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Who's In This Podcast
Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Walter Werzowa is music-inventor, composer of number-one hits, health-music entrepreneur, and tamer of Artficial Intelligences.

Ep22. Walter Werzowa: Decoding Music with A.I.

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Ep23. Jason Schneider: Art, A.I. & Immortality

Ep22. Decoding Music with A.I.: Unlock the Magic of Beethoven, Mozart, and Music as Medicine with World-Renowned Composer Walter Werzowa

On the latest episode of Creativity Squared, hear how artificial intelligence is helping write new prescriptions for medicinal music. 

Our guest, Walter Werzowa, is an internationally acclaimed Austrian composer, producer, speaker, and professor at mdw – the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. He’s an A.I. optimist, who’s using the technology to interpret classical masterpieces and inspire modern audiences. 


Walter and Creativity Squared host Helen Todd recently met at the BOLD Unconference, a fantastic and inspiring event that the Austrian Chamber of Commerce hosted across four cities in Austria, including a stop in Linz for Ars Electronica (Check out Episode 11 with Gerfried Stocker, the festival’s Artistic Director and co-CEO). This conversation started over a dinner in the Ars Electronica Museum.

We have to find ways to propel creativity in all of us. Everybody can be creative and have fun. And joy was one of the first things I was telling my students at universities, like you’re amazing composers, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. I want to help you keep the joy of creating. Only this will give you a wonderful life with miracles. And those beautiful, life-changing, self-changing moments. That is just so powerful.”

Walter Werzowa

Walter’s many claims to fame include composing Intel’s iconic audio branding, which is the most performed mnemonic and melody in broadcast history. His extensive work in film includes scoring for Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders, and many more. 

He was part of the team that trained an A.I. model to assist in completing Beethoven’s unfinished 10th Symphony. Currently, he’s the Head of Music at MYTHOS MOZART, alongside a fellow renowned A.I. artist Refik Anadol. Their team creates immersive, multi-sensory experiences showcasing Mozart’s life and music. 

Walter’s also a successful entrepreneur in music licensing, branding, and his latest venture, music therapy. He discusses how music helped his son overcome a rare childhood disease, and inspired him to help others. Now, A.I. is unlocking new capabilities to research the human body’s intricate relationship with sound. 

The episode covers the story behind the scenes of creating the Intel sound, how working on Beethoven X gave Walter a new understanding of creativity, breakthroughs in audio treatment for epilepsy, and cherishing the joy of creating. 

The Four Notes That Changed Everything

It’s said that the audio logo Walter designed for Intel plays every five minutes somewhere around the world. 

He got the opportunity through a friend and created the three-second sound over a weekend for a company he didn’t know anything about at the time. Walter had just finished his postgrad in film music at the University of Southern California, where he was writing 60-minute symphonies, so he thought the offer from Intel would be easy money. 

And I realized this was so difficult. You can barely say a meaningful sentence in three seconds. And it was almost impossible to say anything in three seconds with music.”

Walter Werzowa

His breakthrough came hours later in the form of Intel’s tagline, “Intel Inside.” Walter represented the four syllables using 4th and 5th intervals played on synth, xylophone, and marimba. The sound gets its dramatic effect from layering dozens of each note on top of one another. 

From there, Walter says it became the “most performed mnemonic ever in history,” opening up industry doors and paving the way for future success. He started his music production and branding company, Musikvergnuegen (meaning “enjoyment of music”), in 1992 and went on to design the music for several screen productions such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Eraser and PBS’s popular science show, Nova. 

In 2005, Walter founded Music Beyond, a music library that he ran for almost a decade before selling it to a company that was later acquired by Sony. 

Channeling Classical Music Geniuses with A.I. 

Opportunity came calling again in 2020 when Dr. Matthias Röder, Managing Director of the Karajan Institute, asked Walter if he would like to write with Beethoven. 

The goal of the project, dubbed Beethoven X, was to honor the famous composer’s 250th birthday by completing the famous unfinished 10th Symphony with assistance from a custom-built A.I. model. Beethoven had hardly begun the 10th Symphony by the time he died, leaving behind only sketches of ideas and musical phrases. 

Walter agreed to join the team, working on the input side to annotate musical themes for the A.I. to learn, and on the output side composing the notes that the model generated into a proper symphony. 

That call was a life changer. Of course, I said yes. It was just an incredible learning process. I think those two years taught me as much as all of university.”

Walter Werzowa

Early on, the team realized that Beethoven did not produce enough material in his lifetime to give the A.I. a true idea of how the composer approached his work. So the team selected works from Beethoven’s influences such as Mozart and Bach added them to the training data. 

Through the process of figuring out the best way to get a computer to resemble one of history’s greatest musical minds, Walter says he gained a new perspective on the meaning of creativity. 

Walter recounts an early conversation with the rest of the team, where he wanted to review the musical rules that Beethoven had in his time so that they could establish those same rules for the A.I. to follow. Coming from the academic world, Walter says he thought that there needed to be strict rules and agreement on a common understanding of musical structure. 

The project’s A.I. lead, Rutgers University Professor Ahmed Elgammal, and others pushed back, arguing that embedding such rules in the model would lead to a product that one of his students might write: musically correct and aligned with Beethoven’s body of works, but not true to the innovative, avant-garde, style of Beethoven’s later works in particular.

I started realizing what creativity is about, and what Beethoven’s creativity is about, and the constraints we give ourselves sometimes. And I really believe it’s great to learn. But there needs to be a point where you just let go and do your stuff. And that’s what we did.”

Walter Werzowa

For two years, Walter says he would wake up at 5 a.m. to listen to the MIDI files and themes sent over by Elgammal. Sometimes the output he received was, in his words, “awful.” But most of the time, the musical ideas generated by the model were “incredible and inspiring,” to the point that Walter says some days he was moved to tears while sipping his morning coffee. 

The team released their final product in October 2021 via a performance by the Beethoven Orchester Bonn in the composer’s birthplace of Bonn, Germany. The team’s 10th Symphony garnered both acclaim and skepticism

Walter recounts how a famous German journalist asked how the A.I. could produce music like Beethoven when the A.I. could never feel love or heartache like Beethoven did. The question strikes at a fundamental debate happening right now on whether A.I. can be considered the “creator” of a work, when the technology appears to lack all of the human elements and experiences that we traditionally associate with creativity. 

For the sake of Beethoven X though, Walter says that the focus isn’t on whether Beethoven was ever in love, but more so on how he expressed those feelings in the creation of his music.  

And if we analyze this, we get his way of love sickness, and no human could do this [analysis]. So in that sense, the A.I. is incredibly objective and neutral. And to me, it was an incredible partner to get inspired and put things together. It really ended up being a beautiful teamwork between humans and technology.”

Walter Werzowa

MYTHOS MOZART with Renowned A.I. Artist Refik Anadol

Following his work with Beethoven, Walter took up Mozart. 

He and a team of collaborators opened up MYTHOS MOZART in 2022. It’s an immersive experience that takes participants through several different mini-digital worlds, each depicting a period and/or theme of Mozart’s life and music. The installation is housed in the same location where Mozart lived and died (just in a newer building, as the apartment Mozart once called home was destroyed after his death). 

Walter designed and composed the soundscapes for the experience, recording the soundtrack with help from his students at the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. 

Digital A.I. art visionary Refik Anadol used data and images from Mozart’s life to create the visual imagery of the experience. Anadol is known for using A.I. to create massive digital artworks, such as the photo-realistic eyeball displayed on the recently completed Las Vegas Sphere. Each individual work can take millions of data points to produce. Watch the making-of MYTHOS MOZART in this video.

HealthTunes: Supporting Human Wellness with A.I. Music

When Walter’s son was five years old, he was diagnosed with a rare childhood disease that causes the hip joint to repeatedly deteriorate and regrow. Instead of opting for surgical treatment involving metal plates, screws, and a long recovery period, Walter’s family decided to go a different route. 

We employed osteopathy, acupuncture, and sound. And a year later, he was running again. And suddenly, it was clear that it was more than just something really interesting. I realized that sound and music was really an important factor, and I thought, I’m gonna give that back to the world.”

Walter Werzowa

So in 2016, Walter launched HealthTunes, a subscription service that curates sound and music therapy backed by scientific research to help patients suffering from physical and mental ailments. 

The service began with a focus on using sound to encourage bone regeneration and support pain management. Since then, it’s expanded to offer therapies for Alzheimer’s and the side effects of chemotherapy treatments. 

Walter says that more use cases are cropping up all the time. In maternity wards, doctors are now using music to help settle rapid heartbeats in babies born prematurely. Patients in many MRI clinics can listen to music specially designed to muffle the sound of the machine and calm feelings of claustrophobia. 

In the video, you can see the music helping bring the baby’s elevated heart rate to a resting heart rate through music. Walter shared that the effect almost seems like magic that often brings mothers and doctors to tears. It’s so simple, yet works. These are the moments where Walter reflects on the impact of intentional music for healing, health, and the power of sound for preventative health.

With the help of A.I., research into the effects of sound on human health is accelerating. Walter cites research findings that Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D major K.448  can reduce the incidence of seizures in people with epilepsy by 70 to 75 percent, on par with the efficacy of drug treatments. 

The reason that Mozart’s sonata has this effect is unclear, but Walter thinks that A.I. can help get us closer to the answer. 

A.I. is powerful. We could recreate the misfiring of brain waves of an epileptic brain and hone in more on what that secret sauce might be. We can also then find out how we can compose music like that, and would it be possible that we have generative music composed for that person in the moment when she or he needs it? And that would be just a lifesaver. Pun intended.”

Walter Werzowa

As someone who loves and lives for music, Walter says that he’s starting to see music more as something we have for health, rather than just for entertainment. He says he’s looking forward to seeing more of sound’s mysterious health impacts unlocked by research and technology. 

Keeping the Joy in Creativity

In his closing thoughts, Walter implores all of us to engage in the joy of creating, with the same curiosity and joy of a child discovering the world around them. 

“I want to encourage all of you to find your creative soul and enjoy and be resonant. And that’s the beauty of music as well, because music is pure creativity. Resonate with it and find your own creativity with it — it unleashes all this potential in you.

Walter Werzowa

Walter, for one, is looking forward to the new possibilities that A.I. will offer us to engage in the joy of creativity, as both creators and observers. 

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Thank you, Walter, for being our guest on Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

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