The audience of Lausanne, Switzerland, had the opportunity to hear a new symphony for the musician Beethoven, which was installed by artificial intelligence. According to the French press, the musical work was inspired by a handful of notes Beethoven wrote, possibly parts of his Tenth Symphony. This new work was accomplished using artificial intelligence just a few hours before the Nexus Orchestra, led by Guillaume Bernet, took over the nascent composition.
“We need some time to print copies of the notes and head to the site, where we will conduct rehearsals, to play it in the evening of the same day in a concert,” Bernet told AFP, days before the premiere of “Beethoven 10.1”. And the letters “ANN” added to Beethoven’s name in this new project are just the initials for “artificial neural network” in English, a form of artificial intelligence.
“So we don’t really know what the outcome will be,” Bernier added. There is a somewhat unexpected aspect, but what needs to be understood is that it is not the outcome that is important. It is the same process.”
Beethoven 10.1 is led by Florian Colombo, a cellist who has devoted several years to the project of inculcating compositions in the manner of the greatest musicians in history.
Florian Colombo opened the file “Symphony 10.1” on a large screen, and with one click he obtained the final note of the piece, which takes about five minutes.
After some modifications by Guillaume Bernet, the piece was played to the audience the same evening, awaiting another performance the next day.
The commander commented, “It’s great to see…it’s a birth.” He added, “It seems to me musically that the piece belongs to the era of Beethoven, so it can be considered a success.”
During the rehearsal, Florian Colombo said: “Of course I feel very moved, and I see the smiles on the faces of the musicians (…). The piece has Beethoven’s touch, but it’s actually Beethoven (with artificial intelligence), it’s something worth discovering.”
He noted that “some things are very good, while others are a little out of style, but they are interesting.” It may lack a spark of genius.”
The first thing Florian Colombo, a researcher in informatics at the prestigious Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, worked on was to teach artificial neural networks using Beethoven’s 16 quartets, before having this AI technique take over a piece from the parts of what would have been the Tenth Symphony.
“The idea is to click on the button and get the full notes of the entire symphony orchestra, without any interference other than the work I did in the first place,” he explained. He pointed out that he started working on this project “almost ten years ago.”
The researcher – who is preparing to set up a startup – aims to make music composition accessible to everyone, and “provide these tools to professional musicians, amateur musicians and orchestras, so that everyone, including the general public (…) can compose in an entertaining way and use these tools to express express themselves in composing music, creating notes suitable for specific needs or just for fun.”
As for those who see it as an insult to Beethoven, Guillaume Bernet has an answer ready: “It is not blasphemy at all. The composers of that time were all avant-garde. They were always looking for new ways to work.”
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