The Unsettling Nature of AI's Version of Beethoven's Symphony No. 10
- 미디어1 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jul 20 2023 12:37 PM
We typically acknowledge Symphony No. 9 as Beethoven's last. However, three years after completing Symphony No. 9 in 1827, Beethoven began working on his 10th. During the composition process, he demonstrated an enthusiastic drive, claiming that he was "discovering a new kind of musical gravity." Unfortunately, his departure from the world soon after left Symphony No. 10 incomplete.
Ludwig van Beethoven. Wikipedia
The unfinished sketches of Beethoven's Symphony No. 10 consist of around 250 notes forming some 40 phrases, each broken down into fragments of three or four bars, amounting to only 11 seconds of performance time. These disconnected yet incomplete sketches offered future musicologists a valuable resource to gauge and imagine Beethoven's inspiration. They tirelessly researched, piecing together the puzzle of which musical idea belonged to which movement.
The German telecommunications company, Deutsche Telekom, launched the 'Beethoven X: The AI Project' to commemorate Beethoven's 250th birth anniversary. The project formed a team of specialists, including AI engineers, musicologists, and Beethoven researchers, with the goal of completing Symphony No. 10 in a collaborative effort between humans and artificial intelligence. The team clarified that the project aimed not to challenge Beethoven's genius with AI, but to explore how a collaboration between humans and AI could elevate artistic imagination.
The team trained the AI on the melodies and harmonic methods that Beethoven preferred. For instance, they input a short Beethoven motif and allowed the AI to predict subsequent musical ideas, correcting errors, and seeking out more appropriate melodies. At this stage, the role of human experts was paramount. The team hypothesized that the fragments from Beethoven's sketches of Symphony No. 10 were central themes of the scherzo and rondo movements. Therefore, they concentrated on training the AI for the scherzo (typically positioned as the third movement) and the rondo (the fourth). To secure sufficient input data and distinctly reveal the musical differences from other composers, they also included works by Haydn and Mozart in the deep learning program. Robert Levin, a participating pianist and musicologist, lauded the AI's steady learning capability, describing it as an "eager student improving at an astonishing pace."
Using Beethoven's sketches, the AI composed a scherzo and rondo spanning roughly 20 minutes of performance time. The world premiere was performed by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn in Beethoven's hometown, Bonn, Germany, on October 9, 2021. However, human musicians who performed the AI-composed symphony found it challenging, criticizing the lack of a consistent emotional narrative and awkward transitions and connections of key themes.
Until now, the development of AI composition programs has been predominantly led by engineering researchers, whose main concern has been minimizing human labor. In the process of completing Symphony No. 10, AI engineers proficient in deep learning and coding oversaw the entire project.
However, if we aim to seek the artistic value and musical depth of works created by AI, musicians must play a more central role in the AI's creative process. The main reason that the AI-composed symphony sounds similar to human compositions is due to human performers. The audience's evaluation of the work is connected to the attitude towards the musicians creating the music. A substantial rejection of purely AI-created art without human artistry is evident amongst the public. Therefore, a careful approach to the question of the identity of the creative subject and the alleviation of public resistance could be seen as a priority that AI composition must overcome.
by Euna Cho, Pianist & Professor, Kyung Hee University's Humanitas College.
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