Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ Finished with the Help of AI

For 197 years composers have been fascinated with Austrian late-classical tunester, Franz Schubert’s unfinished ‘Symphony No. 8’. Finishing the work has been attempted by many across the globe since Schubert’s passing but this week saw a first for the famed half-symphony – AI has had a go at it.

The AI-assisted piece was performed last week at Cadogan Hall, London by the 66-piece English Session Orchestra with subtle lighting changes indicating where the AI had taken the compositional reins. The crowd, a mixture of music, tech and lifestyle industry invitees gave the flawless human performance a standing ovation.

A Demonstration of the Creative Power and Limitations of AI

Huawei’s Kirin 980 dual-Neural Processing Unit (NPU) examined Schubert’s original work – studying the two movements’ pitch, timbre and meter. The AI then presented Emmy award-winning composer, Lucas Cantor with options to choose from while allowing his expertise to finalise the third and fourth movements, finishing the piece.

Cantor shed some light on the process  He said, “My role was to draw out the AI’s good ideas and fill in the gaps – the result is a collaboration that shows that technology offers incredible possibilities”. Cantor praised AI as a partner, “[the AI] always wants to work, never has an attitude.”

Walter Ji of Huawei Western Europe added, “By teaching our Mate 20 Pro smartphone to analyse this almost-200-year-old piece of music and finish it in the style of the original composer we are demonstrating power of AI to extend the boundaries of what is humanly possible.”

Curious tech or music lovers can check out the performance and reactions to the symphony on social media using #UnfinishedSymphony.