Hatsune Miku: Post-Human Hologram Pop Star

japan pop

“Hatsune Miku is a Piece of Software. She May also be the Future of Music,” so reads the subtitle by Lindsay Zoladz in New York Magazine, which you can you read here. Maybe yes, maybe no, but certainly she’s awesome. A technological object, her ontology’s confusing. “[Justin] Bieber boasts of his many fans and Miku replies, ‘B%^ch please, I have millions of fans and I don’t even exist.'” In the article, Zoladz quotes Tara Knight from UC San Diego. I add my two cents below.

“Hatsune Miku, one of Japan’s most famous pop stars, has been 16 for the past seven years. She wears her cascading aquamarine hair in pigtails that skim the ground when she dances, and according to stats offered up on her record company’s website, she stands five-two and weighs about 93 pounds. She has opened for Lady Gaga, collaborated with Pharrell, and sung more than 100,000 songs, dabbling quite literally in every genre imaginable

[….]

Miku is what’s known as a Vocaloid, an avatar of voice-synthesizing software (also called Vocaloid) — roughly, Siri–meets–GarageBand. One fan-written history of Vocaloid explains: “Human voices are recorded in short samples, and these samples are stored in a database which becomes a software for songwriters and producers to use as an alternative [to] a singing voice.

[…]

Far more revolutionary is the fact that all her music — including the songs performed in concert — is written by fans, some of whom cannot read music and never felt empowered to write a song before Miku came along. “Miku is seen less as this really special person, like Lady Gaga or somebody,” Knight says, “but rather a conduit through which you can express yourself.” (Crypton has licensed Miku under Creative Commons, so that fans can use her image freely for noncommercial use. And fans retain the copyright on any songs they write, so in some rare cases they can make money off viral hits.”

The clearly undernourished Miku is a fetish –charming, flat, democratic, and utterly winning. Made for television, this clip of her appearance on David Letterman came out particularly well. The sound quality is excellent. Miku does not appear on a screen behind the live band.

I can’t help but think that Edmund Husserl would have liked Miku, a phenomenological apparition in three dimensional space. Her image is sized in proportion to the musicians in the band who play around and alongside her. At the start of the clip, she appears from out of nowhere in a flash of light. She moves in synch to the tune. At the end of the song, her image disintegrates back into the dark.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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