July 15, 2003

But Can H.A.L. Compose The Stuff?

Yesterday I received this email from friend Tony:

The last remaining part of modern music that took SOME talent to perform is now gone. Now people with absolutely NO talent musically can create music. What of music's future now?


The link, as you’ll see, is to Yamaha’s new VOCALOID Singing Synthesis Software, which Yamaha claims to allow
song writers to generate authentic-sounding singing on their PCs by simply inputting the words and notes of their compositions … the software synthesizes the sound from ‘vocal libraries’ of recordings of actual singers, retaining the vocal qualities of the original singing voices to reproduce real-sounding vocals.
Judge for yourself by listening to this VOCALOID mp3 friend Matt sent along; I think you’ll agree it’s a long way from the Commodore 64 voice synthesizer, and much closer to H.A.L. singing “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer please."

The implications of Glenn Reynolds now being able to have Instapundit sing the blog aside, here’s my response to Tony’s question:

Can't speak to the future of music, but the future of musicians is rock-solid (pardon the pun).

It's the same as words: nearly any asshole can write, but only a few are writers. The talent isn't in the ability to deliver the content, it's in the ability to deliver the art.

Friend Matt also had some interesting thoughts, which I’ve posted in the extended entry.

Matt's response:

For all of you who didn't get a chance to hear the Vocaloid, I've attached an MP3. I'll let you make your own opinions, but here's my prediction:

Some well-connected composer or producer will write a song using Vocaloid. They'll create a fictitious 'diva' to credit the performance to. They'll create some beautiful scantily clad babe in Photoshop and make 'her' a website.

Then, the song will get sold for use in a popular movie soundtrack, and it will become a hit. The 'diva' will quickly become the center of attention on every media outlet. But her agent claims that she won't do interviews. This only spurs MTV, VH1 and others to push harder for the elusive, exclusive interview. They dream about getting the drop on everyone else by being the first to interview the most reclusive pop icon since Greta Garbo.

Meanwhile, people who can hear the difference between a computer and a real human (which is proving a more difficult task) will dismiss the song as junk. They'll claim the performer is a computer, and the song is lame (because it will be.) But alas, the critics will all be ignored and the song will continue to sell millions.

Only after the song hits radio saturation will the truth be disclosed that she was a computer the whole time. Some will be astounded. Others will demand their money back claiming that they've been 'Milli Vanillied' again. They'll demand their money back because they'll feel duped. (Someone should tell them that if they don't want to be duped, they should stop being stupid.) But, sadly, most people won't give a shit one way or the other.

The fervor makes the cover of a few magazines like Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, The National Inquirer, People, and perhaps even USA Today or Time (but only if it's a slow news week.) Headlines will read something like, "The Musical Jar-Jar Binks" and, "They've Done it to Us Again!" and, "Elvis was a Vocaloid." Now even those who never heard the song or saw the movie will know the story.

Speaking of the story, the movie producers will start working on treatments for a movie about an imaginary pop diva who was actually a computer. But the producers of the movie "Simone" (aka, S1m0ne) will sue, claiming it's too similar to their movie. They'll settle out of court for millions, the lawyers will charge a healthy fee, and the movie will get shelved. But their clients will make a little money back by working with VH1 on a 'Behind the Music; The Diva That Wasn't'.

So there you go. Just like most things in pop culture, it's much ado about nothing. Why? Because people won't realize that the song sucked in the first place.


Posted by Avocare at July 15, 2003 10:24 PM | TrackBack

I liked the part about the healthy fee.

Posted by: john at July 16, 2003 09:14 PM

You lawyers are all the same.

Posted by: Avocare at July 16, 2003 09:36 PM

Thanks for providing the MP3. I couldn't download Yamaha's MidRadio, since I don't read Japanese. The sample sounds stilted, but the enunciation is good, and it sounds more or less like a natural voice singing phonetically in a language it doesn't really understand. I could see how this product could be used for background vocals where the focus is on a lead singer, but at this point it wouldn't fool too many people. Or maybe it would. The NY Times article of today talked about male and female "generic soul voices" Leon and Lola, which I guess have not yet appeared in samples on Yamaha's web site. But that could be fun.

Posted by: TheTooleMan at November 23, 2003 01:01 PM

I would say I agree about the way you see the issue. I remember that, in the past, Mark Twain did say something like "For everything that is positive, it also has a negative side; for everything that is negative, it also has a positive side." I find it is interesting too to read different viewpoints on the topic.

Posted by: sizepro at June 5, 2005 07:03 AM
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