“Composer Franz Schubert died in 1828 [leaving] one symphony, the beautiful and infamous 8th, tantalizingly unfinished,” writes Hans van Leeuwen in Friday’s (2/8) Australian Financial Review. “At the Cadogan Hall in central London this past week, [Chinese telecommunications company] Huawei staged the world premiere of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, completed by a Mate 20 Pro smartphone that had apparently been taught to compose like the Viennese master…. Huawei in fact recruited the services of American film-score composer Lucas Cantor…. The Huawei handset’s dual neural processing unit was given a medley of 90 Schubert compositions—and also some by earlier composers who influenced Schubert. The phone then churned out melodies based on what it heard. Cantor picked out his favorites, arranged and orchestrated, and generally gave it the human touch…. Did this collaboration of man and machine produce something that sounded like Schubert? Kind of.… A finale to the fourth movement … sounded like a steroidal version of the Strauss fanfare used in 2001: A Space Odyssey…. The third movement … lacked that frisson of genuine flair and originality…. Is it possible to feel the same degree of emotional connection to music that you know was produced by a machine?”

Posted February 11, 2019