Bach's First Cello Suite, Visualized (VIDEO)

11/14/2011 11:18 am ET

Imagine Bach's first Cello Suite as a series of white dots circling and plucking white lines. Now watch it.

Using the math behind string length and pitch, the visualization represents each note as a string to help people understand better "music's underlying structure and subtle shifts," according to creator Alexander Chen.

The visualization is the first piece produced by, created by Google employee Chen as a part of his residency at Eyebeam, a non-profit art and technology center. Chen previously made, which transforms the NY subway map into a string instrument, and also worked on the wildly popular Google Doodle for Les Paul, which featured a playable guitar as part of the Google logo. Chen will take song requests for different pieces of Baroque music to use for the site.

On the site itself, users can grab the circles as they move, disrupting the system and the music it plays -- though it eventually returns to its original state.

"Bach's Prelude is actually very grid-like as well. At every moment, the piece shows a visual snapshot of an arpeggio. It shows which notes change from bar to bar, and which stay the same," Chen writes. "Classical notation is convenient and concise code. But visually, it's completely disconnected from any actual physical characteristics of sound. String lengths, on the other hand, are visual representations of the frequencies they produce."

Though Chen notes that the computerized playing was intended to express the data in the most "neutral way," he observes that little glitches in the program results in a more naturalistic sound.

"The machine becomes awkwardly expressive," he writes.

Watch the visualization below or at the site: