But, on the upside, we’ll be huge in Japan.

Yes, just to be clear, this is Hatsune Miku, who is actually a software vocal algorithm, not an actual singer, playing live in front of throngs of fans.

Enjoy that stomp box while you can. It may… kill you in your sleep, strangling you with your own guitar cables, and then go on the road with your volcas and electribes in your place. Don’t even think of letting it talk to Siri.

(Seriously, KORG, did you ask Yamaha if they’re including the Three Laws of Robotics on that chipset, or should we be worried?)

And yes, while the rest of the world argues about just what knobs Deadmau5 or Daft Punk may be twiddling onstage, it’s worth noting that Miku has been playing “virtual” concerts like this in front of an adoring public since 2009. As noted in comments, technically there is sampled material sliced to produce her voice, but the combination of machine-controlled lyrics with a projected animated avatar is unmistakably post-human performance – or at least very much augmented human performance. In some sense, of course, this is all of us playing with computers; the Miku concerts simply embrace the phenomenon as natural.

Via a completely insane message thread on GearSlutz. (Who are these people, anyway?)

Update: my sister points out that Japanese fiction was already onto this concept – see Sharon Apple in Macross Plus, circa 1994.

  • Tekknovator

    Peter, you should stick to news about hardware and non mainstream artsy partsy stuff. If it comes to overseas reporting you are always late to the party 😉
    Btw Hatsune Miku is an actual singer. Vocaloid technology is based on phrase chopping, pitch and formant variation (as pioneered by the japanese houase act Capsule). It works great in japanese due to the syllable based strukture of the language. There is also english versions available from zero G.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      This was a late-night post to this 2013 video, which I thought spoke for itself.

      “Hatsune Miku is an actual singer” – well, no, any more than I’m an actual drummer when I play with a drum machine, right? That’s an interesting question.

      But yes, a *proper* history of Vocaloid is probably due at some point. I just thought this concert was amazing… see comments above, tried to add some extra discussion.

      Apart from the vocal technology itself, it’s the fact that you have a semi-virtual performer onstage that to me is interesting. Rather than pretending a DJ is a traditional musician, for instance, this goes to the next step – there is a conventional band playing along, and a fully augmented onstage performer who represents the electronic persona as much as any one person. (And yes, while it’s human tech and human programmed, the resulting onstage character ceases to be one person onstage.) The fact that it’s visual, too, to me is brilliant.

      Oh, and the glow sticks.

    • Tekknovator

      Yea, don#t forget the glow sticks!
      Everytime I think about the Vocaloid phenomenon I ask myself if it is an more advanced form of admiration for culture or a degeneration… I mean, it is one thing to admire the flood of productions (with varying quality) created using Yamahas engine and Cubase. As well as you pointed out, the visual/performance side of it. Or if the fans fall for the illusion of a personality. From whatever perspective I look at it I find it a fascinating topic.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, actually, I think maybe it’s most a statement about the language more than the technology – I think you’re onto something there. You really learn something about language when you chop it up and re-synthesize it in that way.

      All performance personas are in some sense artificial… I loved David Bowie’s ongoing struggle with that. The nice thing about the technology here is that it makes that artifice more visible.

  • Aaron

    yeah, this has been around for at least a decade..however, it’s always fun to point towards Japan and credit them for how crazy awesome weird their cultures can be.
    Thumbs up Japan, #1 !


    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Well, and these concerts have gotten bigger in scale/production values – this is last year.

      I was just having a laugh after the stomp box announcement, which made it relevant again. But this does blow away all the pedestrian discussions of whether DJs are or aren’t performing. Maybe the question is *how* you’re augmenting the performance.

    • http://www.3rev.net William Herrera

      Keeping Within a Budget is hard LOL. What do I do? I have custom made Software that using the Camera on my Laptop projects a “digital version” of me on a rear projection screen I built and stand behind. Sure you can still see “Me” but most people tend to look at the screen- Adding Second camera allows me to film the audience and play it back to them so they can see see themselves in my ersatz “Tron” World. (I then mix that with Visuals from Resolume. (it’s amazing I have not crashed Ableton as I run in it all on the same laptop- I know Courting disaster. BTW the software written by a friend of mine and we heavily collaborated. It was originally designed as target acquisition software for a Robot he was building and used Live edge detection Algorithms to allow the computer to determine “What” the gun (Squirt Gun OK?) should lock on to. the result looked pretty cool and I said hey lets modify that for Stage use- Yeah I built my own Laser FX unit too (multiple spinning Mirrors. Pretty Old School Spiro graph stuff but still trippy. I also have an 8 foot Ruben’s Tube that shoots Fire to the beat of the music (look up 3rev plays with fire on You tube” but there aren’t any clubs in Miami that will let me use it (oh the fire marshal has Issues with it as well lol).
      From the Music side yes I use Ableton with a combination of hardware synths (and now some sweet AIRA’s) but try only to use Session Mode and trigger deconstructed versions of my tunes. as opposed to DJ style Track mixing (I’m a horrible DJ but since I only do originals nobody notices LOL)

      Oh was that a Rhetorical Question?

  • Pieter

    Already 1996 William Gibson, Father of Cyberpunk published his science fiction book “Idoru” where an american pop-start wants to marry a japanese cyber singer. Gibson dates the plot in the early 21st century… quite visionary. It’s left open wether the marriage will happen with the help of nano-technology… so we know already what comes next… quite a good read!

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, this started more discussion on Facebook, actually — I think eventually I’ll write a proper story on this.

    • Jérôme LeBel

      She’s playing in NYC in October!

    • experimentaldog

      I guess the concept of “stage-presence” is put into question. Peter and Pieter, you’ve opened up a very interesting discussion. Not only does William Gibson come to mind here, but also L. Frank Baum. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the book for those that read it)… A population of people made to wear green tinted glasses and to obey an avatar… and what if avatars ran for parliament? Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror character Waldo comes to mind here too.

    • sanbaba

      …also mentioned in Neuromancer. so… 1984. :)

  • lala

    Mikey mouse on xtc is going to haunt me all day.
    Jo hi schi do la tatata tü do.
    Disturbing, in an unpleasent way.

  • http://vrpr.org/ Henry

    Wait, this concert actually goes on for 3 hours and 23 minutes? That is insane – even when considering a “real” band performance (whatever that means these days). It’s like a book with 1500 pages – I can’t get myself to even start reading it, because it feels so overwhelming in its sheer amount of text. In fact, I feel the same with the gazillions of presets in an Access Virus or in NI’s Komplete – even though NI has come a long way giving us tools to wade through the masses…

    But, at the end of the day, I agree that this is an interesting proposition to artistic performance.

    • Robin Parmar

      After 2:55 the audience calls for an encore, which is so ridiculous my jaw dropped. If I estimate that on average each of the 2.5 million viewers watched “only” half of this video, that is still 500 YEARS of viewing.

  • Popo Bawa

    How does Vocaloid compare with Cantor? I have wanted the latter, but there has been so much hype about the former.

    • Tekknovator

      Vocaloid is way more “realistic?” imho. Cantor started promising, but they (virsyn) did not really push this any further whereas Vocaloid is ongoing development. Cantor has its own character though because it uses resynthesis, this allows for more spaced out stuff.

  • some guy

    …GearSlutz. (Who are these people, anyway?)

    hahahahaha….SOOO true

  • coolout

    I was waiting for hologram Tupac to drop a guest verse at any moment.

  • Ainn

    They’re not robots though.

  • MisterPickle

    I haven’t yet checked out the GearSlutz thread, but there a very comprehensive Wikipedia article on Vocaloid. There’s a long section on marketing that will blow your mind.

  • Frank

    What’s so special about this ? Madonna and Gorillaz did this already at the 2006 Grammys so what’s the big deal ?

    • Popo Bawa

      Exactly! Like that guy in 2004 with the sampled drum sounds – made me realize I no longer had any use for them.

  • Robin Parmar

    Thanks to the line break, I read the sentence as “while the rest of the world argues about just what knobs Deadmau5 or Daft Punk may be”. :-)

  • Jaybeeg

    I have already been replaced with a robot avatar and the internet didn’t notice. 😉

    You have to admit that Vocaloid and some futuristic algorithms could revolutionize the pop music biz. Forget all the annoying artists and their constant demands for payment, forget the temperamental songwriters, and imagine how much easier touring will be without the need for a green room and tour buses. McMusic.

  • http://mboverdrive.tumblr.com/ Ifthenwhy

    Reminds me of the famed Truman Capote quote:

    “That’s not writing, that’s typing”