On the intersection of artificial intelligence and Beethoven’s uncompleted Tenth Symphony

Posted on: October 13, 2021

“An artificial-intelligence-created realization of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony called ‘Beethoven X: The AI Project’ … is based on the skimpy sketches he left when he died,” writes Jan Swafford in Thursday’s (10/7) VAN magazine. “Artificial intelligence can mimic art, but it can’t be expressive at it because … it doesn’t know what expressive is…. If I turned on the radio and heard this music, would I guess it was by Beethoven? No…. The scoring is competent … but … aimless and uninspired…. Could this computer effort pass for bad Beethoven? Again, no…. When Beethoven wrote junk it was usually because that’s what he intended to do…. The best example is the gloriously trashy ‘Wellington’s Victory.’ … One of Beethoven’s familiar devices is to compress a rhythm to goose the momentum.… Our computer didn’t know how to keep the momentum going. The rhythms just sit there, headed nowhere in particular…. Near the end of his life Beethoven told a friend that in the Tenth Symphony he was attempting to discover ‘a new kind of gravity.’ We’ll never know what he meant by that, but we can dream about it. Dreaming being, yet again, something a computer can never do.”