MIT Media Lab

All posts tagged MIT Media Lab

Post by JAI
Award winning composer, vocalist, and superheroine


I’m always interested in new music performance technology, especially tools that enhance the output without hindering the process of performing live music. Imogen Heap, a brilliant composer and award winning artist, recently promoted and performed with a pair of the magical “Music Gloves” at Wired 2012.

Heap visited the MIT Media Labs in 2009, where she met Elly Jessop, who designed the original gesture gloves that could record and loop the voice with just a few intuitive hand gestures. When Elly sang a note, she could move her hand and change the instrument, vibrato, timbre, or a moving harmony. The combination of the intuitive music and movement excited Heap so much that she called Tom Mitchell, who had worked with her to program her Monome for a Letterman performance, and explained the idea to him . Tom loved the idea, and after receiving funding from the University of Western England to do a research paper, Heap asked 5DT for a set of gloves to begin the process.

It took several years for a team from the University of West England, along with Kelly Snook Adam Stark, Hanna Perner-Wilson, Rachel  Freire, Becky Stewart, and a few others to fully develop the tool.  An Xbox Kinect sits at the back of the stage and translates Heap’s position to provide different effects and layers. The floor literally becomes a playground, where she can walk in any direction and change the sound. As Heap moves toward the back of the stage the sound gets fuller and much bigger, but if she moves towards the audience at the front of the stage, the sound then becomes softer and more intimate.

Due to how Imogen makes her music, 50% of what she is doing on stage is never seen. She just presses a button and new sounds begin to move and pulsate. With this new technology, the audience can now see and hear everything she is doing on stage during her performance. The music Heap now performs is literally 3D in action. After many years and hours and hours of programming, the gloves via the user interface, Heap finally has a perfect and completely controllable live instrument using only her body on stage in order to shape and create her beautiful intelligent music!


Imogen Heap’s Wired 2012 Performance
Imogen Heap “The Gloves”
Ted Talks 2012 – She has music in her hands”