Tag Archives: demixing

Permanence & Change

The Rijksmuseum on Museum Square in Amsterdam South is considered the national museum of the Netherlands. It is the museum that is probably best known for having Rembrandt’s The Night Watch in its collection. The Night Watch underwent a conservation and restoration project that started in July 2019 and ran for two-and-a-half years. As the painting was executed in 1642, it was deemed necessary to provide restoration and because the people of the Netherlands want it to exist for several hundred more years, conservation work was required. As part of the undertaking the researchers and curators used a macro-XRF scanner to capture information millimeter by millimeter (the canvas measures 379.5 cm x 454.5 cm); it took 56 scans, each lasting 24 hours, to capture that information. In addition to which, some 12,500 high-resolution (0.001 mil) photographs were taken.

In June 2021 the museum announced:

Visitors to the Rijksmuseum can now enjoy The Night Watch in its original form, for the first time in 300 years. Several sections were cut from the painting in the past. The Operation Night Watch team has successfully recreated these missing pieces, which have now been mounted around Rembrandt’s world-famous work. This reconstruction based on the 17th-century copy attributed to Gerrit Lundens was made with the help of artificial intelligence.

The “Operation Night Watch” team noted that there were “a number of differences” between what viewers have seen over the past few hundred years and what has been reconstructed. There are three figures on a bridge that hadn’t been there. The painting’s main figures had been seen in the middle of the canvas when they were supposed to be right of center. And there are other changes.

The Giles Martin remix and expansion of The Beatles’ Revolver, like The Night Watch, deployed artificial intelligence. The album, released in 1966 (324 years after the Rembrandt), had been originally mixed to mono and two-channel stereo, but the multitrack master recordings were not saved. Martin made use of a technique known as “demixing” that had been notably used on Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary; it separates all of the instruments and vocals and applies machine learning to fill in information, information that we hear as sound.

Giles Martin told the BBC, for example, “It [the AI] has to learn what the sound of John Lennon’s guitar is. . .and the more information you can give it, the better it becomes.”

Which begs the question of whether he is referring to the capabilities of the machine learning or of the sound of John Lennon’s guitar.

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