“Because there's beauty in the breakdown.” /ˈɪmədʒɨn ˈhiːp/

Friday, July 25, 2014 Of Minds And Mixtapes 0 Comments

Because there's beauty in the breakdown @ Of Minds & Mixtapes

Words I came to understand better as years went by, and a woman I came to associate with innovation; innovation born out of sheer enthusiasm of her experimentation. This is a tale of one creative spirit looking to push the world forward with gloves.

Yes, gloves.

Bearing similarities to the Power Glove of the most notorious video game controller, the Nintendo, and of course the K-glove developed by General Motors and NASA to help auto workers and astronauts, Imogen Heap's Mi.Mu glove literally sculpts sound out of thin air. Mi.Mu works by capturing hand gestures and movement with analog bend sensors. That information is then sent wirelessly via the x-OSC board [a wireless input-output board] on its wrist bands to a computer. This data is mapped to musical control signals and combine different gestures and movements to make more complex controls which can then be routed to a music software. 

Mi.Mu adds an unprecedented level of hand dexterity which can achieve the same things one would have being stuck in front of keyboards, computer screens, faders etc. to make music. So instead of turning up a fader in order to bring in a sound, you could be raising your arms to achieve the same effect. This means artists would not have to ship their various technological equipment to whatever destination they are playing. The gloves are pretty compact and require only a computer / laptop to function.

The first pair of Mi.Mu gloves were custom-made for Heap who actually funded its creation before their Kickstarter campaign. She has demonstrated the gloves at a number of conferences over the last few years, including TED University (2011), Music Matters in Mumbai (2011), Wired UK (2012), TED Global (2012) and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Top left to bottom right:
Imogen Heap, Rachel Freire, Adrian Lausch, Seb Madgwick, Thomas Mitchell, Hannah Perner-Wilson, Kelly Snook & Adam Stark
Mi.Mu's eight-person development team consists of Imogen Heap; Rachel Freire, a designer and artist; Adrian Lausch- 3D graphics, IT support, print design; Seb Madgwick- director of x-io Technologies, making wireless IMUs and custom electronics; Thomas Mitchell, a computer scientist, researcher and electronic musician; Hannah Perner-Wilson, a futuristic DIY e-textile expert who combines conductive materials and craft techniques; Kelly Snook, a NASA researcher, engineer and musician; and Adam Stark, a computer scientist and musician. The Mi.Mu project is still in its final stage of development, and the team is working closely to get the gloves to the rest of the world. They started a Kickstarter campaign last year to fund mass production.

It wasn't until I googled for the artist behind the rather tempting cover of Bonnie Tyler's classic "Holding Out for a Hero", which was featured during the credits of the movie Shrek 2, that I discovered British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap.

With some potent songwriting, her elegant ambient voice and a dash of tech-savviness, Heap became one of the most compelling artists of our time. The electro sounds and lyrics are so captivating and cleverly thought out it’s almost impossible not to be seduced by her work. Here's her fun video to one her her best known songs “Goodnight and go” out in 2005. I admit the lyrics are creepy in a stalker-ish kind of way. But with the bouncy, innocent way she presents it, you could (almost) excuse it as a post-adolescent infatuation.

Verdict: Imogean Heap has set the bar high.