Tag Archives: gloves

The Complex Beauty Of Accessible Tech.

Drake Music, the charity that put me on this journey through music with accessible technology.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with music and how it’s been changed by the necessity of disability. It’s a complex journey from a traditional acoustic instrument to a largely electronic landscape, but it’s by no means a tragedy.

I’ve always been intrigued by the emotional relationship between disability and technology. There’s a complex, emotive quality to the augmentation of human activity through technology by the necessity that disability can bring. An obvious example of this would be Stephen Hawking’s voice; there’s something that affects me emotionally about these huge, beautiful, human ideas being relayed through digital technology that is inherently devoid of emotion itself. This collision of human warmth and cold technology is incredibly powerful to me. It’s difficult to articulate how it makes me feel. There’s certainly a melancholic aspect to it for me, but it’s not tragic. It’s very beautiful, this kind of facsimile; a human spirit viewed through the digital glass. It has a distance to it that draws me in.

That’s why I love to use the gloves with technology like Native Instruments’ Kontakt instruments. These tools aim to give the composer all the tools to create realistic sounds such as orchestral instruments, but of course it isn’t ‘real’ – it’s a collection of expertly crafted digital tools, designed as a necessary second best to the ‘real’ thing. For me it’s anything but second best. That is the joy for me; I don’t use Kontakt strings because I can’t afford a real orchestra; I want to use digital technology. I’m not trying to trick the listener into assuming they’re hearing human orchestral players. I want to create that not-quite facsimile, the is it/isn’t ‘real’ – it’s a kind of allegory of what accessible technology means to me emotionally.

Of course, with the gloves this is literally accessible technology – that’s why I have the gloves! But it’s more than a crutch, it’s more than a compromise; this represents a part of the emotional nuances that come with disability. Playing strings like this moves me in a way a real string quartet wouldn’t; there’s a quirky melancholy, a subtle detachment that brings with I kind of pathos of human spirit relying on technology to survive. Not that I think this is better than the ‘real’ thing – but that it deserves to be seen as more than a compromise.

I had to be here to survive as a musician, but it’s a place I want to be. A place filled with complex beauty, and one that reminds of the true fragility of the things that make us human.

WIRED Interview: Mi.Mu Gloves & Accessible Music Tech

Photo credit: Nate Lanxon/WIRED.

This is great. Back in December, at Imogen’s pad in the country, I gave an interview to Nate Lanxon, editor of WIRED. Nate is one cool guy; he had loads of really interesting questions, and seemed to really get what we’re trying to achieve with the gloves. He’s also a huge TesseracT nut, which is a VERY GOOD THING.

Here’s Nate’s piece on the gloves weekend. Lots of me stuff, which is wonderful. This really helps our cause in championing the gloves as the breakthrough piece of accessible tech Gawain and I believe they are. Really appreciated, so big thanks to Nate for this one… 🙂

Read more at WIRED.co.uk

Mi.Mu Gloves – Tech Day One.

Today was a biggie.

I’ve spent the day at Drake Music’s London office, to get my head down working with the gloves. The brilliant Gawain Hewitt, my partner in crime on all things glove related, has been on hand to help iron out any issues before I take the gloves home and start work proper.

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Gloves Intro: Imogen Heap Performance On Science Club.

I’ll be posting a lot of Gloves stuff over the next few months, of course. I’ll be writing more about the launch weekend very soon, and that’s before we get into what’s coming very soon…

I get asked lots of questions about the Gloves already. For the relatively uninitiated, this clip of Imogen on Dara O’Briain’s Science Club is a neat little intro.

It’s an oldish clip; the gloves have progressed further since this was broadcast. When I first saw this I was blown away, but I had almost no concept of how this all worked It’s very neat to watch this now I’m in the Glover community; knowing all the little tricks hidden in those hand movements* is incredibly exciting…

*’Postures’ is the term used by Glovers to describe all those hand movements.

The Mi.Mu Gloves: Launch Event


Photo by Immersed Photography.

If you’re tuned into the noise I make via soc med, you’ve probably heard about this. Here’s a better explanation of what I got up to last Friday night.

Actually, I should bring the initiated up to speed on the key players first.

You’ve heard of Drake Music, right? They’re the wonderful charity that helps enable disabled musicians. They welcomed me into the DM family a couple of years ago, and have offered me help and support ever since.

Imogen Heap? Of course you do.

The Mi.Mu Gloves? Okay, these you may not know about yet. Mi.Mu Gloves are straight out of the future. You’ve seen Minority Report, yeah? It’s like that. They’re a tool to enable the controlling of computers and software via hand gestures, free of wires, keyboards and other traditional hardware control. Specifically created for music making, they facilitate music making in a fluid, natural, flowing way, light years ahead of mouse clicks. They were devised by Imogen Heap, with a fantastic team of scientists and musicians. This video explains the concept in more detail:

Still with me? So, Drake Music are collaborators on the Mi.Mu Gloves Project, meaning they receive a pair of gloves of their own from the initial 15 pair run. Thanks to Gawain Hewitt at DM, I make my entrance in this tale about now.

Gawain Hewitt leads Research & Development at DM. He’s long been a supporter of my music, and a like-minded soul who I get on famously with. Earlier this year we began talking about my changing needs as a musician. As you’ll know if you’ve been watching the Flesh & Dust vlog entries, my hand functions have deteriorated noticeably of late. Gawain and I discussed the impact of this deterioration could have on my musicianship in the future. Around this time I began exploring iOS music making in more detail, as a way of testing the waters beyond the familiar guitars and pianos. This experimentation gave birth to the Dyskinetik stuff, my first totally electronic piece of work.

Gawain revealed to me that he had bold ambitions to use the gloves that Drake Music were now receiving to help me. His ideas are big and bold; on several occasions he’s discussed his vision of me becoming a ‘gloves-only’ artist. That’s an incredible thought; to be one of the first people in the world to make music with this incredible technology, not just as a one song trick, but as a defining style of working.

So, Friday night saw the official launch event of the Gloves, after several years of development. I’ve been following this for a long time, so was stupidly excited to be there. The event took place in a barn at Imogen’s home, where the team have been for the last two weeks putting the finishing touches to the Gloves. The atmosphere was one of wonder and excitement. The team mingled with collaborators, sharing tips and hacks. In the far corner, one half of Frou Frou sat quietly working in front of Ableton Live.

Needless to say, Imogen Heap was supermagical IRL. I’ve been a fan since the first Frou Frou single; she has remained consistently brilliant ever since. I *think* I was cool enough about meeting her, but when you rate someone’s work so highly, it’s hard not to get just a little starstruck. You want to get inside their process, learn how they think and work. As it turned out, Immi (as the team call her) was incredibly open and generous with her ideas.

We weren’t expecting much play time, but I was lucky to enough to get some time with a pair. With the help of fellow collaborater Tom Shani, I got set up playing some simple beats with the gloves on. I’ve waited for months to get to play music with the Gloves. Straight away, it’s an otherworldly experience. Playing rhythms using changing hand positions (called postures), sound feels as if it becomes a tangible thing, occupying a real space. The beats were in my hands; this is so far ahead of tapping a screen or drum pad, it becomes a new thing entirely.

Nate Lanxon, editor of Wired, was covering the event; the first of much media coverage that weekend. We did a great interview; he had some very thoughtful questions about the gloves and accessibility. He really gets it, and seemed genuinely excited by it all. CNN were in the next day, but more on day two next time…

Pics from the event, courtesy of Gawain Hewitt:

(More on the Mi.Mu Gloves weekend in the next few days…)


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