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Meet Viola the Bird: a new experiment inspired by the cello

An image of a big bird handling a cello

At the Google Arts & Culture Lab, we use emerging technologies to create accessible experiences that connect us to culture in new ways online. Our latest experiment, Viola the Bird, is the world's first “bird-tuoso” in string instruments and part of our long term work with performing arts partners around the world. Fittingly, it’s the next music-meets-tech installment from David Li, creator of the Blob Opera.

Regardless of your musical ability, you can help Viola the Bird play its cello-inspired instrument, and take a playful musical journey from its home in the wild to the concert hall of its dreams.

David Li collaborated with cellists and violinists Ashok Klouda, Dave Larkin, Elizabeth Goble, Peter Wilson, Zhivko Georgiev, and music arrangers Charles Mauleverer and Martin Batchelar to develop the experiment by training a neural network — a machine learning model that can be trained on data — to understand cello and violin compositions. The neural network was then applied to create a real-time audio synthesis engine that can generate the sounds of a cello or violin based on the player’s input.

The result is an interactive music experiment that is both fun and educational. Viola the Bird is a great way for anyone to learn about string instruments and to explore their own creativity through music.

As an entry point to the string family, you can also dive into exhibits on the cello and violin on Google Arts & Culture and explore music & instruments from around the world in our dedicated music learning hub.

Ready to take a "bow"? Try out Viola the Bird now on Google Arts & Culture.

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