Miku Hatsune has no soul

Over the past few years, I’ve heard of a computer program series called Vocaloid. Vocaloid is like Cubase or Reason 2.5 in that it aids in the music creation processes, but whereas Cubase or Reason 2.5 (I think they have Reason 3.0 out now) focus solely on the musical aspect of creation, the Vocaloid series is all about vocals, which, ordinarily are provided by a human singer.

The most famous of the Vocaloid voices is Miku Hatsune, though there’s about ten different Vocaloid voices, including a few male voices. Gackt Camui, a popular Japanese musician (former lead singer of Malice Mizer) has even recorded his vocals for a Vocaloid program.

While talking with a friend a few days ago about Vocaloid programs and how versatile they are, my friend told me something I didn’t expect.

He said, “Miku is a amusing now and then, but isn’t it sometimes a little disheartening to know that you are listening to a singer who has no soul? Vocaloid can sing notes right when they’re supposed to, but I dunno — she doesn’t know or feel the words she’s saying. I like human singers because they put their heart into it and it’s real.”

That’s what hit me, the “she doesn’t know or feel the words she’s saying” part – she’s a puppet. To paraphrase the villain of Final Fantasy VII, “She has no heart and cannot feel any pain.”

As such, Miku does not know what she sings, all she knows is hit this note, hold it for that long, sing these words, use this inflection and move on to the next line at this time.

Does the fact that Miku herself lacks a soul make the music any less “real”? It isn’t a machine writing those lyrics, is it? Of course not, we haven’t achieved that level of technology yet.

Below I have posted two Vocaloid songs. The first one is in Japanese while the second one is an English version of a song that was originally done in Japanese.

One thing that I’ve been wondering about the Vocaloid programs is the program itself is “royalty free” meaning that people who buy and use the software do not have to pay royalties to the company that created the software to publish music using that software. I could find nothing relating to the visual likeness of Miku Hatsune or any other Vocaloid.

As you can see, both of the above videos utilize Miku’s likeness, as do quite a few other videos.


5 Responses to “Miku Hatsune has no soul”

  1. I saw a whole video about the sort of musical revolution with Vocaloid, how anybody can make high quality music using it, even if they can’t hire a real singer. I like that aspect.

    I understand the whole thing with her not having a soul, but I think it says something if the words and melody can still move you. I don’t see a problem with it as long as we still have real singers around.

    Your last question has puzzled me too. All these artists talk about how wonderful it is to use Vocaloid, and I see people making music videos using Hatsune Miku, but I have no clue whether they are affiliated or simply did it on their own accord. My assumption is that the program can be used royalty free, and probably the image of Hatsune Miku is free to use, since it is really just publicity for the makers.

  2. Bradley Hall Says:

    Using Vocaloid is like using Cubase or Reason, whatever you make with it is royalty free. As far as her likeness and videos are concerned, I do not know if people are actually allowed to use these or not, but people do continue to make videos with her in them.

  3. even if she doesn’t have soul, but the creator put their soul and heart in her music. isn’t that enough?

  4. […] Miku Hatsune has no soul August 20093 comments 5 […]

  5. Chibinium Says:

    Hatsune Miku is like a silent protagonist in games in that they are a pass-through entity for the real soul: that of her creator, and that of his player. Her songs inherit a soul, but imperfectly express it like an untrained singer.

    This is but one more form of creativity in the entire human cosmosphere of innovation. The incumbent singers face an existential crisis much like maids and Roombas, or HTML developers and Adobe ColdFusion: if one’s experience and job can be half-distilled to a machine–democratized, if you will–then what meaning was there to one’s suffering all these years?

    In two years, the technology has vastly improved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIpoJxu9HM8

    Sharon Apple, here we come!

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