Friday, April 27, 2012
Meet Hatsune Miku, pop star of the future - today
I had a chance to chat with visionary director Robert Lepage this past week, after a lecture he gave at MIT (he's currently in residence there, and has received the Institute's McDermott Award). During our chat - his cadences are a dead ringer for those of his theatrical alter ego, Yves Jacques, btw - he related a funny story. During a recent visit to Japan, he heard repeated mention of a hot new pop star, Hatsune Miku, who was very "into" holograms and projections. As he shares the same interests, Lepage often suggested that he meet with Miku, but was always told, "No, that would be far too complicated."
And here's why - she's not a person, but a "Vocaloid" produced by a software program from phonics spoken by a "real live" actress, Saki Fujita. Her appearance was developed by manga artist Kei Garō; her eventual songs and projected presence were then devised by a company called Crypton Future Media (her name is a rough approximation of the phrase "First Sound Future" in Japanese).
She's not a hologram, btw, but rather a digital projection onto a thin film that's unnoticeable at audience distance - it's something like the "Pepper's Ghost" trick used in Disney's Haunted Mansion ride (you can make out the projection screen in the video's long shots). She is, however, a pop sensation - it seems you can play with her at home, and have her sing your own songs; but she's also had major hits in Japan and has sold out her "live" concert appearances (above, in Tokyo). Her appeal may prove brief, however; after a recent "farewell for now" concert, she has been on hiatus.
Now I'm not suggesting that digitally projected performers will be with us anytime soon - after all, the "Pepper's Ghost" technology has been around forever, and Hatsune Miku is really just projected anime. Still, the acceptance of this as "performance" by a huge crowd of people is a little unnerving. If you thought audiences would automatically reject projections in favor of real actors - I'd say think again!
[Btw, it's interesting to think about Hatsune Miku as only the next phase of the song-assembly machine for the likes of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj that was recently detailed in the New Yorker. Aren't many pop stars already "manufactured"?]