Conduct Your Very Own Blob Opera (Even if You Can’t Read Music)

Conduct Your Very Own Blob Opera (Even if You Can’t Read Music)
Screenshot: Google Arts & Culture

Some people are born with musical gifts. Others spend years — maybe even decades — taking lessons, only to realise that their musical abilities are serviceable, at best. And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, are best off as an enjoyer of music, rather than a maker of it. Regardless of which category you fall into, there’s a decent chance that you will appreciate Blob Opera. Here’s what to know.

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What is Blob Opera?

Take a look at the image above. Those are blobs. They are part of a machine learning experiment created by David Li and brought to us through his collaboration with Google Arts and Culture. Together — and with help from you and technology — they form an opera. Blob Opera, to be specific.

Li and his colleagues developed a machine learning model that was trained using the voices of four real-life opera singers, with an aim to “create an interactive experiment anyone can enjoy, regardless of musical skills,” he wrote in a post on the Experiments With Google blog.

Those singers — Christian Joel (tenor), Frederick Tong (bass), Joanna Gamble (mezzo-soprano) and Olivia Doutney (soprano) — sang and recorded a total of 16 hours of audio material. From there, the machine learning model listened to the recordings and gained an understanding of what opera singing sounds like, then developed the voices that would form Blob Opera.

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How to conduct Blob Opera

True, it takes practice, practice, practice to end up in Carnegie Hall, but you only need to be on a device connected to the internet to conduct Blob Opera. To get started, follow these instructions from Li:

Drag the blobs up and down to change pitch. Or forwards and backwards for different vowel sounds. Another machine learning model lets the blobs respond to and harmonise your input in real time.

Really, it’s more than just conducting: you’re able to create and record original compositions for Blob Opera, then share them with your friends, family and others who have probably never even hinted at having any desire to listen to a computer-generated opera number, but will surely thank you for this gift.

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