An AI will finish Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony on the 250th anniversary of his birth

Busto de Ludwig van Beethoven
Imagen: iStock Photo.

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most renowned and respected German musicians and composers in history. His innovative work served as a transition between the classical and the romantic period in the Central European country and among his works stand out eternal classics of the stature of Per Elisa (Für Elise) or the manuscript of the Ninth Symphony is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Coinciding with the 250th anniversary of his birth, a team of musicologists and programmers intend to use artificial intelligence to complete the Tenth Symphony, unfinished at the time of his death, in the same style as the composer.

The project is being funded by the company Deutsche Telekom and employs a machine learning software that has been fed to all the composer’s works to be able to create an archive large enough to, by analysing it, be able to include the musical structures and resources most used by Beethoven and reproduce, in the closest possible way, the symphony that the Bonn composer would have created. Since the program itself needs a learning process to lose that automaton element and give the piece enough fluidity, project leaders say the difference from the first results to now is remarkable. “The progress has been impressive, even as the computer is still learning” says Christine Siegert, the archive manager at the Beethoven House in Bonn.

Imagen: iStock Photo.

Divided views

The tribute designed to commemorate Beethoven’s talent and genius is part of a series of events to be held from 16 December 2019 (the 249th anniversary of his death) until the same day the following year, when it will be two and a half centuries. Among other events scheduled are the renovation of the Beethoven House Museum and the exhibition of unpublished documents such as the notebooks he used when he lost his hearing. However, this recreation of the Tenth Symphony made with AI has been the most innovative and also the most controversial proposal, provoking divisions of opinion.

While people like Christine Siegert believe that Beethoven would approve the proposal since he was also an innovator in his time, Other experts and musicologists think that the initiative may disturb the legacy of an artist of the stature of Ludwig van Beethoven. To this statement, Siegert insists that the work does not affect his legacy because it would not be considered part of his work. Barry Cooper, a British composer and musicologist who wrote his own version of the first movement of the Tenth Symphony in 1988, has heard a fragment of the work carried out by the AI and claims that it didn’t sound remotely like a reconstruction of what Beethoven intended to do, but there’s room for improvement if you keep working.

Previous experiences

Other similar experiments using artificial intelligence in the reconstruction of incomplete works already took place with maestros like Bach or Mahler, although perhaps one of the most striking cases was that of Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8. In February 2019, a Huawei Mate 20 Pro Smartphone used the artificial intelligence of its system to give an end to the mysterious unfinished symphony of the Austrian composer together with the intervention of the composer Lucas Cantor. The ending of the piece, which was performed by The English Session Orchestra and directed by Julian Gallant on February 4, was considered by many of the attendees too Hollywood and more proper to a blockbuster than a Schubert composition.

Reference: TechXplore.

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