of teaching a computer to come up with its own answers by showing it a lot of examples, instead of giving it a set of rules to follow as is done in traditional programming.”

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Thanks to machine learning, you, too, can harmonize like Bach.

Born to a family of musical talent in Thuringia, Germany, in 1685, Bach is considered one of the West’s greatest composers of all time, best known for “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” “Mass in B Minor,” “The Well-Tempered Clavier” and the “Brandenburg Concertos.”

According to baroquemusic.org, “roads were still unpaved in the smaller towns, sewage and refuse disposal poorly organized, and the existence of germs not yet scientifically discovered during his childhood. Mortality rates were high as a result. At an early age, Sebastian lost a sister and later a brother. When he was only nine years old, his mother died. Barely nine months later his father also died.”

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Around age 10, Bach’s older brother, an organist, took him in and helped mold his many musical talents, from singing, playing the violin and organ and eventually instructing music at a local church.

In 1707, he was an official organist at the Church of St. Blaise. But that didn’t last long. According to Biography.com, “Bach's musical style clashed with the church's pastor. Bach created complex arrangements and had a fondness for weaving together different melodic lines. His pastor believed that church music needed to be simple.”

So, he took his talents to Weimar, where he earned the post of organist at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst, composing cantatas before going on to perform for other royals.

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After working for royalty, Bach taught at St. Thomas Church, intertwining biblical interpretations in choruses and arias.

During his later ears, as he struggled with poor eyesight, Bach continued to travel and perform for royalty, including for Frederick the Great, the king of Prussia in 1747, according to Biography.com. 

Unfortunately, an eye surgery in 1750 left the German composer completely blind.

He died on July 28 soon after due to a stroke.

More about Bach and today’s doodle at google.com/doodles.

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