Beethoven’s tenth symphony

On October ninth (2021), Beethoven’s tenth symphony was released. This work was never completed by the maestro but now Artificial Intelligence has advanced to such a stage that finishing it was possible. I presume that all the nuances that makes a Beethoven’s symphony unquestionably his were understood by the machine and extrapolated to develop a piece of music that sounds just as if the old composer had created it.

This opens up intriguing possibilities. Should we expect that other composers would receive a similar treatment? Certainly. Expect to hear Tchaikovsky’s seventh symphony or a finished version of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Perhaps the creators will be honest and say that AI helped develop them. However, one can envision that many “missing” pieces will be “found” in the cellars of old people who lived in the same town as those composers, and then auctioned off as authentic.

Talking about missing pieces…what about fine arts? How about a “missing” oil painting by Van Gogh suddenly turning up? A “Starless Night” which is a companion work of the famous “Starry Night?” I am sure a properly trained AI program can very easily figure out the colors, techniques, and the chemicals used to create those colors to create a painting that looks totally “authentic”.

This type of scam will only work if people value authenticity and are be willing to pay for it. An authentic work by Van Gogh has far more value than a print made out of it (like the one I would have hanging on my wall). That begs the question, why is it so?

If the pleasure is obtained by looking at the art and appreciating what it is conveying, what difference does it make whether it is authentic or not? The only reason I can think of is the bragging rights that accompany the acquisition of an authentic piece of work. “I can afford an authentic van Gogh and you can’t.”

If we can somehow move away from the ego that comes from owning an authentic art, then we can sit back and enjoy these new products without worrying about the fact that they are not authentic. We can live in van Gogh’s world and admire “his” new paintings every few days, and I can continue to enjoy new works by my favorite composer, Beethoven, as the dead man continues to compose symphonies and piano concertos forever.

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Ashok B. Boghani

I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.