Recently, I heard about this virtual singer in Japan created by a software, Hatsun Miku. So ever popular. I looked at a clip, and it was what it was, a hologram. Live in concert too. For some reason, it frightened me: thousands of people listening to synthesized sounds and a hologram leaping from one side of stage to another.
There was a whole radio program about this; experts said it was utterly incredible. That I didn’t find it incredible may just be owing to my technical ignorance; this may be a revolution in sound/music technology, but I could not find any art in it, more than that, any sense of connection, any soul in it.
I remember a documentary on wine making I saw years ago. There was this very rugged, aloof French wine maker living out in the country in a rustic country house in the middle of his vineyards. He baked his bread in a fireplace type of oven and roasted the meat and set the table. The host of the documentary presented him with a bottle of wine with no label and asked his opinion. He took a sip, paused, and then drank half a glass. He paused again and said, “It is perfect technique. But it has no soul.” The reporter later informed the viewers that wine companies in the US had tried super sophisticated techniques for a few years to produce the type of wine that Frenchman produced with rather, comparatively speaking, rudimentary methods in his winery.
The verdict was clear to me. They succeeded in something. Definitely failed in another. To me it was the spirit of the wine maker that persisted in his wine, and that cannot be generated by machines or software. Why is it? Could we ever make that, the one element missing in the imitation wine? The ‘thing’ that makes up its soul. The one missing in the hologram singing perfect songs. Or is soul something that someone left in us with exclusive copyright?
There is something about a real human, a real tree, … call it spirit, soul, there is something about being alive that makes a human different from a hologram. And that is not technique or perfection, it is that unique quality that eludes definition or description. I watch great athletes at work, and as a human, I take pride in being part of that humanity that strives for the best. Perhaps there is an element of trying to excel in this synthesized voice/music/singer too, but at the end, I like the painting, the photograph, the one that carries some part of the artist, perhaps his/her soul. And I fear the day when all we hear is machines speaking, singing, dancing, …, replacing.