Intersections Study Day

  • Home
  • Intersections Study Day

11:55–13:05 Session 3. Embodiments

Jessica Tsun Lem Hui, University of Cambridge,

Virtuosic without organs? Singing voice synthesis and virtuality in Shibuya Keīchirō’s The End (2012)

In Shibuya Keīchirō’s ‘humanless’ opera, The End (2012), desires for pliability and fantasies of control are realised through the technological affordances of Vocaloid. This singing synthesis software manifests the voices of both the protagonist (virtual pop sensation Hatsune Miku) and the antagonist (a bootleg clone known as Look-A-Like) in an opera of holographic bodies and virtual mise-en-scèneThe End’s narrative obsesses over death and existentialism, where Miku attempts to defy her immortal, digital state for a fallible, human existence—an ultimately humanist rendering of a posthumanist opera illustrating the fluidity and fragility of nonhuman performers and the diegetic world. By examining the opera’s narrative, notions of vocal virtuosity, and by exploring the socio-technical assemblage of Miku, this paper reimagines vocal production and intermundane collaboration as it relates to the fluid and reversible configurations between voices, bodies, and technologies in performance. It proposes a reading of musical performance that troubles both the experience of the performing voice and narratives of technological determinism relating to emerging voice technologies.

Jessica Tsun Lem Hui is a composer and PhD researcher in Music at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. Her research examines contemporary relationships between voice, technology, and society. Her dissertation investigates the cultural histories and impact of vocal imitation technologies, ranging from 18th-century speaking automata to contemporary AI-generated voices.


The Didone Project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC)
under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme,
Grant agreement No. 788986.