Ghost in the Machine?

Something that has me quite excited and slightly terrified is projected images of artists at concerts. I think the first time I ever saw something like it was during the 2006 GRAMMY Awards when Gorillaz and Madonna performed together. Images of the Gorillaz and Madonna were projected onstage to make it look like they were actually there and giving the effect of Madonna being able to dance around and interact with the animated avatars of the Gorillaz. I was amazed at the potential of these ‘holograms’, at the sheer creativity and incredible technology behind it. Here’s the video:


This video got me thinking about the possibilities of resurrecting the beloved musicians we have lost. Would it be possible to bring back legends for the future generations to witness ‘live’? Of course it had to happen. During Coachella in 2012, Tupac Shakur was ‘resurrected’ to perform once more for old fans and new through the brilliance of modern CGI technology. Now granted these images of Tupac at Coachella and Madonna and the Gorillaz weren’t strictly holograms; they were a result of a projection technique called Pepper’s Ghost which uses glass, mirrors, screens and other reflective surfaces with light to create and project illusions. You can read more about it here.

This is Tupac’s performance at Coachella:



There are also many bands today who use this technology to project concerts to different locations. German band Tokio Hotel tied up with a company called Musion to create mini virtual concerts in stores/malls across various cities including Berlin and Barcelona and this till today remains one of the coolest things they have ever done [at least in my opinion]:



Of course with the birth and popularity of such technology, comes the literal rise of the machines. Leave it to the Japanese to create one of the most revolutionary pop-icons of the world, and when I say create I mean an amalgamation of imagination and a whole lot of hi-tech software. A particular software called Vocaloid led to the creation of  the completely computer-generated Hatsune Miku, a Japanese pop singing sensation. Although artificially generated and technically not a living artist, Miku has millions of fans around the world and is even going to be touring with Lady Gaga for her upcoming ARTPOP Ball. You can read more about Hatsune Miku and her fellow digital pop-stars, also products of Vocaloid, here.

This is a video of Miku performing one of her super hit songs, ‘World is Mine’ :


Do let me know in the comments below what you thought of Miku. I know I was completely shocked when I first saw this video and filled with wonder laced with fear. It is incredible what technology can do these days, but is it possible they are doing too much? Does Hatsune Miku mean the end of musicians as we know them? If a musician can be created and cater to a record company’s every whim and cause no problems like drug addiction, death, controversy etc, then it very well could mean that we are on our way to replacing our human artists. Although all this seems quite probable, we need to remember there’s nothing quite like a human being. The joy of meeting your favourite artist, shaking their hand or maybe even hugging them and talking to them is torn away. Eye-contact during concerts is next to impossible and projections do not reach their hands out for you to hold. Just watch the concerts I’ve linked you to and compare them to concerts you’ve been to or concerts with human artists. There is definitely a huge difference.

While I do love the evolutionary technology involved behind all these concerts, I believe they should be limited to perhaps something an artist does once in a while, like Madonna and Tokio Hotel, or something to help us see ghosts of artists dead and gone. A virtual ghost like Miku is a unique addition to the musicians of the world, but she cannot be a replacement for the real thing; she is better as an act on her own or a collaborative act with an artist like Lady Gaga. Technology has changed the face of music and will keep doing so for hundreds of years to come!




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