The Blob Opera Lets You Create Festive Music with Ease: An Interactive Experiment Powered by Machine Learning

Tis the sea­son when we’re nev­er more than one sin­ga­long Mes­si­ah away from wish­ing we had a bet­ter voice.

David Li’s inter­ac­tive Blob Opera allows us to pre­tend.

The machine learn­ing exper­i­ment takes its cues from four opera singers—soprano Olivia Dout­ney, mez­zo-sopra­no Joan­na Gam­ble, tenor Chris­t­ian Joel, and bass Fred­die Tong—who pro­vid­ed it with 16 hours of record­ed mate­r­i­al.

The result is tru­ly an all-ages activ­i­ty that’s much eas­i­er on the ears than most dig­i­tal diver­sions.

Click and drag one of the gum­my-bod­ied blobs up and down to change its pitch.

Pull them for­wards and back­wards to vary their vow­el sounds.

Once all four are in posi­tion, the three you’re not active­ly con­trol­ling will har­mo­nize like a heav­en­ly host.

You can dis­able indi­vid­ual blobs’ audio to cre­ate solos, duets and trios with­in your com­po­si­tion.

Press record and you can share with the world.

The blobs don’t sing in any dis­cernible lan­guage, but they can do lega­to, stac­ca­to, and shoot up to incred­i­bly high notes with a min­i­mum of effort. Their eyes pin­wheel when they har­mo­nize.

As Li describes to co-pro­duc­er Google Arts & Cul­ture below, it’s not the orig­i­nal singers’ voic­es we’re chan­nel­ing, but rather the machine learn­ing model’s under­stand­ing of the oper­at­ic sound.

Click the pine tree icon and the blobs will ser­e­nade you with the most-searched Christ­mas car­ols.

Begin your col­lab­o­ra­tion with Blob Opera here.

If you find your­self want­i­ng more, have a go at the inter­ac­tive Choir Li cre­at­ed for Adult Swim.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Sci­ence of Opera,” a Dis­cus­sion of How Music Moves Us Phys­i­cal­ly to Tears

The Met Opera Stream­ing Free Operas Online to Get You Through COVID-19

The Opera Data­base: Find Scores, Libret­ti & Syn­opses for Thou­sands of Operas Free Online

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She most recent­ly appeared as a French Cana­di­an bear who trav­els to New York City in search of food and mean­ing in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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