I've always said that one of the absolute best things about my having discovered Gaia was all of the subsidiary discoveries that came with it.
Gaia has so many different people, with so many different interests, that it's almost impossible not to find them discussing something of interest that I hadn't been previously aware of.
The latest example of this for me would be Vocaloids and Hatsune Miku.
Now I'd heard of Hatsune Miku before, and knew that she was basically a computer generated singer, but what little I had ever come across on You Tube hadn't really captured my imagination, perhaps because Vocaloid music is created in almost every genre possible, and I hadn't run into anything that fell within my range of tastes.
Still, after having wandered around the Forums one day, something caught my eye and I was motivated to search Hatsune Miku out on You Tube once more.
Have you ever seen one of those moments in a TV show or movie when the person has a sudden, life-altering revelation and the world just suddenly comes to an incredibly sharp focus? (Think Anton Ego in Ratatouille when he first tastes his meal)
That's kind of what happened for me when I stumbled across the 2011 live Vocaloid concert from Tokyo.
I spent the next few hours sitting at my P.C. completely spellbound as these computer generated characters performed song after song that had me dancing in my seat and marveling at this miracle of technology and creativity. The visuals were amazing, the live backing band was exceptionally strong and I genuinely liked almost every number, and actually loved many.
And the crowd!
People may say what they like about Vocaloids being somehow less than "real", but I doubt you could have convinced a single person in that audience. It had to be one of the most engaged, enthusiastic and appreciative audiences I've ever seen, and I could tell by the huge smiles on the band members, that they felt the audience's excitement.
By the time the concerts ended, I was completely hooked, and broke one of my Cardinal Rules, and downloaded the concert films so I could watch them again and convert the files into MP3 format for listening to off-line. (I did immediately order the concerts on Blu Ray though, so my ethical conundrum was addressed satisfactorily )
Since then, I've listened to the concerts non-stop for over a month, and rather than burning my new obsession out as has been the case with a lot of other new and exciting things, my appreciation for them has merely broadened and songs which I had glossed over on early listenings in favour of ones that had immediately caught my fancy, began to grow on me more and more.
The end result has been that I actually love almost every single track from the concerts, as well as from the CDs I've bought since, and am actively searching out more.
Perhaps because Vocaloids are not the product of a single creative mind, their music manages to remain fresh and varied, unlike what one so often finds when discovering a group they like. In what I have so far, there are at least half a dozen entirely different genres of music encompassing Disco, Euro Dance, Rock, Pop, Techno, Trance, and other genres that I can't quite put a finger on.
The range of subject matter goes all the way from self-referential to traditional love songs, to Vegetarian propaganda! (), and much of it can be surprisingly moving, which I can only attribute to Hatsune Miku herself because in her, the producers have managed to create a character who is so sweet and endearing, it`s almost impossible not to fall in love with her.
I know I have at least.
The result of course is that instead of listening to some anonymous performer, you are watching an actual person as she joyfully extols the virtues of vegetable juice, rails at the vagaries of life, or struggles with an all too human heart that`s in the process of breaking.
Yes, Hatsune Miku and her compatriots may be computer generated performers, but the people supplying the material definitely aren't, and as such, what you hear is indeed coming from the heart as much as anything sung by a living person.
Add to that, the fact that so much of it is genuinely sweet and romantic, as well as incredibly catchy, and you have the perfect sop for a music lover who has felt abandoned by the industry for longer than I care to remember.
And just in case someone who might not be familiar with Vocaloids or, like me, may have looked briefly and not found what they were looking for, reads this and finds themselves intrigued, here's some links to some of my favourites.
Do yourself a favour and check them out.
You might just be pleasantly surprised.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uOmQmM1mg4 The Live Concert in Sapporo 2011
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoTd918zhZc Melt by Ryo/Supercell..a completely adorable and endearing love song.
Another amazing thing about Vocaloids is the level of devotion they inspire in their fans, one result of which is that translations of many of their songs can easily be found on line. It can be a bit surprising in some cases, and the translations seldom allow for singing along because of the structural differences in Japanese and English, but they most definitely can enhance one's appreciation of the songs.
http://www.animelyrics.com/doujin/vocaloid/meruto.htm Lyrics for Melt.
PoPiPo by Lamaze P - If this doesn't make you smile (and run out for a bottle of V8 ) there's something wrong with you. (Too much red meat perhaps? )
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVDs0XxTOL8 Your Diva by Azuma...Something a little different, yet again, somehow endearing and adorable.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhrbIhkHS3s - Hajimete no koi ga owaru toki by Ryo/Supercell again.
And so as not to be like the producers of the concert and send you out onto the streets on a sad note....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQCoQEYWtCU - Time Limit by North T (Tatami P) - Another excellent example of just how unexpected Vocaloids can be...
Time Limit is a wonderfully crafted song. Musically, it has many layers of different sounds and rhythms, all of which blend together to create what I can only describe as a soaring, smoothly undulating, and inescapable dance tune, with vocal tracks that are so seamlessly intertwined with the music, both tonally and structurally, as to make it one of the best songs I have ever heard.
And it was done on a 10 Day Free Trial version of the software....
If you were to track down the lyrics (nah....I'll do it for you http://www.animelyrics.com/doujin/vocaloid/timelimit.htm) the meaning might be a bit confusing, but a little more digging explains that the song directly references the fact that this was created on the aforementioned 10 Day Free Trial version, and suddenly it makes perfect sense.
And finally, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ4HIjov-64 - Just be Friends by Dixie Flatline. If you love to dance, you'll love this song!
It may sound like overly effusive hyperbole to suggest that computer generated performers could change a person's life for the better, but in my case, it's the truth.
The music is so pure and positive (if you want it to be), and the characters are so sweet and simple (no trips to Betty Ford here ), that it's impossible not to feel uplifted when watching or listening, so open your mind to something unexpected, follow the links I've provided, and hopefully they will set you upon a voyage of discovery that will change your outlook on what potential life and music have to offer.
And as always, thanks for reading and please feel free to respond to this Journal entry.
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