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What can a Vocaloid do?

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Aug. 31st, 2012 | 07:08 pm
location: Home (Ontario 2.0 version)
mood: awakeawake

Aaaand there goes the summer. Wow. Now that I'm home again, I can't even begin to summarize everything that happened in Japan, everything that's happened in my life. So instead I'll look back by looking forward, and just do my acafannish thing.

One of the major reasons I went to Japan this summer was the chance to lecture at Wako University, in Ueno Toshiya's class on Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. I had free run of the massive tome, but it wasn't hard to pick a topic: I am fascinated by their theory of the Body without Organs, which is in short a surface or circulation of desire that is not yet fixed to a single object. I can't explain why, but this idea touches me deeply, like something I have always known and never been able to express. I felt a similar mysterious attraction to the virtual idol Hatsune Miku: the feeling of encountering a series of strangely impersonal yet deeply affecting images of an almost too-literal BwO. So, I decided to read one in the other, both through each, for the lecture. Based on the class' reaction, I think the example really worked to illustrate a difficult concept! To get all I can out of a topic I'm passionate about, I also proposed to expand the lecture through fan studies for presentation at the School Girls and Mobile Suits/Mechademia conference in September.

I'll be reworking the lecture for presentation in the next few weeks. So, I thought I'd post the presentation abstract here to get my brain -and this blog- started again. This, so far, is the idea:

"What Can a Vocaloid Do?: The Kyara as Body without Organs"

This paper explores the intersections between "kyara," desire, and fan production by reading the Vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku through Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory of the "Body without Organs" (BwO).

The first section explains the elusive BwO through three keywords: desire, intensity, and (de)stratification. It shows how Deleuze and Guattari understand desire not as a lack but as an immanent creative force, generating freely-circulating intensities. In contrast to criticisms of the BwO as apolitical abstraction, however, I bring out the vital social implications that arise when the BwO is organized or stratified in embodied practice.

To illustrate a BwO in practice, I turn next to the example of the kyara or character in anime, manga, light novels and related media. Here I discuss the difference between the kyara of the media-mix industry and the traditional "I" of the Japanese "I-novel," comparing their modes of subjectivity and desire, their media temporalities, and the ways they build up or break down strata of identity and social hierarchy.

Finally, as a concrete case study, I consider the virtual idol singer Hatsune Miku and the uses she is put to by major corporations and fan collectives. In asking "What Can a Vocaloid Do?", my paper reformulates Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the BwO in light of today's media environment, and provides a more complex perspective on the Vocaloid phenomenon, beyond the easy celebrations of user empowerment touted by the media giants themselves.

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Comments {5}

Rax E. Dillon

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from: rax
date: Sep. 1st, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
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This paper sounds amazing and I would love to read/hear it when you're done.

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Sandra Annett

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from: merin_chan
date: Sep. 1st, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! I'll send it to you once I've got it written up a little more formally than in my lecture notes. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Also, I don't know if you got it, but I linked you an article about becoming-octopus through LJ messaging. Just in case you're interested! ^^

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Azwan Azizi Alias

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from: Azwan Azizi Alias
date: Jan. 9th, 2013 09:01 am (UTC)
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i would really like to read more about this article regarding vocaloid and kyara~! i myself am doing an assignment on vocaloid and your works will be a great additional information and citation in my assignment~

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from: anonymous
date: Mar. 29th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
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Hmmm what can a vocaloid do? Was originally returning to your blog to answer your 2011-02-12 "Words that we couldn't say" post, because it struck something in me - even though I came upon your journal researching other stuff. I have a fondness for the current vocaloid phenom, because something like it hit me 12-13 years ago, when i found myself trying to use nascent pc music software, primitive text-to-speech engines, autotune and random text generators to get "something" out of my system.

I had a lot of musical friends,and I am not at all musical. Add a few other lacks and wants, then add a bit of theory from art school and friends who understood high theory (hooray for D&G!), and a nagging few questions about the construction of the modernist "subject". Stir and simmer: it is amazing how patterns of things can be "almost" in so many ways. This is beyond the idea of masks, and tries to slip by the whole uncanny valley thing, because that doesn't answer any important questions.

End result: a few odd ball tunes posted on usenet groups interested in pc music software that was not really theirs, and the annoyance of my musically gifted friends. Felt GOOD! No need for me now, for yamaha software, or miku miku dance software obsessions, unless I could now get up the time and effort to have a vocaloid sing lyrics that were probability-based semi random strings of what word follows the previous from the text of all the women characters in Hamlet. (Hamlet because of Walter Benjamin, the text juggling done through a little gem whomped up by a finish programmer some 15-18 years ago.) Call it an obsession with the contingency of narrative.

So.. Why did I?? I am looking forward to your paper, and I hope you post it here, or to an open journal. I miss a lot because I cannot slip through academic paywalls any more.

I am interested in reading what you think a vocaloid can do, because what I thought I was doing was not "drag" - I had no text or music "composition" I needed a puppet to sing for/to me or be a substitute face/ voice for me- but I really needed to hear what resulted. This one was built around a random snippet of engineering joke about specifications, http://archive.org/download/iuma-king_beat_rythm_box/KING_BEAT_RYTHM_BOX_-_pipe.mp3

Originally stumbled on your stuff because of "Notes towards and analysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl (finally)" as my fanning over Genshiken led me into fujoshi theory stuff - oops, got diverted, end up posting (yikes!). My thanks for the insightful writings - mudakun, heartoffuriousfancies / wordpress.

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Sandra Annett

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from: merin_chan
date: Mar. 29th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
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Wow, thanks so much for your comment! I had no idea that anyone even remembered those posts you mention, especially since I get so few comments. You've really made my day!

I'd be fascinated to hear more about your early (and maybe future?) experiments with computer-generated music. I took a Digital Music course in high school (about 1998-99) where I had a lot of fun distorting the sounds of keyboards into "songs" that are still probably hanging around on floppy disks somewhere. So I've always had a fondness for electronic sounds too. Thanks for your link, btw! It's interestingly layered.

As for Miku...well, she's something else for me, more than a musical instrument. She sets off some kind of desiring for an inhuman or posthuman body I have and don't have, for the virtuality of my body. I guess that's why I went into D&G territory. I'm planning to submit the article version of this talk to the journal Mechademia, for an issue based on the conference in Seoul where I (also) presented it. Sorry! But at least Mechademia is more widely available than most academic journals, so you shouldn't have too much trouble getting hold of it. Let me know if you can't get it and I'll hook you up with a PDF once it's done.

Glad to meet another Genshiken/fujoshi/meta-fandom fan! I'll check out your wordpress blog as soon as I can.

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