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AI Finishes Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony

Can artificial intelligence compose music as well as Ludwig van Beethoven?

By:  |  November 1, 2021  |    608 Words
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New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9″(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

Many classical music composers over history had pieces of music that were left unfinished. Beethoven is among those who had an incomplete piece of music. But artificial intelligence (AI) could come to the rescue and satisfy the desire for more great music.


Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist who lived about 200 years ago. He’s thought to be one of the greatest classical composers. Some of the most popular compositions are “Für Elise” and the Ninth Symphony, which contains the “Ode to Joy” melody. Beethoven is especially well known for his symphonies.

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Ludwig van Beethoven (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

A symphony is a long and complex piece of music played by an orchestra. It normally has four sections, or “movements,” each with a different mood. The Parker Symphony Orchestra described a symphony like this:

“One basic format is a brisk and lively first movement followed by a slow and lyrical second movement, a dancing third movement, and a virtuosic finale.”

AI “Completes” Beethoven’s Tenth

Three years before Beethoven’s death in 1827, the German composer started work on his “Symphony No. 10,” but he never finished it. All that we have today are some rough drafts of the symphony’s first movement. But these fragments have been brought to life by artificial intelligence technology.

The project, started in 2019, used notes and finished compositions from Beethoven’s entire music catalog to figure out how the composer might have written his Tenth Symphony. Over 18 months, the AI technology created two 20-minute movements to “finish” the symphony.

Could the computer’s music fool fans of classical music into thinking the finished symphony was actually written by Beethoven? Dr. Ahmed Elgammal was the lead computer scientist on the project. He said the team wanted to see whether an audience would know where Beethoven’s notes ended and where the AI started.

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Beethoven’s music score for the last movement of the ninth symphony.

He told The Conversation:

“This was a tremendous challenge. We had to teach the machine how to take a short phrase, or even just a motif, and use it to develop a longer, more complicated musical structure, just as Beethoven would have done…

“We challenged the audience to determine where Beethoven’s phrases ended and where the AI … began. They couldn’t.”

Does this project mean that art and music will be left to computers in the future? Some people liked the mixture of technology and art, while others disagree. The professor believes that AI can be “a tool – one that opens doors for artists to express themselves in new ways.”

The symphony premiered at the Telekom Forum in Bonn, Germany. A recording was released on the same day.

A Liszt of Other AI Experiments

GettyImages-1147758553 Ludwig van Beethoven

(Photo by Photo Media/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

In recent years, scientists have tried other experiments to do with music and computer programs.

In March 2019, Google made a machine that would rewrite people’s music in the style of another classical composer, J.S. Bach.

A few months later, Huawei used the AI in a smartphone to create new melodies.

Classical Music for the New Generation?

It has been said over the years that classical music is dead, but could that be true? Many of the most famous pieces from classical composers have millions of views on YouTube and are often featured in movies, so it is safe to say that classical music is not going anywhere.

By combining classical music with modern technology, a whole new generation could become interested in this terrific style.

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