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Beethoven's 10th Symphony completed by an AI


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Few composers are as revered and exalted as Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). His status as a pillar saint of music is matched by the way the maestro appears in paintings: with a determined gaze and wild mane. The question now is: Does the content of this ingenious fuzzy head fit into a trouser pocket?


The idea does not seem far-fetched. At least, a team of musicologists and programmers has now attempted to develop a "Beethoven AI" that fits on a USB stick. AI stands for artificial intelligence. The idea is to feed a computer with as much information as it needs to be able to compose like Beethoven once did - and to complete something that the master was unable to do before his death. A 10th symphony.



The result of this experiment can be heard - after some delay due to the Corona pandemic - from this Friday on on CD ("Ludwig van Beethoven X - The AI Project") and at a world premiere of the Beethoven Orchestra conducted by Dirk Kaftan. The venue is the Telekom Forum in Bonn. The Group initiated the project.



The 10th Symphony is not just any piece, but a kind of gaping wound in music history. At times, its existence was even doubted by the music world - the myth surrounding Beethoven's "Ninth" was too great. The common opinion: the master himself had completed his symphonic work with the final chorus "An die Freude".




However, it was by no means like that. "Beethoven usually worked on two symphonies at the same time. So while he was writing the 9th Symphony, he was also putting ideas on paper for "the other one," as he called it," says Matthias Röder, director of the Karajan Institute (Salzburg), who led the KI team. What remained, he says, were sketches - ultimately ideas - at a very early stage of composition. Beethoven died before he completed the 10th Symphony.



Röder and his colleagues - including AI expert Ahmed Elgammal and composer Walter Werzowa - pored over this material. They found notes, but sometimes words, such as spiritual thoughts. From this, they tried to deduce what kind of work the composer might have had in mind. What direction. And they fed the AI - with Beethoven, but also with music by contemporaries like Mozart or Haydn. They trained it.



You have to think of the actual creation process as a kind of ping-pong game between humans and machines. The AI made suggestions based on its data as to how a particular passage could be continued - and the team of experts looked at it, made their selection and played the decision back into the system.


So the project shouldn't be seen as giving sole control to a computer. The selection of pieces, which the AI used to learn what Beethoven sounds like, the selection process - human decisions were required at many points.



There have already been frequent attempts to have computer programs compose. Among them was the "completion" of the 8th Symphony in B minor by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). A company from the communications industry was also involved in this, smartphone manufacturer Huawei.



When you dare to tackle a great composer like Beethoven, criticism is inevitable. However, those involved emphasize that they do not want to knock the genius off his pedestal. This is an experiment to show how creative collaboration between human and artificial intelligence can work.


"We don't want to say with this project that a machine can suddenly compose better than Beethoven," Röder explains. But he also says, "If Beethoven were alive today, he would try out all these technologies. I'm convinced of that."

Excerpts from https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.welt.de/wissenschaft/article234238318/Kuenstliche-Intelligenz-Computer-komponiert-Beethovens-10-Sinfonie.html





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Album: Beethoven X - The AI Project; 

Symphony No. 10 for organ & orchestra (fragments of movements 3 & 4 in the completion by artificial intelligence).

+Symphony No. 8




My opinion is that I find it extremely innovative and exciting to create something like this with AI. Of course, the intention to compose Beethoven's 10th is lurid and not even necessary, but I think that AI will give the possibility to support humans in composition in the future, e.g. also in film music.

About the music itself: IV is, in my opinion, much better, closer to Beethoven (or not just a rip-off of Beethoven's Fifth's fate motif) and better designed than III. The organ, well I don't know, it doesn't fit in. The first minute and a half of IV is actually the best part. I think it's a pity that the motif contained therein was not taken up more.

Overall, I still think every minute of Beethovens complete (symphonic) work is better than this, as it should be.

But in any case, the project is really cool. I'm curious about the development in this new area.

What do you think about this?

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It's problematic if we think of it as a completion.  Fine if it's for fun.  It is basically using tropes, devices, and patterns that Beethoven was used to doing and applying it to sketches.  That is very different from what Beethoven would do.  Composers frequently have sketches that are incomplete or tossed out.  Secondly, they greatly refine the work as they compose.  Take a look at this and how Beethoven evolved the Symphony No. 5 as he was writing it.  Part of the genius of Beethoven is how he shaped and crafted the ideas into poetry.  The AI can't do that....yet.



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  • 4 months later...
On 09/10/2021 at 2:56 AM, Michael G. said:

"If Beethoven were alive today, he would try out all these technologies. I'm convinced of that."


I dunno, he was antediluvian :P 


On 09/10/2021 at 4:21 AM, Michael G. said:

I think that AI will give the possibility to support humans in composition in the future, e.g. also in film music.


Hey that's a great point, especially with all the discussion about additional composers and ghost composers. Maybe AI will help a composer complete a film score on a tight schedule, and maybe small changes to chase the cut of the film could be automated. Perhaps one day Hans will write his sketchbook and hand it off to AI to fill in the actual film cues? Perhaps with guidance from him and the director as to what tone is needed in various scenes? Certainly variations on a theme are something a computer could conceivably handle.


Thanks to AI, Hans will receive sole credit on a score again!

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Musicologist Barry Cooper once recorded a 1st movement that he completed of Beethoven's 10th. Interesting, and you can hear fingerprints of the maestro there, but ultimately it doesn't amount to much as a whole, unfortunately.



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15 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

They don't want to be listed to by you either.


How to write pleb-only music:


Lots of basic square harmonies that don't go anywhere

Dependent on only being really loud and surprising, almost unlistenable. Repetitive notes

Not much orchestrative thought, just toss in the most common instruments and make them sound weird like they're being played with anger

Patterns and melodies that aren't catchy, that just pause awkwardly everywhere and drag on

Orchestration that always sounds incomplete and lacks modern imagination


Bert's music is not bad for popular music, there are much worse composers. Sym 6 is decent, 9 sounds like a cacophony of primitive ideas.

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