Monday, January 2, 2012

What is real? Is it art?

On the last day of 2011 I had an interesting Facebook conversation with a Canadian musician who is currently on tour. I'd asked him what he thought of this:

His answer was quite passionate. The term "bullshit" was front and center. Did I mention he was the singer in a punk band? His feeling was that it was manipulative. While he eventually conceded that it is a form of creativity, he believes that there is no substitute for real interaction between the band and the audience.

I agree with him. Like I am with a lot of things, I'm of two minds. The geek in me says, "Cool!" I want to see just how far the technology can go. There's another side of me that thinks Hatsune Miku is souless.

"Real" musicians have made digital forays. Michael Buble currently has an avatar in CityVille. In 2008 U2 played a concert in Second Life. But that's different from a computer program creating a voice and another program creating visuals. 

Sometime in the night my subconscious reminded me that one member of the Japanese girl group AKB48, Aimi Eguchi, is a computer-generated avatar made from features of six of the other girls.

At first she was presented as just another new member of the band. Fans started getting suspicious when she was getting too much publicity. Eventually the band's management came clean. Were the fans upset? I couldn't find anything that said they were. Once the perfect pop singer was explained everything quieted down. Did I mention that AKB48 has multiple #1s in Japan?

Do people really care if it is real or not? Are music fans in Japan that different from the rest of the world? Thousands of people in LA paid around $50 a head to see the synthetic singer "live." I'm not sure I would. Maybe if Queen created a synthetic Freddie Mercury. He'd have to be damn good but my curiosity might make me shell out the dough. 

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