First sound of the future

Here’s a curiosity I recently came across: “Uta ni Katachi ha Nai Keredo,” by Doriko, featuring Hatsune Miku on vocals:

[audio: ni Katachi.mp3]

Yes, it’s just another instantly-forgettable ballad featuring one of the many nasal sopranos that infest Japanese popular music, but there is something remarkable about this recording.

(Via Martin.)

There is no such person as “Hatsune Miku.” Miku is a computer program that emulates a singing voice. Most examples I’ve heard of Miku singing sound unexpressive and artificial, but with a good programmer it is sometimes possible to believe that you’re listening to a real singer. As Martin says, “Considering how most pop artists these days seem to fall back on pitch correctors and all manner of electro-magic in the studio to the point where even their voices are effectively digital, maybe I shouldn’t find this too surprising.” We’re approaching the point where you can’t tell if a singer is real or rendered.

There’s another aspect to the recording that I also find remarkable, though it’s become commonplace these days. As best as I can tell, this is the complete membership of the band Doriko:

One guy with a couple of keyboards and a computer. It is nearly impossible nowadays to be sure whether a particular instrument in a recording is real or synthesized. For all I know, there may not be a single real drum kit among all the Touhou musicians in Japan.

Let’s see. It is now possible to synthesize all the musical lines of a pop music recording, including the vocals, well enough that they sound “real.” There is software to create and harmonize music in almost any style you can name, and other software to generate verse of varying degrees of intelligibility. How much longer before a completely computer-generated song becomes a major hit?


Hatsune Miku is astonishingly popular in Japan, in part because the company that released the software designed a distinctive character to represent Miku. Her twin green ponytails are as familiar as her voice. Here’s a news report on her popularity (click on the icon in the lower right corner of the player to enable subtitles):

For those of you who have computers up to the task, there is “MikuMiku Dance,” freeware you can use to animate Miku. Here are a couple of examples featuring Hatsune Miku as a dancer rather than a singer: “Balalaika;” “Bolero.” ((Based on the final minutes of this.)) And there’s also this.