As much as I love the movie The Shining, I never thought I’d ever see that title in the same sentence with the word ‘opera;’ and yet here we are.
Turns out the Minnesota Opera, located in Minneapolis, has become known for showcasing rare and unusual operas. For instance, they’ve performed operatic versions of Where the Wild Things Are, Frankenstein, and The Handmaid’s Tale. They’ve even done one called Nixon in China. Admittedly, I’m not much of an opera fan. However, I understand there are those aficionados who make it a hobby of ‘collecting’ performances of strange operas and if this happens to be your thing, keep reading.
The Minnesota Opera’s head musical director, Eric Simonson and the artistic director Dale Johnson, came up with the idea to turn Stephen King’s novel into opera. They contacted Pulitzer Prize winning composer Paul Moravec, and Grammy Award winning lyricist Mark Campbell, and three years later The Shining opera premiered at the Ordway Music Theater in May 2016.
Part I of this 3-part survey was an introductory overview of the Bushiroad titles Cardfight!! Vanguard and BanG Dream!, and a look at how how the band Roselia was a feature of both projects. This time we examine how the newer female rock group RAISE A SUILEN is involved in both as well…
RAISE A SUILEN, the newer of the main girl-groups from the BanG Dream! universe, has a style of heavy keyboard-laden rock similar to Roselia, the band they consider their main rival. They also have some very distinct differences (aside from just being a completely separate band, with their own specific songs, I mean). They are not only newer, but their whole means of coming into existence was substantially different.
For a prime example of just how elaborately interconnected and cross-platform some multimedia projects can become – particularly, in Japan! – you needn’t look any further than the activities of Bushiroad, which is surely one of the most quickly expanding media phenomena out there, both in its home country and internationally.
Best known perhaps as a purveyor of card battle games, for which they regularly hold official tournament events all around the world, they have also made major incursions into the worlds of anime and manga, video games, music and nearly any other medium which might promote their various properties. In particular, the Bushiroad Music division has had an increasingly huge role in their operations; and that will be the main focus of this article as well. Not attempting any kind of a detailed overview, we’ll be looking primarily at two of their best-known franchises: Cardfight!! Vanguard and BanG Dream!
The history of science fiction cinematic musicals may not be broad, but it has depth, dating back to the very first science fiction “talkie.” Just Imagine was made in 1930 and starred John Garrick, El Brendel, Frank Albertson, and Maureen O’Sullivan. Today, O’Sullivan may be the best remembered for her portrayals of Jane Parker opposite Johnny Weismuller in six Tarzan films beginning with Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932 and ending with Tarzan’s New York Adventure a decade later. Unfortunately, Just Imagine doesn’t work as a musical, as a science fiction film, or as a comedy. Its place in history is assured simply by the fact that it got there first.
One of the most success science fiction films is one that many, perhaps most, of the people who have seen it don’t realize, or consider, to be a science fiction film. Released in 1952, it would have been eligible for a Hugo Award at the 11th Worldcon in Philadelphia where they were first given out, had there been a Dramatic Presentation Award, along with films such as Zombies of the Stratosphere, Radar Men from the Moon, Red Planet Mars, April 1, 2000, and Jack and the Beanstalk.
The film is Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and Jean Hagen.
In Part I of this 3-part series, we examined how the concept of the Virtual Idol first emerged in anime during the 1980s. In Part II we looked at how things opened up as we entered the digital age, particularly with the emergence of the whole Vocaloid sub-culture, and its popular software.
It’s no surprise that after the tremendous success of Hatsune Miku and her immediate follow-ups there has been a wave of newer virtual singers hitting the scene. Some have been in the form of additional voicebanks (with their own related character avatars) in directly Vocaloid-related products, often developed by partner companies, and sometimes they arise from separate yet similar voice-synthesizers.
The most significant of these competing programs would be the UTAU shareware, with their singer characters also being known as UTAU (or UTAUloids, unofficially). There are a few factors that have increased its popularity, not the least of which is that it can be downloaded free of charge! Although it comes with one starting voice named Uta Utane (more often called by her nickname ‘Defoko’) — who sounds a bit rudimentary, in comparison to the Vocaloids — users can also create their own singer voices, and make them freely available to others.
In Part I of this 3-part series, we looked at how the concept of the Virtual Idol first emerged in anime during the 1980s, featuring some of the more popular storylines and prominent idols to make an appearance in this genre, a phenomenon which could be seen as the precursor to an eventual reality where technology would let them enter our lives more directly. This is the reality that unfolds before us now!
As we enter the digital age, the possibilities open up considerably. Idols can go beyond just appearing in a futuristic context — and actually manifest as creations on our own computers!! The giant leap forward comes with the arrival of a line of software products called Vocaloids. Created by Crypton Future Media, and using technology developed by musical equipment giant Yamaha, a Vocaloid is a type of speech synthesis program which converts words and melodies designated by the user into an electronic singing voice.
There are some parameters for tweaking the sound, but for the most part each version of the program is based on one specific voice, and is tied to a related character avatar representing the singer. The first two major entries in the series featured a female singer named Meiko, along with her male counterpart Kaito. They remained somewhat obscure for most people though, at least in the beginning. It was the next entry, the first in the newer ‘Vocaloid2’ line, who was to become the star that would launch a massive cultural revolution in Japanese music — the virtual idol known as Hatsune Miku!!
The concept of ‘Virtual Idols’ that I’m looking to describe here is something of a slippery and multi-faceted notion — not unlike the culture that surrounds their real-life counterparts, to a large degree! The elements form a sort of loose meshwork of overlapping scenes, which often intersect and change as they progress.
So, am I basically attempting to define the indefinable here? Perhaps! There are certain recurring themes which connect a lot of it together, so I’ll keep those things in mind as I sketch out my ongoing exploration… and with any luck, that should be enough to make it all clear.
While there are theoretically no limits where we could go with this, it’s also something very much tied to one location — and yes, it’s exactly where you expect: the nation of Japan. But before we can fully understand this phenomenon of Japanese virtual idols, we first need to get acquainted with non-virtual idols, which form such a major part of pop music culture there. That can be a bit challenging in itself, actually! While not entirely different from pop idols in other parts of the world, the term ‘Idol’ has a much more specific usage and cultural history within Japan. There are various degrees of being an idol performer as well, as the context has evolved somewhat over time… which can be confusing for newcomers, or for those who follow just one aspect of overall fandom. I’ll try to make it clearer as I go, but suffice to say that being an idol definitely involves more than simply being a singer of pop music, in Japan!
First, let’s try to very briefly pin down a few of the most important qualities of an idol.
Do you remember a German pop band called Nena and their single big song, “99 Luftballons”? No? Well, they were a one-hit wonder. How amazing is it, to be a one-hit wonder? Think of all the bands, playing in garages, trying their hardest to line up gigs, who never make the charts, whose songs are never heard by anyone other than family and friends. What do you think the ratio of unheard bands to one-hit wonders is?
Hard to calculate, but I’ll bet it’s huge.
Consider all the factors that have to come together for a song to rise to the prominence of “99 Luftballons,” and then imagine how all the other bands vying for attention would give almost anything to have that single moment of success that Nena enjoyed.
Just one hit.
And then think of Linda Ronstadt or Bruce Springsteen and their numerous triumphs.
Although the Beatles, as comprised of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, only existed as a band from August 1962 until April 1970, they left an indelible mark on the music and culture of the world that is constantly being discovered, explored, and reinvented. One of those reinventions occurred in 2019 with the release of the film Yesterday, in which singer Jack Malik discovers he is one of the few people in the world who remembers the Beatles and builds a career out of recreating their songs. Even before that film was released, however, editors Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn were at work creating the anthology Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles.
At lunch in the executive dining room of Black Gate Tower a couple of weeks ago, our esteemed editor and I were finishing our desserts (wild honey pie for me, Savoy truffle for him), when he asked my opinion of Yesterday. I described what I liked about it, what I felt could have made it better, and explained that I viewed a world without the Beatles or Coke as essentially dystopian. I told him why the alternative ending would have improved the film and, at the same time, opened up other questions that it hadn’t addressed.
Two days later I was summoned into the presence of the giant, floating holographic head that gives Black Gate writers their assignments, and presented with a copy of Across the Universe. Our conversation at lunch had been sounding me out for my knowledge of all things Beatle.
Jody Lynn Nye has cast the Fab Four as powerful elemental wizards and follows the adventures of George, the water mage, as he strikes out on his own and finds himself face-to-face with a powerful enemy. The story explores the difficulties of making it on your own when you’re used to working in a group, but also points out how experiences continue to inform a person’s actions. Nye also looks beyond Harrison’s career with the Beatles and even his solo career for her source material.
The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented by the British Science Fiction Association since 1970 and were originally nominated for and voted on by the members of the Association. The Media Award was created in 1979, when it was won be the original series of the radio show The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In its first three years, the award was won by the first and second series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show as well as the record. The award was presented annually until 1992, when the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day won the final award.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio show which aired on the BBC from March 8, 1978 to April 12, 1978, with an additional episode (called a fit) airing on December 24, 1978. The show was so popular that a stage show based on the radio show ran from May 1-9, 1979 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The first four episodes of the radio show were also adapted (with some alterations) for release on a double LP set in 1979 (released in the US and Canada in 1982). The recordings used the original scripts, but cut some sections for timing while adding in alternative lines that were cut from the radio shows (including one that I really enjoy). Most of the original radio cast returned for the record, although Susan Sheridan, who had voiced Trillian, was unavailable since she was recording the voice of Princess Eilonwy for Disney’s animated film The Black Cauldron, and was replaced by Cindy Oswin, who had performed the role in the ICA stage production.