When Ludwig von Beethoven died in 1827, he left behind some musical sketches for a symphony he was never able to complete. Ever since then, Beethoven fans and musicologists have lamented what could have been.

In 2019, computer scientist Ahmed Elgammal, who works at the intersection of art and AI, was approached by Dr. Matthias Röder, the director of a music technology institute in Germany. Röder wondered whether Elgammal would be able to use machine learning to faithfully realize Beethoven’s vision.

Until then, the most AI had done was generate a short piece of music in the style of Bach. Elgammal details how a crack team of musicologists and computer scientists came together and, over the course of two years, painstakingly taught a machine Beethoven’s oeuvre and methods. Now, what might have been Beethoven’s 10th symphony is ready to be performed for the world.

Also today:

Nick Lehr

Arts + Culture Editor

Throughout the project, Beethoven’s genius loomed. Circe Denyer

How a team of musicologists and computer scientists completed Beethoven’s unfinished 10th Symphony

Ahmed Elgammal, Rutgers University

When Beethoven died, all he left behind were some sketches for his 10th Symphony. Now, thanks to the help of artificial intelligence, the composer’s vision is coming to life.

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