New Vocal Solutions (sampler)
An album featuring contributions from several ARCO artists and performers.
Released on squib-box, April 2018
One of Japan’s biggest pop culture idols for over a decade, Hatune Miku’s synthesised voice and image have been used on hundreds of thousands pop tracks, videos, and franchised products worldwide. Powered by Vocaloid software, she represents the ultimate hyper-idol, a digitally rendered eternal bubblegum teen star.
New Vocal Solutions (sampler) is a collection of tracks by artists working with Miku’s voice and Vocaloid technology in strange and skewed ways. Painstaking programming, circuit bending, and algorithmic repurposing are employed to plunder the uncanny valley and dredge up layers of digital silt; an unexplored rich and mucky underside of pop subculture.
Miku’s ubiquity and popularity is largely down to the independent, amateur, and open source fan communities that propagate her. As such, squib-box is making New Vocal Solutions (sampler) completely free to download.
Featuring tracks from Adam de la Cour, Neil Luck, Chihiro Ono, Psychiceyeclix, Federico Reuben, & Lynette Quek
SWEET ERRORS /////
“The mechanics of an individual’s vocal tract says a lot [about them]”
The media of my Adam’s Apple, or your false vocal cords, or the aperture of a glottis filter, distort and broadcast YOUR ur-thoughts and desires as speech, song, whatever. It’s deeply personal that soft, confusing instrument of ours. Hatsune Miku’s throat, however, is impersonally ‘hands on’. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of songwriters, musicians and producers have put their words in her mouth — the physiology of her resonators, her articulators is exploded out into Vocaloid’s DAW as a dozen or so automatable parameters:
Vibrato type (16 options)
On the one hand her accessibility (technically and aesthetically) has catapulted Miku to global sub-cultural superstardom. On the other, however, it represents a tender kind of violence; programming Miku as a keyhole surgical manoeuvre. Vocaloid as a prosumer audiophile clinic offering radical, sci-fi vocal-plasty all for just £139.99 (RRP).
Perhaps that’s a dichotomy native to the avatar, a figure onto/into which we project ourselves, but also one to manipulate, push around and puppeteer. Complicating this is Miku’s identity (she’s a 16 year old cutesy, sickly-sweet ponytailed girl); how much she’s a reflection of the male gaze, how much of just sincere, juvenile innocence is hard to unravel. It’s simplistic, but Miku means many different things to many different people.
It IS a fact, though, that Vocaloid software has been particularly fascinating for a splinter group of experimental musicians, and the contributors here are all in some ways attempting to unpick this knotty cultural phenomenon (or at least begin to to describe its nodes). There have been Miku operas made, there have been classical cross-over projects, she has appeared in video installations, but few of these projects have engaged in quite the same way with the intricacies of Miku’s vocal mechanics.
In these seven wildly different skirmishes into the fringes of Vocaloid fandom, Miku and her voice are reframed, re-appropriated and repurposed as a humanoid character, a VST, a string of code, a cipher for cultural nostalgia, a mess of wires, chips and resistors. What rests at the bottom of this obscure uncanny valley? What is revealed below the meniscus of Miku’s pop visage? Given open-source freedom what do we pour into those artificial vocal crevices?
Perhaps one could look at New Vocal Solutions (sampler) as a scout-sub, making a first dip into those exquisitely modelled water-physics - this is what we brought back to dry land.
Neil Luck, April 2018