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2012 Coachella Music Festival - Day 3

Is Technology Making Rock N’ Roll Heaven obsolete?

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Is Technology Making Rock N’ Roll Heaven obsolete?

In the same way that film-making was changed in 1999 when the Wachowskis brought the world the first “The Matrix” movie, earlier this year at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival, a tech company called AV Concepts changed the way we see, or can see live performances of once dead artists.

AV Concepts, the company responsible for the Tupac hologram that performed with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, uses an updated version of a stage trick that has been around since the 1800’s. According to an article published in the Washington Post, a 1999 patent that was uncovered by the International Business Times, explains that the trick used by the company employs an angled piece of glass placed on the stage to reflect a projector image onto a screen that looks invisible to the audience, but gives the illusion of a three dimensional image when view from a distance.  The trick all together cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 to $400 thousand dollars to create and the latest reports say that the computer generated Tupac is going on tour with Dre and Dogg possibly later this year.

In addition to AV Concepts creating the tech for the Coachella performance, it has recently been announced that British rockers, Queen will be employing the same technology to “perform” with their lead singer, the late Freddie Mercury, for the 10th Anniversary celebration of the “We Will Rock You” musical.

Prior to the Tupac performance at Coachella, the AV Concepts company had used the technology to company to digitally resurrect some deceased executives for larger companies, but they have declined to say who.  But now that’s two performing artists that have been resurrected from the dead to play live in concert to paying fans. But you have to begin to wonder, where should the line get drawn?

CEO of AV Solutions has said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post that positive response to the Tupac illusion has opened the door to other players in the “digital resurrection game”.  Since the debut of Tupac, rumors have swirled about the Jackson family possibly looking into the technology as a way to carry on the legacy of Michael Jackson. So does this mean that Elvis Presley will perform again? Could a full fledged Beatles reunion with John Lennon and George Harrison be in the works? What about the resurrection of Kurt Cobain? Janis Joplin? Jimi Hendrix? Does this mean that INXS won’t have to go on another reality television show to find a new lead singer? After all, now they can just digitize Michael Hutchence back to life? But where does the game stop? Where is the line drawn? And at what point does it all become too much? Is it respect for the deceased musicians and their music, or does it become just a morbid fascination to see what a performing “ghost” is like?

In essence, all the “performance” itself really is nothing more than cobbled together footage from previously recorded performances, blended with motion capture and a bit of CGI to make it the new image more fluid, but can this technology recapture or mimic the true performance.

The “hologram” technology could be used in many interesting ways, but in a more educational setting versus an entertainment based setting. A place like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could rebroadcast important performances in Rock and Roll history, like Jimi Hendrix’s performance at Woodstock, The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, or Elvis Presley’s 1968 Comeback Special.

Other places that could benefit from the technology would be the Smithsonian Institute or other museums that could use the technology to resurrect great leaders throughout time and allow them to speak in their own words.  Students could witness Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, or Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural speech in a presence that would be as close to recreating that exact moment in time.

Using the “holograms” as a means of rebroadcasting moments in time that have happened and were recorded are one thing, those are fixed moments that aren’t being manipulated. For the newer performances, they could use the tech to basically turn any dead rock star into a computer programmer’s personal puppet and rewrite and recreate an entirely new performance.

And does anyone want to pay money to see that in concert? The “Hologram” technology as an updated way to remember what was could be viewed as a good thing, but at some point, someone has to decide, when does it cross the line between respect and just flat out making a buck off of the dead. When does it seem like technology is doing nothing more than to resurrect the dead to sell concert tickets?

And once it reaches that point, you have to really ask yourself what makes a live concert with a “hologram” better than watching it in the comfort of your living room? At least in your living room you aren’t jammed into a venue with 20,000 other people, paying for overpriced beer and watching a digital puppet perform while their estate and old band members and managers rake in the cash.

By Christina Lawler

OurVinyl | Contributor