Artificial Intelligence: AI May Put the Finishing Touches to Beethoven’s Tenth

A year of celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday starts today.

The celebrations begin today in Bonn with the inauguration of Beethoven’s home as a museum after extensive renovations. This 250th year of Beethoven’s birth may be notable also in the annals of artificial intelligence (AI). That’s because machine learning algorithms will try to write the final notes of the legendary composer’s unfinished 10th symphony.

A team led by project leader Matthias Roeder, from the Herbert von Karajan Institute, has been busy training an algorithm to listen to snippets of Beethoven’s work. Its task: to learn from the music and figure out what Beethoven might have written to complete his 10th.

AI and Beethoven’s 10th symphony: tall order?

According to historical accounts, Beethoven had plans to create “a new gravitational force” in his 10th symphony.

Can AI replicate Beethoven’s vision of creating a new kind of physical force in music? Or will it just be a tame makeover of the composer’s existing body of work?

According to Roeder, however, the algorithm is making “big strides” towards the objective.

“An AI system learns an unbelievable amount of notes in an extremely short time,” said Roeder. “And the first results are a bit like with people, you say ‘hmm, maybe it’s not so great.’ But it keeps going and, at some point, the system really surprises you. And that happened the first time a few weeks ago.”

Musicians are wary

The machines are trying to produce an entire symphony where Beethoven left just a few notes scribbled in his notebook before his death in 1827.

The Beethoven Orchestra will perform the AI-generated music on April 28, 2020, in Bonn. Dirk Kaftan, the conduct of the orchestra, said it was completely new territory. “We musicians are in two minds about it.”

However, lovers of Beethoven’s music need to have no fear. According to Christine Siegert, head of archives at Beethoven House in the composer’s hometown of Bonn, the AI version will never be regarded as part of his oeuvre.

[Related Story:  The New Geneva AI Tool Automatically Learns How to Evade Censorship ]

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