AI is completing Beethoven’s unfinished symphony

16th December 2019 

Artificial Intelligence is being used by a team of musicologists and programmers to complete world-famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s unfinished tenth symphony in the run-up to his 250th birthday.

The tenth symphony was started by Beethoven alongside his famous ninth, which includes the well-known Ode To Joy. When the German composer died in 1827, only a few notes and drafts of the tenth symphony were found.

Critics expressed concern that the exercise, using AI technology, risks failing to do justice to the celebrated German composer. According to Euronews, the team of musicologists remarked that the first few months yielded results that sounded repetitive and mechanical.

Matthias Roeder, the project lead from the Herbert von Karajan Institute, claims the AI’s latest compositions are far more promising.

Euronews reports Mr Roeder as having said: “An AI system learns an unbelievable amount of notes in an extremely short time….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. We’re pleased that it’s making such big strides.”

The group is reportedly in the process of training an algorithm that will eventually produce a completed symphony. The algorithm is being fed Beethoven’s work, leaving the computer to improvise the rest of it. After this process is completed, the team corrects the improvisation so that it fits with Beethoven’s style.

This is not the first exercise of this kind to be attempted. Huwai, China’s largest telecoms company, developed AI technology to complete Schubert’s eighth symphony, receiving mixed reviews.

The completed tenth symphony will be performed by a full orchestra on 28th April 2020 in Bonn, as part of the celebrations taking place on Beethoven’s work. The year of celebrations begins today with the opening of his home in Bonn as a museum after renovation works have taken place.

The new Beethoven-Haus will be open to the public as from 17th December with new areas, such as a music room, treasury with original manuscripts, area for temporary exhibitions, shop and café is open.

The year of celebrations begins on December 16th with the opening of his home in Bonn as a museum after renovation.


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