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Algorithms fine-tuned - The digital journey taken by Beethoven’s unfinished Tenth Symphony

Budapest, October 1, 2021 12:00

It has taken close to two hundred years and the cooperation of man and technology to complete Beethoven’s unfinished Tenth Symphony . In course of the international project initiated by Deutsche Telekom, artificial intelligence composed pieces of more than 2 million notes in total in the style of the composer, and it took 730 days for international experts to complete and reveal to the world the musical composition that has existed only in sketches, so far.

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Close to two hundred years ago, during the last years of his life, Beethoven started working on another musical composition, which he never had the chance to complete, so the “unfinished” work, which has intrigued so many since, remained in the form of sketches. On the occasion of the 250 th anniversary of the famous s composer’s birth, a group of international scholars, composers, music historians and technology experts, encouraged by Telekom, decided to make an attempt to complete the work with the help of artificial intelligence, starting from the existing pieces. The symphony created as a result of the unique cooperation between man and AI will premiere in Beethoven’s birthplace, Bonn, Germany.

Can AI be an artist?

Many people will surely ask whether the work completed bases on existing fragments really reflects the composer giant’s original intentions. To bring to life the completed work in 730 days, AI had learned the composer’s total oeuvre, as well as his creative methods and characteristic style, as a result of which, even people very familiar with classical music feel that they are listening to a work by Beethoven. The system used had been developed by Prof. Dr. Ahmed Elgammal and Dr. Mark Gotham, who had exploited the similarities between music and language and perfected the algorithm based on that principle. However, human factor was not a negligible aspect in the effort made to complete the symphony. Especially, as the monotonous, machine-like sound of the sequences composed by AI had to be “brought to life” by someone. When the work of the AI was completed, Austrian composer, Walter Werzova was charged with the task to breath life into the music, by changes of tempo, among other techniques.

Art and technology

Beethoven’s symphony is not the first creative product implemented by AI. Completed versions of Schubert’s and Mahler’s unfinished pieces, Beatles songs, and even works of fine arts have been delivered by machines. “In recent years, we have seen many examples of technology making our lives easier. Now, the Beethoven X AI Project gives us a whole new perspective on the merge of human and digital worlds. All this proves that unprecedented, wonderful creative works and major progress can result from the cooperation of man and machine,” said Magyar Telekom’s Chief Commercial Officer, Melinda Szabó.

We shall look behind the scenes of the Beethoven X AI Project on October 13 with the help of an expert panel, hosted by Alinda Veiszer and consisting of Music Historian Ádám Bősze, Head of Partner Relations, Artificial Intelligence International Lab Gergely Szirtes and Magyar Telekom’s Brand Communications Director Béla Szabó. Cambridge Mobile Telematics AI expert Richárd Nagyfi will deliver the keynote speech and guide the audience behind the stage of machines composing music. The duo of Ditta Rohmann and Mihály Berecz will play some of the most classic works of Beethoven, and the evening will conclude by a short video of a rendition of the tenth Symphony by world-famous organist Cameron Carpenter and the Bonn Philharmonic Orchestra.

Attendance is free of charge, but subject to registration: https://bit.ly/Telekom_Beethoven_XThe digital journey of the unfinished symphony video: https://youtu.be/DQsBJ7Tjg5o