Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap is developing the future of digital music

People

At the heart of the “future of audio” are people – inspired individuals who dare to give shape to their creative vision and artistic imagination. Decision makers who prefer to reach their audiences and customers through great audio. Audio lovers who work relentlessly on innovative projects, who redefine and recreate sound experiences that touch the very souls of their listeners. “People” is dedicated to all those musicians, artists, engineers, producers, decision makers, owners and audio designers who fill and shape our world with sensational sound.

Imogen Heap transcends borders in the studio, on the stage and in real life. She has developed musical gloves and plans to revolutionize the record industry. In London, she holds a very special concert on the stage of Westminster Central Hall where she plays her latest song, “Tiny Human,” for a very special guest.

  • Author: Simon E. Fuchs
  • Photos: Sennheiser / Philip Peine
  • Video: Sennheiser / Philip Peine
  • Editing / Post Production Philip Peine

On the third floor of Westminster Central Hall, Imogen Heap’s nine-month-old daughter Scout is asleep. Two floors down, Sennheiser's newest baby, the Sennheiser HE 1 headphone, is resting in its marble bed. Imogen Heap’s new song “Tiny Human” brings both together – it’s a song about Scout, but it also serves as the campaign song for the new Sennheiser HE 1.

„She wants to turn the music industry on its head.“

Heap knows no boundaries. In the studio, she’s a singer, songwriter and sound engineer. On stage, she sings while at the same time creating tones, delays and loops using wired gloves. She is the embodiment of innovation culture. She wants to turn the music industry on its head with her Mycelia platform and she recently became a mother.

With only an hour to go until her concert in Westminster Central Hall in London, Heap sits in front of her dressing room mirror and applies blue eye shadow to her eyelids. She wears a flowing white shirt and her brown hair has been pulled into an artistically disheveled bun. The final chairs are adjusted on stage. More than 60 young musicians from the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie are here to perform classical pieces and songs together with Imogen Heap. The high point of the night will be when she plays the song “Tiny Human” for the first time before a live audience.

On her blog, Heap explains in a very personal text how “Tiny Human” came to be. “I had to write a song about Scout,” she writes. “I was living it every moment and there was nothing else…I just needed to find parallels to justify writing ‘Tiny Human’ as a campaign song,” she explains with a wink. Her arguments were convincing. With some ambitious mixing, “Tiny Human” made for ideal listening with Sennheiser HE 1 headphones.

„It’s a battle between perfection and creativity.“

Heap began forging her own path early on. After a few bad experiences with her record label, she released her second album, “Speak for Yourself,” independently in 2005, taking a mortgage out on her home to finance it. She shared the production process with her fans using her website, Twitter and Facebook. After two years, she released the first two songs online before bringing out the entire album.

She became the first woman to win a Grammy for the sound engineering of her album. The artist achieved this recording excellence with dedication, spending entire nights in the studio in order to ensure the smallest of details in her songs were just right. Heap has two souls, she says. “The recording process is a battle between Imogen Heap the producer and the singer,” she explains in London. It’s a battle between perfection and creativity.

In order to give her creativity free reign, Heap developed musical gloves. Her goal? To create the ultimate sound experience. When she talks about her “Mi.Mu gloves,” her hands glide through the air as if she is already wearing the mitts and using them to create new sounds. She raises her wrist and hums deeply. “This initiates a low bass,” she explains. On stage, it looks as though she is dancing to the rhythm of the music and moving her hands accordingly. But her hands are also controlling the rhythm. She plays some samples, records loops and runs a reverb on her guitar. She knows no limits.

Tiny Human @ Soundcloud

Heap has enough energy to revolutionize the music industry in her spare time. She wants to shape the future of audio. She’s very critical of the current system, in which most of the money flows into the pockets of the record label owners. She says artists sometimes only get a meager 1 percent of total revenues. She’s much more famous today than she used to be, yet she says she earns less money now through her music. “The world has been turned on its head,” Heap says. She wants to help get the music industry back on its feet with her Mycelia project – a portal that will enable artists to upload their songs in the highest quality along with the related metadata. ITunes, YouTube or Amazon could then help themselves to these songs. For artists, getting paid would be much more straightforward. Middlemen would be thwarted as money went straight to the artist. It’s a revolutionary project for Fair Trade music.

The concert is almost over. Heap sings, dances and moves her gloves on stage. A crackling noise indicates that the left glove isn’t working the way it should. Heap leans toward her computer. She says this is the first time she’s worn the gloves on stage for so long. “My hands are really moist,” she says. “At least that’s my explanation for the problem.” The audience laughs. Heap handles the glitch gracefully and there are standing ovations as she leaves the stage. Later, she refers to the small malfunction as a “hiccup.” She says it’s no reason to get upset – just an incentive to get better.

Imogen Heap is looking for the ultimate sound experience

Imogen Heap @ Twitter

Heap dedicated her song, “Tiny Human,” to her daughter, but Scout didn’t hear any of it. She just kept slumbering peacefully after the concert. Friends from London are waiting backstage to toast the singer on the premier of “Tiny Human,” which represented her first real use of the musical gloves. And to Scout, even if she is sleeping through her big moment.