When he died, in 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven He had only written some notes of what would be his tenth symphony. Now a team of musicologists and computer scientists want to complete it, with the help of artificial intelligence.
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The final result will be presented. on April 28, 2020 in Bonn (Germany) and it should be one of the highlights of the festivities of the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Beethoven had started working on this symphony in parallel to the famous Novena and the Hymn of Joy, today anthem of the European Union. But the composer left the Tenth and when he died, at 57, he had only written a few notes, some diagrams and some sketches.
Two and a half centuries later, an artificial intelligence program first analyzed all the composer's works and then, thanks to his voice treatment algorithms, he began to propose options to expand the score. The project was initiated by Deutsche Telekom, based in Bonn, the composer's hometown.
But in addition to an advertising operation for the “Beethoven year“, the group also wants to develop its technologies, in particular voice recognition.
“Like language, the music is composed of small units, letters or notes, which when combined, make sense“, a spokeswoman for the group explains to AFP. The first trials, a few months ago, were considered too mechanical and repetitive, but the latest attempts are more convincing.
“The development – compared to previous tests – is impressive, even if the computer still has a lot to learn“Christine Siegert, director of the archives and research department of the Beethoven House in Bonn, told AFP.
According to this Beethoven specialist, the composer's work will not be “distorted” because the previous creations are not part of the project “and the original fragments of the Tenth Symphony are only limited work tracks”.
Siegert says he is “convinced” that the composer would not have opposed this type of initiative since he himself was a “visionary” in his time. But British composer and musicologist Barry Cooper, who tried to complete the first movement of the Tenth, has more doubts.
“I heard an excerpt. It was nothing like a convincing reconstruction of what Beethoven would have wanted to do, even taking into account computerized sound and the absence of contrast between loud and soft sounds, “Cooper told AFP.
But this professor at the University of Manchester, author of several books on the composer, admits, however, that “there is room for improvement (…) In any interpretation of Beethoven's music, there is a risk of distorting your intentions“and in this case the” risk “of misrepresenting work is even greater, he says.
In the past there were similar initiatives with works by other great musicians such as Gustav Mahler, Johan Bach or Franz Schubert, with varied results. In early 2019, for example, the Chinese giant Huawei tried to complete the unfinished Schubert Symphony.
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But when the scores composed of the so-called machine learning were interpreted by the London Session Orchestra they sounded – according to the European press – as the soundtrack of a Hollywood movie and not as a work of the Austrian composer.