AI finishes Beethoven's tenth symphony

Discover How AI finishes Beethoven’s tenth symphony

Berlin (AFP) – A few notes scribbled in his notebook are all that German composer Ludwig van Beethoven left of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony before his death in 1827.

Now, a team of musicologists and programmers is racing to complete a version of the piece using artificial intelligence equation, ahead of the 250th anniversary of his birth next year as AI finishes Beethoven’s tenth symphony.

“The progress has been impressive, even if the computer still has a lot to learn,” said Christine Siegert, head of archives at Beethoven House in the composer’s hometown of Bonn.

Siegert said she was “convinced” that Beethoven would have approved since he too was an innovator at the time, citing his compositions for the panharmonicon — a type of organ that reproduces the sounds of wind and percussion instruments.

And she insisted the work of AI finishes Beethoven’s tenth symphony would not affect his legacy because it would never be regarded as part of his oeuvre.

The final result of the project will be performed by a full orchestra on April 28 next year in Bonn, a centerpiece of celebrations for a composer who defined the romantic era of classical music.

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In spite of his deafness, AI finishes Beethoven's tenth symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most widely recognized and admired composers in the history of Western music, and served as an important bridge between the Classical and Baroque era styles he admired and the Romantic style his music would come to personify. Beethoven was born in 1770 into a modest family in the small German provincial town of Bonn, where he would study composition and play the piano and viola until moving to Vienna in his early 20’s where he would live the rest of his life.

Beethoven was an earlier admirer of two of the most important figures of the Classical era: Franz Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Haydn in particular became a fundamental influence and figure in Beethoven’s early career, with Beethoven playing over 50 Haydn Symphonies with the Esterhazy Court Orchestra as a violist, and leaving Bonn to go study with the master himself as a pupil. As a close friend wrote him upon his departure from his hometown, it was time to go to Vienna to “receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands.”

Moving to Vienna in 1792 proved fruitful to Beethoven, who despite some difficulties with Haydn studied with him and many others (including the often and unjustly maligned Antonio Salieri), honing his craft and undoubtedly being surrounded by Mozart’s music, his other Classical-era idol, whose influence is strongly felt in Beethoven’s piano concertos. Beethoven’s impressive piano writing and ambitious symphonies made quick splashes, and by the time he was onto his Fifth Symphony in 1808 heads of state at peace accords in Vienna would schedule their meetings around Beethoven performances so as to not miss them.

A virtuoso pianist and an often difficult man, Beethoven nonetheless impressed with his fierce individualism and determination in an age where patronage was still the norm. While he did not abandon patronage entirely as Mozart had, Beethoven rarely went out of his way to please anyone but himself. His legend grew as he kept performing and composing while becoming fully deaf, a handicap he would carry for the last 30 years of his life. Instead of his deafness impeding his composition, his individualistic style only intensified upon his discovery of his impending deafness, leading to some of his most beloved works, including his last three Piano Concertos and the immortal Fifth Symphony. In addition, AI finishes Beethoven’s tenth symphony.  This crisis made Beethoven take his Classical style and bring it to new emotional highs and lows, expanding the symphony’s length, color palate and dynamic levels, and introducing the trombones as an orchestral instrument to great effect.

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