If the current wave of infections has subsided by then, the world premiere of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony should take place on April 28, 2020, played by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under the direction of its chief conductor Dirk Kaftan. What sounds like fake news was announced last December in Bonn under drum rolls. The topic was recently brought up again at an “Innovation Day” as part of the Berlin “Avant Premiere”, the annual meeting of international producers, distributors, and broadcasters of music films. Michael Schuld from the Bonn-based company Telekom, seconded by Matthias Roder, the director of the Eliette and Herbert von Karajan Institute Salzburg, informed about the attempt to do little with a little and with a team of computer specialists and music experts from Beethoven’s sparse sketches for his tenth symphony to clone a four-movement work. What has been researched at universities and in the high-tech industry for a long time is to be demonstrated for the first time in a prominent example with a high public profile: the use of artificial intelligence.
The machine learns the logical relationships and structural features stored in the Beethoven snippets and extrapolates longer musical sequences from it. The specialists in both divisions ensure that it does not deviate too far from the Beethoven path. The audio samples presented in Berlin were moderately attractive. Incidentally, machine generation also has an aleatory effect: if the self-regulating computer program allows its calculatory drive to run free, it can generate an infinite number of variants of the Beethoven avatar. The two project managers avoided the idle question of whether this was art. They are realists. For them, the importance of the company is not in the aesthetic, but in the method – in the collaboration of artistically thinking people with artificial intelligence. They can rightly say that they are experimenting with a new form of creativity. But this insight does not require a Beethoven orchestra, and midi files are also sufficient.
Where the music of the future is playing
Another focus of the “Innovation Day” was on the new 8K production and transmission standard. The abbreviation hides a high-resolution image technology, supplemented by a luxurious surround sound with 22 channels with two woofers. It conveys a viewing and listening experience of unprecedented realism. The technology, developed by a consortium led by the Japanese television company NHK, was to be used on an international scale for the first time at the Olympic Games in Tokyo before it was postponed due to the Corona crisis.
In Japan itself, NHK already broadcasts numerous 8K music programs and goes on a shopping spree in Europe, always with a view to the Japanese public taste. It is served with great symphonies by Johannes Brahms and Anton Bruckner and with recordings from popular tourist destinations. The favorites are the music city of Venice, the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic or the ballets “Nutcracker” from Saint Petersburg and “Giselle” from Paris. In collaboration with Unitel, the first Beethoven cycle in 8K is created with the Vienna Philharmonic and Andris Nelsons. The new technology is still far from the mass market, but for big players, it is already a place where the future is playing. As the globalization of European classical music advances, markets develop beyond the big classical business,