Can Artificial Intelligence do what the great composers couldn’t in their time? Beleaguered telecommunications company Huawei, reeling from an international sanctions-busting and trade secrets theft scandal, has made more positive headlines in the classical music world by completing Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony using AI. Schubert began the symphony in 1822, but had only completed two movements (plus a nearly completed piano score of a Scherzo) when he died in 1828. While a number of composers and musicologists have ‘finished’ the work, including Felix Weingartner, Gerald Abraham and Brian Newbould, and Robin Holloway, now, apparently, there’s an app for that.
“At Huawei, we are always searching for ways in which technology can make the world a better place. So we taught our Mate 20 Pro smartphone to analyse an unfinished, nearly 200-year-old piece of music and to finish it in the style of the original composer,” said Walter Ji, President CBG, Huawei Western Europe. “We used the power of AI, to extend the boundaries of what is humanly possible and see the positive role technology might have on modern culture. If our smartphone is intelligent enough to do this, what else could be possible?”
Analysing the timbre, pitch and meter of the existing first two movements of the symphony, Huawei’s AI model generated melodies for third and fourth movements. Emmy award-winning film composer Lucas Cantor then arranged an orchestral score à la Schubert.
“My role was to draw out the AI’s good ideas and fill in the gaps to ensure the final output was ready to be played by a symphony orchestra,” said Cantor. “The result of this collaboration with AI proves that technology offers incredible possibilities and the significant and positive impact it can have on modern culture.”
Huawei’s version of the completed symphony will be premiered at London’s Cadogan Hall on February 4.