Artificial Intelligence Helps Complete Beethoven's Unfinished Symphony


Word Count

395 words

Reading Level

Listen to Article

Beethoven composed works in all genres of classical music (Credit: Joseph Karl Stieler/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Ludwig van Beethoven is undoubtedly one of the greatest musicians that ever lived. The German composer and pianist completed 722 musical works— including nine symphonies — despite being completely deaf during the last decade of his life. Unfortunately, the maestro died while still working on his 10th Symphony. Now, a team of musicians and scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) to complete the artist's final masterpiece.

Dr. Matthias Röder first came up with the idea to complete the composition in 2019. The director of the Karajan Institute in Austria thought it was an appropriate way to celebrate Beethoven's 250th birthday in December 2020. He began by enlisting an international team of music experts to help him with the gargantuan task. They included music composer Walter Werzowa and Dr. Ahmed Elgammal, the creator of an innovative AI technology for the art market.

A page of Beethoven’s notes for his planned 10th Symphony (Credit: Beethoven House Museum, CC BY-SA)

Elgammal and his colleagues started the process by familiarizing the AI software initially with a broad range of classical music, and then, narrowed it to just Beethoven's work. Meanwhile, Werzowa and his group tried to decipher the rough sketches and the handful of notes that detailed Beethoven's plans for the 10th Symphony.

The team then began the deliberate task of feeding the AI software musical notes from the unfinished composition. Elgammal says that since music is very structured and mathematical, AI can predict the next note reasonably accurately. However, it starts to deviate from the central theme after a few notes. To stay true to Beethoven's original composition, Elgammal's team sent Werzowa hundreds of AI-generated musical note variations every evening. Werzowa would listen to them and then select the one that he thought was closest to what the artist would have written. The AI team would add the music and rerun the software to generate the next suggestions. And piece by piece, the team was able to complete Beethoven's 10th Symphony!

Beethoven's 10th Symphony was performed by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn on October 9, 2021 (Credit: Deutsche Telekom)

The composition — delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — debuted at the Telekom Forum in Beethoven's birthplace of Bonn, Germany, on October 9, 2021. Not surprisingly, the AI-generated masterpiece is causing some controversy. Critics believe technology should not be used to replicate the human creative process. Elgammal and his team agree with their stance and say their AI software is not out to replace humans — it is just a tool to help artists to express themselves in new ways.



Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
  • pandamaam29
    pandamaam29about 19 hours
    I love music
    • aestheticblues
      Ok, instead of artificial intelligence, how about they find his family and they finish the piece. I mean they have a say in this too, right?
      • haleycutiedj
        I don't think he has family, and even if they do they might not know how to read it.
      • minecrafter68
        i love all types of music and i really like classical to
        • haleycutiedj
          i play the trumpet but i will never get to that level! WOW!😮
          • texasgal2011
            • cheeeeeeese
              In band I am really close to the page that has ode to joy on it.
              • doglover17735
              • hockeygirl56
                That's really cool. I've always liked Beethoven music.
                • hga12387
                  hga1238730 days
                  rest in peace beethoven
                  • castus
                    castus30 days