Cannes Lions

BEETHOVEN X - THE AI PROJECT

DDB GERMANY, Berlin / DEUTSCHE TELEKOM / 2022

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

In 2020, Germany celebrated the 250th birthday of its most renowned composer: Ludwig van Beethoven. A creative genius and one of the most radical innovators of all time.

The country’s leading telco-provider Telekom wanted to honor the composer with a unique project. They gathered world-renowned AI experts, musicologists, music historians and composers to see if Beethoven’s mind could be recreated though an artificial intelligence. Their goal? To complete his last symphony – an invaluable masterpiece that Beethoven couldn’t finish during his much too short life.

By connecting artificial intelligence with human emotion and creativity, Telekom wanted to turn technology into a tool that connects people from all over the world. A commitment that is so deeply engrained in the brand Telekom, that they made it their tagline: “Erleben, was verbindet” (“Experiencing connection”).

Idea

When Beethoven died, he left behind 40 sketches for a final 10th symphony. 200 years later, we asked ourselves: Can an artificial intelligence, enhanced by human emotion, complete Beethoven's legacy?

At the time, AI couldn’t continue a piece of music for more than a few seconds. Now, it had to create an entire symphony from a few sketches.

A team of world-renowned AI experts, music historians, musicologists and composers had to create a fundamentally new generation of AI. One that studied Beethoven’s music and his influences, but that also learned to compose on its own. And composing it did: hundreds of phrases each night! The experts selected the most powerful phrases – and gave it back to the AI to elaborate upon.

After three years of work and two million notes, Beethoven’s 10th symphony was finally completed. Though the intense collaboration between artificial intelligence and human emotion.

Strategy

In order to get the computational process going, it was necessary to make many musical decisions beforehand. The experts had to decide which kind of music they were trying to generate and what constituted relevant examples to learn from.

The first step was to decipher and interpret Beethoven’s sketches. What did he have in mind for his 10th symphony? A vision of the work was created – and accordingly an AI that could translate this vision into music.

Having studied Beethoven and the composers who had influenced him, the AI started to create. At a speed and quantity, like no human had done before! The experts compared the AI’s compositions with what Beethoven had in mind for his last symphony. They selected the phrases that Beethoven would most likely have chosen himself. Then, they let the AI continue those phrases, refining the composition day by day.

Execution

BEETHOVEN X was introduced to the public via a livestream press conference in 2019, including a live performance of one of the AI’s earlier compositions. Two years later, when the 10th symphony had been completed, a free audio teaser was released on Spotify leading people directly to the livestream event. An online film additionally advertised the free livestream event all over social media and targeted different audiences.

On the 9th of October 2021, the premiere of Beethoven’s 10th symphony could finally take place. In the Telekom Forum Bonn, 900 guests experienced how the composer’s last sketches had been turned into live music – performed by star organist Cameron Carpenter and the famous Beethoven Orchestra Bonn. Another 2500 guests attended the second concert at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, while thousands of viewers followed the events on Telekom's own TV channel and via a free livestream on the website.

Outcome

When “Beethoven X – The AI Project” was introduced to the public in 2019, both journalists and bloggers started to report on the project, keeping up with its development and supplying details to its tech background. Shortly after the second concert in October, 590+ publications were counted in print and online media, radio and TV. Overall, a press coverage worth 851 million Euros was reached by the end of October as well as an ad value of 16,4 million Euros (still counting).

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