These past few years, appeared in Japan the first virtual singers. Created in 2004 by the company Yamaha, a software named « Vocaloid » (a mix of « vocal » and « android ») enables its users, music lovers or professional musicians, to use computer-synthesized voices recorded by humans. The purpose is here to provide them a « Voice bank » they can use when they compose music. Another company, Crypton Future Media, used this technology along with a character animation software several years later (about 2007) to create the first virtual singers.
Started in Japan, this movement barely crossed the border, but is becoming more and more important over there. Led by the most famous one, Hatsune Miku, virtual singers regularly reach the top of the japanese charts, competing on equal terms with real human singers.
It possibly puts at stake their future as artists (even the singers who recorded the voices take few credit for virtual idols’ success) and even questions on a possible numerization of a whole part of japanese musical culture.
In fact, Hatsune Miku is so popular that she is not only used in mere software and songs : there are videogames and fictions (mostly mangas) with her being the main character, figurines of her, cosplaying as her is a very common thing… She was even used by a political party during its campaign.
But actually, the craziest thing to say is that gigs and operas are also organized with her singing and dancing ! Thanks to the 3D projectors technology, fans are able to see their idol on stage as a hologram, to their greatest pleasure. As the movement is gathering pace, the idol’s Tours are organized in USA, Canada… and obviously in Japan, which is for now the only place where such representations experiment massive popular infatuation.
The paradoxical « reincarnation » of synthesized voices recorded by true people (!) puts Japanese people in front of a dilemma between their preference to virtual singers either to real ones. Actually, it’s been too few years to tell which place this phenomenon will take : is it only a trend meant to disappear ? Will it replace human singers in the music field ? Maybe we should consider them the same as real singers, and think that they are only new competitors. Anyway, it’s too soon to tell if this movement happens to be a good or a bad thing.