Music is a powerful outlet, expressive and immersive, an emotional and passionate journey for both the performer and the listener. For many artists, they communicate personally and directly through their music, whether using organic instruments or electronic and digital handles to create the sound. In both cases, the musician uses a tool to help them create their music. But imagine the magic of music emerging from the energetic movements of your own body!
With the development of technology, many artists have been able to push boundaries with their music. British musician Imogen Heap, brilliant though arguably still relatively unrecognised, has always been an engaging performer, interactively using technical elements to adapt and enhance the sound of her music. Audiences will often see her on stage, surrounded by an array of acoustic instruments as well as electronic software and computers to directly create and control the music. Using various tools such as samplers, loopers, vocoders, synth boards and other music software, Heap always achieves an atmospheric and unique sound, full of depth and emotion.
Fuelled by her motivation to push forward the combination of technology, music, and her performance, Heap has collaborated with other musicians, artists, scientists and technologists to develop the mi.mu gloves. Incorporating motion trackers, haptic motors, bend sensors and e-textiles, this ingenious accessory is programmed in such a way to interact with mapped virtual space around the user, enabling sounds to literally be drawn out from thin air by the wearer. Due to a large part of Heap’s performances being based around technological and electronic features, she wanted to remove the barrier between the music and the machine, and this fantastic wearable technology enables her to do just that. The most recent version of the gloves is now completely wireless, operating from a small x-osc board that sits on the wrist of the glove and uses Wi-Fi to connect to the computer.
The control and possibilities the user has with the gloves is unimaginable, with the ability to switch through different virtual instruments, electronic sounds, pitch, layers, effects and different musical textures. This can all be done instantaneously on stage, merely with the wave of a hand, eradicating the need to stand behind a computer or deck to create these sounds. An expressive marriage of sound, visuals and technology is achieved and it is a truly spectacular thing to watch as the user is completely immersed in an invisible, musical space – and the audience are left to marvel at the sheer brilliance of it all.
Furthermore, the non-profit start-up, recognising the wider potential of the mi.mu technology, has made the gloves available to a variety of users, including Disability Arts International and Drake Music, a leading national organisation that focuses on music technology and disability. Mi.mu gloves, along with other groundbreaking technologies, give the possibility to less abled people to make music where they may not have been able to before, which is of course, an important and commendable attribute.
The future of music, the freedom and possibility to create it and its power to promote better involvement and inclusion continues to develop be enriched by technology such as the mi.mu gloves.
Listen to Heap explain her motivation behind the mi.mu gloves here.
Watch a previous demo of one of the first working versions of the mi.mu gloves here.
Listen to a recent TEDx talk on the gloves here.