How did AI help complete Beethoven’s 10th symphony?

The full recording of the composition (played by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn) was released last month—the culmination of a project which began in 2019 and aimed to construct the 10th symphony, which Beethoven was unable to complete due to his deteriorating health and subsequent demise in 1827.

Ahmed Elgammal, the Director of the Art & AI lab at Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, led a group of computer scientists who worked with music historians, musicologists and composers to teach Beethoven’s creative process to the Artificial Intelligence (AI). “At one point, one of the music experts on the team said that the AI reminded him of an eager music student who practices every day, learns, and becomes better and better.” writes Elgammal in his article detailing the project in The 74.

Elgammal ends his article on a hopeful note: “We anticipate some pushback to this work—those who will say that the arts should be off-limits from AI, and that AI has no business trying to replicate the human creative process. Yet when it comes to the arts, I see AI not as a replacement, but as a tool—one that opens doors for artists to express themselves in new ways.”

The use of AI in the music industry has raised legal and ethical concerns. In January, the voice of the late South Korean singer Kim Kwang-seok was recreated by the AI company, Supertone. Fans were able to hear him sing a ballad—25 years after his passing—on an entertainment show aired by South Korean television network SBS.

“SBS paid a one-off fee to his family for featuring his voice in the show, as they did with other cast members…neither SBS nor Supertone plan to release Kim’s song as a single,” writes Gawon Bae for CNN.

When it comes to ownership, the rules regarding a song or composition created by AI is not clearly defined by law. This raises copyright-related queries over future projects. Recently, videos created using deepfake technology, in which an individual’s face is replaced using AI, have been used to spread misinformation and for criminal purposes such as making non-consensual pornography.

Supertone acknowledges the potential dangers of recreating a person’s voice on their website, “We have also been deeply concerned about the problems that can arise when this technology is used for the wrong purpose.” Yet, it is expanding its activities—with a $3.6-million investment from Hybe, the South Korean company behind celebrated music group BTS.

Hybe’s acquisition also of US-based Ithaca Holdings, which manages artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, makes it one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world—and its investment in AI is indicative of the direction the music industry is taking.

The worrying reality is that current copyright and other regulations do not suffice in the face of the sweeping changes taking place. Nicola Davis quotes Prof Stuart Russell, the founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, in The Guardian: “The AI community has not yet adjusted to the fact that we are now starting to have a really big impact in the real world…That simply wasn’t the case for most of the history of the field—we were just in the lab, developing things, trying to get stuff to work, mostly failing to get stuff to work.”

Will legislation on AI’s growing applications catch up quickly with these developments?