Researchers used algorithms to finish composing Beethoven’s 10th Symphony
Algorithms have long been driving manufacturing processes and setting the tone for everyday life. And even creativity, which for a long time was considered an unbearable sphere of human activity for artificial intelligence, is giving way to the onslaught of machines. After computers completed the unfinished compositions of Gustav Mahler and Franz Schubert, it was the turn of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.10.
Beethoven did not manage to complete his Tenth Symphony until his death in Vienna in 1827 and left only a few short sketches and notes in his drafts. Based on them, a group of experts, which included musicologists and programmers, developed a programme using AI technology to fill in the gaps in the existing fragmentary musical material and make it available for performance.
“We must assume that Beethoven took notes when he had new ideas. Sometimes he wrote them down in words and sometimes in notes,” says Matthias Röder, Director of the Karajan Institute in Salzburg and head of the international reconstruction project. Based on this fragmentary material, the machine and the experts thought together how Beethoven would continue the bars of the music he had already recorded.
The machine, which had been taught to compose like Beethoven, put other works of the composer and the music of his contemporaries into its ‘intellect’, made proposals.
“Artificial intelligence offers 20 or even 100 different versions of a sequel. And this is very interesting, because each version has the right to be, if the algorithm works well,” says Professor Robert Levin, a musicologist at Harvard University.