AI: Making New Music, And Finishing What Beethoven Started

Professor Ahmed Elgammal recently published an article over at The Conversation about his work as part of the artificial intelligence startup Playform AI. He and his team have used AI to complete Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony, and plan to premiere the work in Bonn, Germany on October 9, 2021.

It’s an intriguing read — the AI team worked in collaboration with composers and musicologists, using short notes, sketches, and completed works left by Beethoven to unravel his intent and construct an AI that could emulate his work.

Ultimately, they ended up with an AI that was able to fool an audience of journalists and music experts alike.

“We challenged the audience to determine where Beethoven’s phrases ended and where the AI extrapolation began. They couldn’t.

A few days later, one of these AI-generated scores was played by a string quartet in a news conference. Only those who intimately knew Beethoven’s sketches for the 10th Symphony could determine when the AI-generated parts came in.”

We’ll get to hear the completed work for ourselves when it premieres this Saturday.

AI Music Is Weird

While the work of Elgammal and Playform AI is likely on another level, there are also a number of AI “songs” on YouTube, created by the OpenAI Jukebox. The way it works is a bit weird: the AI is a neural net trained with 1.2 million songs, and users can feed it different pieces, along with lyrics, to either create something new or continue preexisting songs.

Here’s an album in the style of The Beatles. There’s also an alternate version of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” with new lyrics including “you will get spaghetti and burger” and “make me sip that tea.”

And since we’re in the Halloween season, maybe check out the AI’s multiple versions of Thriller.

There’s a horror movie in here somewhere (if it hasn’t been made already), about a post-apocalyptic world where humans vanished, but AI lived on, attempting to continue human culture in the unsettling Frankenstein-esque way only an AI can.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.