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 GarĊ; 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"?]


  1. Yeah, about that...,73162/

    (I don't know how to make that show up as a link, maybe just google Tupac hologram)

  2. I know, the comment format on Blogger doesn't seem to allow for active links. Although just btw - Fake Tupac's not a hologram, either (I want to resist the whole "wave of the future thing" that is attaching itself to this phenomenon - this is a wave of ancient, not new, technology). Someone else commented, btw - I didn't publish it - that I had to realize these were Japanese people idolizing a software program. Okay - har de har har - but apparently the phenomenon, as you note, is NOT confined to Japan.

  3. You should dig a bit deeper into Vocaloids. The reasons people like Miku are far more extensive that what is listed here.

  4. Okay, I'll "dig deeper" into Vocaloids if you promise to "dig deeper" into real life. Deal?

  5. Another one who thinks liking Miku's songs takes you out of reality...

    If you think well about it, it's like just being a fan of another singer. Somebody had to make those what she sings. Being a fan of her is also being a fan of those who wrote it for "her". People should stop thinking that getting into her means throwing your life away, because as for me, music is music, and it happens that music with Miku rhymes pretty well with me.

  6. But can't you just text these people your admiration for their superior product development skills? Sorry, when I think about it, I realize that idolizing MIku is rather obviously NOT like being a fan of a real, live singer. I mean it's fine to bop along with Miku, I suppose, just as long as you realize you're bopping along to a machine, and that "she" doesn't know that "you" are there.