In this article, we will discuss whether AI can imitate the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time. To skip our detailed analysis of the nature and scope of the generative AI industry in 2023, go directly and see 10 Greatest Classical Music Composers of All Time.
According to the McKinsey Global Survey, 2023 has been nothing short of a breakout year for generative AI. Less than one year since generative AI stocks like NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDA), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ:META) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) have had their moment in the sun, one-third of McKinsey's survey respondents admit using generative AI tools like Bard and ChatGPT in at least one business function. To read about more companies which are currently dominating the generative AI market in 2023, check out our coverage of the 18 Biggest Generative AI Companies In The World. Amid recent strides, AI has risen from a topic delegated to tech employees to one of the primary concerns of top business leaders in the world; 25% of surveyed C-suite executives admit to personal use of generative AI in daily business operations. Furthermore, more than 30% of respondents from companies have said that generative AI is of utmost priority on their boards' agendas. More interestingly, 50 percent of survey respondents have claimed that their companies are likely to substantially increase investment in AI overall due to the resounding success of generative AI tools in modern business practices.
According to McKinsey, organizations which have already integrated company operations with AI capabilities have generally been the first to explore the potential of generative AI, and companies which are already basking in the profits generated by traditional AI are already outpacing competitors in their adoption of gen AI tools. Although the expected business disruption due to the rampant adoption of generative AI is more than substantial, respondents are also anticipating workforce cuts in certain areas and undergoing massive reskilling efforts to address changing organizational dynamics.
Can AI Imitate the Greatest Classical Music Composers of All Time?
Despite the fact that generative AI is postulated to become a $1.3 trillion industry by 2032 at an astonishing CAGR of 42% according to Bloomberg, the complete nature and scope of its utility is still something that experts have not exactly figured out. However, in light of the recent SAG-AFTRA strikes, employees in the music industry are contemplating the future of their employment with respect to the advent of generative AI capabilities. They constantly find themselves wondering whether gen AI can imitate the best screenplay writers or musical composers.
It would be pertinent to note that the concept of using generative AI to imitate the greatest classical music composers of all time is hardly a new phenomenon, as the history of algorithmic composition can be traced back to about 500B.C. In that time period, ancient Greek philosopher and music theorist Pythagoras expounded the intricate relationship between mathematics and music. From the 11th to the 14th centuries, music theorists like Guido d'Arezzi and Franco of Cologne established strict regulations for music notations, including but not limited to the time values of single notes, pitches, and rhythms. According to an article by NBC, due to this intricate interconnection between music and mathematics, the rules that govern the pitch and harmonic progression in classical music are fundamentally programmable and interpretable to generative AI as well. Algorithmic analyses imitate the process of human-composed classical music, which is then developed into motifs of more sophisticated melodies and themes, articulating a coherent and comprehensive form of classical music.
According to an article by The New York Times, R.A.V.E. is an excellent example of machine learning, a classification of AI technology which composers have experimented with since the early 90s. But in the face of rapid development, the arrival of publicly available, AI powered music tools and the dominating influence of high-profile initiatives by large tech companies like NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDA), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ:META) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), R.A.V.E. is now able to reconstruct its input, compress audio signals it receives, and extract the salient features of the sound to resynthesize it in its entirety. R.A.V.E. has since been used in concerts around the world. According to The Washington Post, the technology has gone far beyond the mere reconstruction of classical music. Generative AI is swiftly becoming part of popular culture. In 2019, TikTok's parent company ByteDance acquired AI music platform Jukedeck, that created tools to let users significantly resynthesize music to match videos. In 2020, Shutterstock Inc. (NYSE:SSTK) purchased assets of Amper, which auto-generated music based on specific criteria like mood, length, tempo and instrumentation.
However, according to an article by The Washington Post, although AI music is now slowly finding its way into the mainstream, the tailwinds associated with generative AI in music are not likely to be long lasting. According to composer Tod Machover:
"This technology is generating infinite music that isn’t actually composed by anybody, and that’s a terrible, scary, awful way of thinking about where music could go. I mean, really, it’s the worst kind of elevator music."
For Machover, the human touch is infinitely integral to music. He postulates that AI represents a way to exponentially enhance access to music and creative tools for making it and that it cannot imitate the works of some of the greatest classical music composers of all time. Machover's work has largely focused on the creation of what he terms "hyperinstruments" which tend to use sensors, signal processors, and software to enhance the musical power of performers, all the while building interactive musical instruments for nonprofessional musicians. He argues that generative AI tools for music today merely use machine learning to sift through archives of data to discern patterns and textures. However, its grasp over the complexities and emotiveness of music is still arbitrary. Like other generative AI tools by companies like NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDA), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ:META) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), these systems can imitate music in limited ways as they do not know much about music in general.
How are Music Companies Navigating Generative AI?
In February 2023, an AI song entitled "Heart on My Sleeve" which imitated the voices of certain popular music celebrities went viral on Spotify Technology's (NYSE:SPOT) music platform. Soon after taking it down, the company's CEO explained in a BBC interview that the legitimate use of generative AI included tools which improved music, much similar to auto-tune. However, music companies like Spotify Technology S.A. (NYSE:SPOT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) have clarified that the use of generative AI systems to impersonate and imitate the greatest classical music composers of all time and other artists will not be permitted on the platform. In keeping with this announcement, in April 2023, Spotify and Apple Music removed dozens of songs which used generative AI capabilities to clone the vocals of different artists. To know more about how leading music streaming platforms are navigating through different technological advancements, check out our article on the 15 Most Popular Music Streaming Services.
Amid strong opposition from certain artists like Hozier, music streaming companies like Spotify Technology S.A.(NYSE:SPOT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) have admitted to taking a nuanced approach. They have announced that there will be no blanket ban on music generated by artificial intelligence if the use of AI in music is deemed to be valid. However despite this announcement, Spotify Technology S.A.(NYSE:SPOT) has since decided to pilot a feature which will leverage the company's generative AI capabilities to translate podcasts into different languages while retaining the voice of the speaker. As music companies Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) deliberate over the incorporation of generative AI in their operations, it presents huge potential for companies investing in gen AI like NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDA), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Meta Platforms Inc. (NASDAQ:META).
To compile our list of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time, we decided to undertake a consensus based approach by acquiring data from a variety of different credible sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). We picked composers that appeared at least twice in these sources, assigning them a cumulative score based on the numbers at which they appeared on the lists. For example, if a composer was ranked at number 5 on one list and number 6 on another, we gave them a total score of 11. Some of the criteria we considered for inclusion in the list were originality, influence, craftsmanship, and enjoyability. We then ranked all the entries based on their cumulative scores, from highest to lowest. Where there was a tie, we broke it based on the frequency at which a composer appeared in our research.
To watch for companies which are diverting great investments in generative AI in order to capitalize on the industry's major upside potential, check out our coverage of the Top 10 Generative AI Companies to Invest In.
50 Greatest Classical Music Composers of All Time
50. Erik Satie
Insider Monkey Score: 98
Erik Satie was a French composer and pianist. He is known for his composition of the famous 'Trois Gymnopédies'.
49. Stephen Sondheim
Insider Monkey Score: 96
Stephen Sondheim was an American composer, songwriter and director. He is known for his musical theater and melodies like A Little Night Music.
48. Domenico Scarlatti
Insider Monkey Score: 95
Classified primarily as a Baroque composer, Domenico Scarlatti is known for the creation of his 555 keyboard sonatas.
47. Giuseppe Verdi
Insider Monkey Score: 92
Giuseppe was an Italian composer and was well known for composing opera music. He is regarded as one of the most individualistic composers of his generation and as one of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time.
46. Thomas Tallis
Insider Monkey Score: 90
Thomas Tallis, an English composer, was famous for his polyphonic choral works. He was a high Renaissance composer, widely regarded as one of the greatest musical minds in English history.
45. Robert Schumann
Insider Monkey Score: 89
Robert Schumann was a German composer who was known for his work in Europe's Romantic era. Much of his best-known piano pieces were composed for his wife, the famous pianist Clara Schumann.
44. Edward Elgar
Insider Monkey Score: 88
Edward Elgar was a British composer. Some of his famous works include the Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance Marches.
43. Hildegard von Bingen
Insider Monkey Score: 84
Hildegard von Bingen was a German composer and is thought to be one of the most versatile female composers of all time.
42. Anton Webern
Insider Monkey Score: 82
Born in 1883, Anton Webern was an Austrian composer. He was a key member of the Second Viennese School.
41. Sergei Rachmaninov
Insider Monkey Score: 79
Next on our list of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time is Sergei Rachmaninov, who was a Russian pianist and melodist. His Second Piano Concerto is widely regarded as one of the greatest piano concertos ever composed.
40. Pierre Boulez
Insider Monkey Score: 76
Pierre Boulez was a French composer, conductor, and modernist. He is mainly known for creating a music ensemble, Ensemble intercontemporain.
39. Morton Feldman
Insider Monkey Score: 74
Morton Feldman was an American composer who combined multiple schools of thoughts within classical music. He was a seminal figure of classical music in the 20th century.
38. Richard Strauss
Insider Monkey Score: 73
Richard Strauss was a German composer in the 20th century. He was known for his composition of tone poems and operas.
37. Sergei Prokofiev
Insider Monkey Score: 72
Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian composer, known to combine romanticism with modernist styles. He is widely regarded as one of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time.
36. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Insider Monkey Score: 67
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer, who created melodies for ballets and would create lasting impressions internationally.
35. Edgar Varese
Insider Monkey Score: 64
Edgar Varese was a French composer born in 1883. Varèse's music was indicative of timbre and rhythm and he described his music aesthetic as "organized sound".
34. Leos Janacek
Insider Monkey Score: 60
Leos Janacek was a Czech composer. He attempted to present folklore traditions through his melodious pieces.
33. Philip Glass
Insider Monkey Score: 58
Philip Glass was an American composer and pianist, and is widely regarded as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He is famous his minimalist pieces.
32. John Cage
Insider Monkey Score: 57
John Cage was an American composer and music theorist. His most famous work is a 1952 composition called 4'33.
31. Arnold Schoenberg
Insider Monkey Score: 54
Arnold Schoenberg, born in 1874, was an influential Austrian-American composer and music theorist. He was the leader of Second Viennese School and is one of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time.
30. William Byrd
Insider Monkey Score: 52
William Byrd was an English composer, famous for composing a number of refined keyboard works.
29. Charles Ives
Insider Monkey Score: 51
Charles Ives was an American composer, regarded as the pioneer of what we know today as modern music. He was famous for composing music for orchestra and chamber music.
28. Harrison Birtwistle
Insider Monkey Score: 49
Harrison Birtwistle was an English composer, known for his intricate combinations of myth and modernism.
27. Oliver Knussen
Insider Monkey Score: 45
Born in 1952, Oliver Knussen was an English composer and conductor. One of his most famous pieces is ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.
26. Alban Berg
Insider Monkey Score: 44
Alban Berg was an Australian composer, well-known for his compositions of orchestral music, chamber music, and operas.
25. Carlo Gesualdo
Insider Monkey Score: 41
Carlo Gesualdo, born in 1566, was an Italian composer who was known to create extremely progressive melodies and pieces.
24. Witold Lutoslawski
Insider Monkey Score: 40
Witold Lutoslawski was a Polish composer. He is famous for his renditions of Concerto for Orchestra and Symphony No. 3.
23. George Gershwin
Insider Monkey Score: 38
George Gershwin was an influential American composer, known for integrating jazz with classical music.
22. Steve Reich
Insider Monkey Score: 36
Steve Reich is an American composer who is well-known for his development of minimal music during the late 1960s. His music has influenced many future composers.
21. Franz Schubert
Insider Monkey Score: 35
Born in 1797, Franz Schubert was an Austrian composer who created more than 600 secular vocal works during his lifetime.
20. Kaija Saariaho
Insider Monkey Score: 32
Kajia Saariaho was a Finnish composer who worked in the contemporary era. Some of his seminal works include Verblendungen and Lichtbogen.
19. Felix Mendelssohn
Insider Monkey Score: 29
Felix Mendelssohn was a German composer, known for his compositions of operas, string symphonies, pianos and chamber music.
18. Igor Stravinsky
Insider Monkey Score: 28
Igor Stravinsky was an influential Russian composer and conductor. Some of his seminal works include ‘The Rite of Spring’ and ‘The Firebird’.
17. Vaughan Williams
Insider Monkey Score: 26
Born in 1872, Vaughan Williams was one of the most important English composers of the 20th century and one of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time. His work focused on English folk song and Tudor polyphony.
16. Richard Wagner
Insider Monkey Score: 25
Richard Wagner was a German composer whose work centered around opera compositions. He built his own opera-house to perform his pieces.
15. Johannes Brahms
Insider Monkey Score: 24
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist. He was known for his work in symphony music and chamber music.
14. Amy Beach
Insider Monkey Score: 20
Amy Beach, was the first American woman to publish a symphony. Her work was known as the ‘Gaelic’ symphony, which is the first American symphonic work to incorporate Anglo-American folk tunes.
13. Gustav Mahler
Insider Monkey Score: 19
Gustav Mahler is a well-known Austrian composer who composed more than 10 symphonies during his lifetime,. His work primarily revolved around love and loss.
12. Joseph Haydn
Insider Monkey Score: 17
Born in 1732, Joseph Haydn is known as the father of symphonies, owing to his creation of 107 symphonic melodies throughout his life.
11. Frederic Chopin
Insider Monkey Score: 15
Frederic Chopin is a Polish composer, famous for his romantic composition and keyboard virtuoso. Much of his work included preludes and nocturnes. He is number 11 on our list of the 50 greatest classical music composers of all time.
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Disclosure: None. Can AI Imitate the 50 Greatest Classical Music Composers of All Time? is originally published on Insider Monkey.