2020 is clearly not the year for caroling. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the festivities of singing. Through a quirky new project from Google, you can assemble your own four-person opera and have them sing to you.
Okay, you’ve got me. They aren’t actually people. They’re blobs—or what I’d describe as a Play-Doh shell with a face. This is the Blob Opera.
Blob Opera is a web-based music creator that you can master instantly. You start with one blob, your bass, and stretch it with your cursor until it expels your desired key. Then you bring in more blobs—a tenor, mezzo-soprano, and soprano. By pulling them left or right, you can change the vowel they sing, and by dragging them up and down, you alter their pitch.
Then it’s time to jam. You just grab one of those blobs and pull. As you twist and yank your choir of monsters, the effect is like autotune for chamber music. No matter what you do, it all sounds good, because they’re singing in the same key. You can actually record your creation to share, but if you feel lazy, you can give up manual control, and simply have the choir sing you festive holiday songs all on their own.
But the most impressive part of the project, beyond this silly-yet-intuitive user interface, is that the singers you hear aren’t the recordings of actual people but a piece of software imitating them. To build this system, Google recorded hours of classic opera singers, and used that data to train an AI model to know and mimic what an opera singer should sound like.
The resulting simulation notably doesn’t feature any specific words, but let’s be honest, who among us is really translating all that Italian when we listen to La Bohème? Overall, Google has created a convincing facsimile of a trained operatic choir. And it’s just so, so fun to make them sing whatever you want.