A case study: Vocaloid
The brief explanation:
Vocaloid is a voice-generator, software that sings once you write music for it. There are multiple editions, each one having its own sound. Pop-stars have leant their voices to the program, but they voices are primarily visualized as belonging to the box art. This program is commercially available to the public (Japanese public) and in 2008, they became immensely popular for amateur artists (enough for me to notice, ostrich headed as I am). Amateur song-writers uploaded their work and illustrators and animators made videos for them. I'm not sure if it was because I didn't understand the lyrics, but the synth-y, squeaky, electronic sound they produced became my background music for the end of high-school and the beginning of college.
So, I feel like this moment has a… more democratic understanding of what it means to author/artist in the hyper-connected age. The creators of Vocaloid, from an observer's perspective, was initially very absent from the creative process. Once the software was published, the main creative push to make content for this medium. But, like live voices, the prominence of the singer battled against the song-writer. There was never really any attachment to one Vocaloid or song-writer for me, a series of one hit wonders. I know people who compulsively followed one program or another, but my main hook were videos and songs that had a strong visuals and a strong narrative. This tier of creation and distribution was tangled but man gable, then it started to get quite crazy. Firstly, the most popular Vocaloid, Hastune Miku, suddenly became a singer in her own right and performs in holographic form (she opened for two of Lady Gaga's Japanese shows). That's weird in its own right, but more interesting for this argument is that covers started appearing, done by humans, singing popular Vocaloid songs. The are some great trails from A-->B. Example, a song getting a video featuring a character based on Miku (near identical silhouette) getting a sequel and then a whole televised cartoon with extensive merchandizing. Or a video with French references/imagery getting covered by a Russian singer.
So, the questions I'm asking are… fairly mundane and repetitive in the flow of cultural studies. Who is the author, if there is a singular one? What is the extent their influence, and how much are they influenced by their audience? How much authoring do the audience do? And where exactly is the limits of the media object anyways?
In the case of Vocaloid, the layering of authorship is fairly obvious and disjointed. A holographic lead singer could not be possible without the talent of the initial software programs; the singer who provided the initial voice print; the original song-writer; the animators that helped the song's initial rise to popularity; and the 3D animators, hardware engineers, and programmers who bring her to life. No matter what the specific quality an individual finds appealing, the end product wouldn't be possible without the other creators. The facilitation of individuals and production and distribution companies is pivotal to this discussion too; ripping and reposting content from nicovideo.com to youtube was the major way I saw most of my favourite videos. What is interesting is how transparent the layers of creative sediment are, and the presumed disjunction between these layers. This has important implications when commerce is rolled in, and who exactly is being unfairly exploited as money pools in certain points. Trying to find the author in this arrangement more obviously shows how a single object is actually the product of many people's effort. Emphasizing any one creator is more an act of organization than anything else. Its more an exercise in running through traditional power structures in the music industry and finding them all wanting once the singer is removed.
One of my favourite songs is Just Be Friends, which is ancient. Here's it first level of explosion to my limited knowledge; there is a design for her dress, a rap versions, remixes, and instrumental verisons I haven't included.
Orig Video (Dixie Flatline, vid Yunomi-P) --commercial--> 2 sheet music, 2 games, 3 concerts, CD
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sequel covers video remakes
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Answer ----------------------------------- v
v v v cosplay vid
IA cover chorus cover halyosy cover