Imogen Heap integrates fans’ recordings into album Sparks (Wired UK)

Three years ago musician Imogen Heap
asked her fans to send her sounds from their lives — “a cat’s
meow, rustling leaves, banging on pots and pans” — to form part of
a song known only as #HeapSong1. Then
followed #HeapSong2 a few
months later. And then #HeapSong3.

Fourteen tracks, multiple collaborations and innumerable
creative contributions from around the world later, Imogen Heap has
released Sparks
— her fifth studio album — today. It marks the end of an
experimental journey that saw the artist not only give herself
strict time limits to complete each song in, but also release them
individually as they were completed.

One of these tracks — then known only as #HeapSong5,
now as Xizi She Knows — included the help of 250
volunteers in China. “I made music out of recordings on this one
particular day on 9 December 2012, with 24 scenes across the city
of Hangzhou [in eastern China] with 24 sets of people in 24
locations, and the recordings I made that day — whether the
printing press printing [that day’s] newspaper, which was also my
birthday — were threaded into a song,” says Heap. “The inspiration
can come from the fans, from the sound of a match, or the sound of
a word that someone has sent in, or a city.”

Imogen Heap Performance with Musical Gloves Demo: Full Wired Talk 2012Wired UK

It is on this album that Heap’s
musical gloves
, which allow her to manipulate and mix music and
her voice in real time using hand gestures, make their first studio
appearance. “What I have been able to do is expressively interact
with my computer using software that I know and love,” Heap tells before a recent performance at London’s Roundhouse.
“Instead of having to be forced to use a fader, I can do that with
my hands.

“It may be very sculptural, the sound that you’re making; to do
that with your hands feels much more natural.”

While producing her album, Heap embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to fund development of her gloves.
“Unfortunately for us it didn’t work in the sense that we didn’t
get our final cash,” she said, “but it did work in that it really
spread the word for the gloves and we did find our top-tier
collaborators, which we thought we were going to have problems with
because we asked them for £5,000.

“At the moment we can’t offer the gloves for an affordable price
because they’re expensive beasts [around £1,200 per glove] and it’s
taking a long time to develop them. But we did find 13 people who
gave us this £5,000 [each]. They’re not investors, and maybe
they’re paying more than they would in a year from now. But they
want them now and they want to collaborate and work with us and
we’re really excited. At the moment it’s just me testing it and I’m
pretty busy — and now I’m pregnant, so I’m extra busy.”

With such creative technology involved, unconventional methods
of songwriting composition, and a business ideology that ignores
traditional business convention, it may come as no surprise that
Heap attracted some excited collaborators from the left field of
creativity’s populous: “There’s a guy called Klimchak who makes music with
avocados while he’s cooking,” said Heap. “He was asking if he could
have a waterproof pair of gloves.

“They don’t mind getting a bit wet actually, as I discovered
when I poured some tea over them the other day.”

You can hear the results of Heap’s three year’s of work on her
new album, Sparks, released on her own label Megaphonic

New Imogen Heap website
New Imogen Heap websiteAndy Carne

She is also set to unveil an extremely high-tech redesign of her website, developed by
Colchester-based designer Andy Carne (“the only one mad enough to
take it on”, according to Heap in Carne’s memory). The new platform
is an HTML5 and CSS3-rich “3D interactive site”, according to
Carne, speaking to over email, which “is also a mashup
of official and fan-driven content”. It features “self-designing”
pages that draw their colour schemes from the main image in an
individual news story of fan blog, along with 3D layouts and
navigation styles based on Fibonacci sequences.

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18 August 2014 | 4:10 pm – Source:

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