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Artificial Intelligence concludes Beethoven's unfinished work

The 10th Symphony was one of the emblematic works of the German composer

Enrique R
Enrique R
6 min read

Any music lover who boasts of being one knows Beethoven's ninth symphony, considered by many to be his masterpiece is also the composer's last great piece of music, as his health progressively deteriorated during the following years, which is why he could never finish his tenth symphony.

Concluding the unfinished work of a great genius like Beethoven is considered practically an offense for any musician, but a group of specialists; Composers, musicologists, computer scientists, with the help of Artificial Intelligence, got down to work and offer a result that in all respects is the closest thing to the continuation of the work that the German composer would have defined.

Artificial Intelligence concludes Beethoven's unfinished work

The world waited 200 years for the completion of Beethoven's 10th Symphony

If we start from the time when the London Philharmonic Society commissioned the composer for his ninth and tenth symphonies, in 1817, the wait spans little more than 200 years.

However, until 1824 Beethoven finished the ninth, famous worldwide for the well-known "Ode to Happiness", which has been covered and used in as many arrangements, musical accessories and even advertising themes we can imagine.

The magnificence of his ninth symphony no doubt helped him weather the wait for the tenth, which was frozen with his death in 1827.

Until now, when this human team that is complemented with artificial intelligence, they managed to recreate what is supposed to be the "path" that Beethoven would choose to continue his latest symphony.

The main problem to work on the work was that the great composer did not leave a clear or defined path, most of what is preserved are annotations, some individual ideas, short sequences. You cannot talk about a topic or phrases that indicate a clear harmonic progression.

How did you manage to put together something that Beethoven would have made?

Both artificial intelligence and experts, together, use the annotations and notes together with the sequences and harmony that the author used in previous works.

In this way we understand that there will never be a 100% certainty of having what would be Beethoven's final work (getting it would be more magic than technology), but a very close work, that can be assured.

Artificial Intelligence concludes Beethoven's unfinished work

The director of Art and Artificial Intelligence explains the mechanism to conclude Beethoven's work

Ahmed Elgammal is the genius behind the show that helped achieve the achievement of concluding Beethoven's 10th Symphony with Artificial Intelligence.

From the Karajan Institute in Austria, he was contacted for being an expert in Artificial Intelligence and having projects underway that are linked to the challenge they were facing.

Elganmal explained that artificial intelligence that seeks to predict our actions already exists, in fact we use it frequently. In social networks, search engines, even email there is a "prediction program that guesses" your next word and phrase.

It does this based on what you have written before, analyzing trends, words and phrases used, including what generally responds to certain words or questions.

Something similar has been used in terms of analyzing the work and taking into account the combinations, musical phrases and other elements used by Beethoven regularly in his works.

The human team was also important, since before completing the symphony, elements had to be configured, starting with transcribing the loose papers and musical notes that Beethoven left behind.

This work was commissioned by Mark Gotham, an expert in musical applications for work with Artificial Intelligence.

Another of the key members of the team is the Austrian composer, Walter Werzowa, who was in charge of matching or combining appropriately the work of artificial intelligence with some elements of the sketches left by Beethoven on the unfinished work.

Ahmed Elgammal, with the characteristic scientific curiosity, commented how the expert musicians and composers where Robert Levin was also, a musicologist and concert pianist graduated from Harvard who already did previous works concluding works of geniuses, all these experts wanted to know the works of this kind that had been made with Artificial Intelligence.

On the other hand, scientists like Elgammal were eager to know what fragments existed, all the available elements and the opinion of the musicians about their use to complete the symphony.

Artificial Intelligence concludes Beethoven's unfinished work

The final work to complete Beethoven's 10th Symphony took 2 years

Having advanced technology in Artificial Intelligence was only part of what was necessary, the synergy between the human and specialized elements with AI was necessary, in fact the initial configuration depends largely on the analysis and elements provided by the experts.

It should be understood that there was never a question of opening a mechanical hatch, releasing incomplete scores, and picking up the perfect final work.

It is a creative process that requires genius and ingenuity, logic and a lot of specialized applied knowledge.

Other works culminated with artificial intelligence

Ahmed Elgammal mentions in a somewhat ambiguous way works to conclude Bach's unfinished works, clarifying that it is basically the melodic theme but never the harmony, which is one of the most complex elements of Bach's genius.

As for the works that are completed after the death of the author, it has been a constant in history.

In recent times , Robert Levin, a member of this team to complete Beethoven's tenth symphony, had already completed some works by Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach, a work that, as expected, aroused rejection in some composers, conductors and sectors of music at an academic / orchestral level.

Much earlier, the last work of Agustín Barrio Mangoré, Paraguayan guitarist and composer, was also completed after his death.

In fact, in this case the work had no name and upon completion it received two different titles, among its last students they called it "A Little Allowance for the Love of God", for other students of his work, the title is "The Last Tremolo". None of the titles were intended by the author while he was alive.

Will there come a wave of culmination of works of geniuses with Artificial Intelligence?

Until now, a global debate on this type of work with Artificial Intelligence has not started, but it is to be expected that we will soon have a strong controversy.

Many art lovers; painting, music, poetry, literature, they would never accept that the works of their favorite artists be finished by a machine, even with human participation.

This position is justified by the very personality of the geniuses, who did not usually accept any type of change in their works, considering it an offense that even ended with broken scores falling in the middle of the room.