me the machine … and music


People say ‘I’m not musical at all’, but of course they are.

Everyone’s musical.

If you enjoy music, you understand the language of music.

You may not know how to turn on a computer and create a whole song, but you’re musical. If I give you an instrument with a cool sound, all nicely tuned, and you just have to play around with it, you become musical.”


Imogene Heap




I admit.


I am an unabashed Imogene Heap music fan.


She is quirky & eclectic & electric and aspirational.

Personally and in her music.


And she does shit I believe scares the shit out of a lot of other musicians <and it is shit a lot of older people just don’t understand>.



Suffice it to say that if there were a technology innovator in the music world it would be she.

beck imogenHeap_400

There is “Mi.Mu” … the wearable-tech gloves she developed that create music from gestures.


There is the “Twitdress” … the dress she wore to the Grammys in 2010 which flashed messages from fans as she walked on-stage to collect an award.


There is the video site Vokle which she used to audition musicians for a tour.


There is crowdfunding site PledeMusic which she used to raise money to make her next album. on


There is the time she solicited samples from fans on SoundCloud then used them to construct a song.


There is the time she collaborated with developers in a Music Hack Day.


And now.


Heap has this wacky absurd idea that non-musicians – or at least people who think they’re non-musicians – can play new instruments and create music through technology <including apps to gestural gloves>.


Please note the sarcasm on my part about ‘wacky absurd.’


This idea is called ‘Reverb’ which encourages people, anyone, to come in and get hands-on with some of this tech.


— The Gloves Project —



How awesome is this? <awesome>.


A creative person encouraging non-creative people to believe they were actually a creative person.


And not just talking about it but building actual tools … tools anyone can use … to create music.

music function free

I am even more an Imogene Heap fan than ever.


I think Imogene is a good songwriter.


But I kind of feel like she is a good person.


I have put her on my short list of people I would like to meet.


She is also on my short list of people I admire.


She also reminds us that in a world where we so often discuss personal technology as a destroyer of culture and civilized behavior … technology can truly be an empowering tool to enhance culture and civilization.




Just because I have the excuse to do so I will share my top 5 Imogene Heap songs.


An amazing artist who plays all of the instruments herself, sings all of the vocals, writes all of the music and lyrics and when she appears live … almost always plays all of the instruments herself. She embraces technology so she can replicate all of the sounds she created herself.



I will admit.

Her music is often best heard with your headphones on and you can take in all of the clever layering and the typical Imogen Heap trait of creating strange percussive sounds and gorgeous string sound created on a synthesizer.


Top five. There are a number of “Imogene Top Ten favorite lists” so i was able to steal some words from one of them. I use the words mostly because the person sounds more knowledgeable and cooler than I  … but the song choices are mine:



Let Go:


My favorite in the breakdown 2


My favorite lyric. “The beauty is in the breakdown” … sigh.


Let Go is an amazing song which is a deliciously arranged electropop song with great lyrics and a lovely bridge into the chorus. Best of all is the amazing Middle 8 with Immy’s weird sampled vocals – low, low and low again but it all rises again. The electric piano counterpoints perfectly with the electronic drums and the lush synth strings.

This song is almost perfect in its dream-pop layeredness.



Hide and Seek:

Whew. This is a whopper of a song. You can find some amazing a cappella remakes on youtube because … well … it is amazing a cappella.

Most famously used in one of the most memorable episodes of The O.C. and sampled by Jason Derulo.

Listen carefully and you will hear sausages frying in a pan in the background and also rain splashing on windows outside. Imogen recorded this song – just her and her vocoder onto her Pro Tools software sequencer in her flat and her boyfriend at the time was cooking their supper.


It’s a one shot song – a snapshot of her ability to get amazing sounds out of electronica and her skill in using very little to get a big sound – this song is so original and has been copied and sampled by many musicians since its original release.


“Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth” – who creates lyrics like that?



Speeding Cars:


Imogen is in top form with this song ‘Speeding Cars’ which she released between her second and third albums. As such it remains a stand alone track and we are so glad that a contractual arrangement with her record company may have meant her bringing out a track when her third album, ‘Ellipse’ ran into scheduling problems.


It is another of Imogen’s adventures in layering. She is an amazing arranger and an even better engineer for fitting everything together in such a perfect way.


The vocals are layered and there are some astounding melodic flights of fancy in this song. It also has really great lyrics. She writes her lyrics in a very organic way, usually without music, sometimes like poetry, sometimes at home, sometimes in coffee bars but she just seems to be very good at it.


imogene wide arms

First Train Home:


First Train Home is the opening track of Imogene’s third album, Ellipse and was written after a crappy night out with friends which left her feeling out of sorts in the middle of the evening and just wishing she was back home in her own company. She was in the process of making Ellipse when she was invited out with friends but all she could think about was getting back to her studio and mulling over a problem she had with a song.


So this song is her expression of her own frustrations and of suddenly not feeling part of the crowd.



The Walk:


This song was my favourite for a long, long time <note: I agree with the original author> – I enjoy its way of breaking out of its shackles half way through. The strange percussive instruments at the intro leads into a pretty big standard electronic rhythm track but don’t be fooled- Imogen Heap rarely let’s a song play out in an ordinary fashion, there are always little twists and turns – aren’t the pizzicato strings wonderful in the chorus and then the vocal middle 8, just her and the percussion but then it all breaks loose – it suddenly gets staccato and operatic and dissonant and you’re in her thrall again.



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Written by Bruce