April 18, 2021

Can technology finish the Holy Family?

Can technology finish the Holy Family?


SawWe saw, no doubt, at an interesting time. Decades ago, the great challenge was to find answers. Today, we have them, almost all, in La Palma of our hand (thanks to the internet and mobile phones) and the challenge has taken a 180º turn: now we must ask ourselves original and even provocative questions to move forward.

In 1822, the composer Franz Schubert began to compose the Symphony no. 8, but never finished it. The experts still do not agree on the reason: it could be their poor health, distractions with new orders, boredom, blockade, and so on. What they do agree is that the Austrian musician was entering a little known field with this work, hence its captivating power.

Only the first two movements are conserved in this work, the third is scarcely sketched and the fourth was never found or written. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to finish this work. Already in the year 1927, Felix Weingartner dared with her.

100 proposals

Columbia Records held a global competition to which about 100 proposals were submitted. British experts Gerald Abraham and Brian Newbould also dared, as did Russian composer Anton Safronov, who completed the scherzo sketch and created a new finale for the symphony. And now it was Huawei's turn. If the Artificial Intelligence developed by the Chinese firm had learned, last year, to drive a Porsche, it managed to convert the sounds of a humpback whale into a love song and served as an avatar in a literature project for deaf children («StorySign »), This time Huawei dared Schubert's unfinished symphony.

With the same technology available in the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei allocated the processing power of the dual NPU (Neural Processing Unit) to analyze the timbre, tone and beat of the first and second movements of the eighth symphony. Basically, it is about studying how Schubert composed and, from that, interpreting what could have been the third and fourth parts that are missing.

The model of AI generated the melody and with that base worked after the winning composer of an Emmy, Lucas Cantor. «My role has been to extract the excellent contributions of the Artificial Intelligence and complete some aspects, in order to guarantee that the final production was ready to be performed by a symphony orchestra», explains Cantor, creator of the soundtrack of the sequel from the animated film Spirit and Dracula.

"The result of this collaboration with Artificial Intelligence – continues the renowned composer – shows that technology offers incredible possibilities, and the significant and positive impact it can have on modern culture." The finished work has been premiered this week at the emblematic Cadogan Hall in London.

And then the key question comes: can an AI be considered an artist? And, going even further, what is considered art? In 1917, the French artist Marcel Duchamp presented a urinal as a sculpture and was exhibited in an art gallery. Miquel Barceló is another example in this sector. The reality is that the definition of art is fluid and changes over time and between cultures. Today, art gestated from an Artificial Intelligence or software, such as that created by John Cage, Sol LeWitt, Harold Cohen, Karl Sims or Scott Draves, to name a few, is not widely accepted by critics. Maybe, in the future, the criterion will be extended. But it is the first time that a technological tool, as in its time was the brush, the camera or a musical instrument, is able to collaborate with the artist and suggest ideas.

No, the Huawei Artificial Intelligence did not compose a symphony, nor did it finish a classical piece. The only thing (and big) that has done for the first time in history, is to convert what was previously an inert and obedient instrument in the hands of the artist, in an option for the exchange of ideas.

It is the first time that an element that allows us to take the ideas of our mind to the physical world, brings its own. Does this mean that we have to let the Holy Family end or dare with works by Da Vinci or Mark Twain? No, what comes to say is that Artificial Intelligence can have its own ideas, just like us. And then he asks us the most interesting question: when will you recognize me as an AI (intelligent alternative)?

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