Imogen Heap is an award winning artist with Ivor Novello and Grammy awards to her name. Respected among her peers and adored by her fans, she truly embraces both modern technology and traditional instruments in her creative process.
We met in 'the hideaway', her home studio. The expressive Eigenharp will be used as part of her studio and live setups.
As a child, Imogen was “determined to learn all parts of the orchestra … wind, string, percussion and brass.” She's well known for her talent as a pianist, but is highly skilled with a number of other instruments.
She samples endless sounds from numerous sources. Some of these will be triggered, live, by her brand new Eigenharp Alpha.
Imogen revels in the noises that surround us on a daily basis. She captures, edits and engineers them. She does it well – her Grammy was for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
Talking about the Eigenharp, Imogen has so many ideas for it, both in the studio and live on stage.
“The nice thing about this is that I can walk around with it, play the keyboard, sing and harmonise all at the same time... I am really positive about it. I think people would think no less of me than to come on stage wearing that... it's pushing the envelope.”
She'd like to record her audience and loop the audio, make use of the phantom powered microphone input. The flexibility of the Eigenharp allows musicians to be extremely expressive in a live context – not just with audio - it can trigger visuals too, using Quartz Composer.
“I love the idea of visualising the sounds. It's a step forward in the right direction because you can do multiple things with it.”
Imogen is tech savvy, albeit in an unconventional way. She doesn't worry about things like 'compression ratios', and modestly insists:
“I don't really know what I'm doing half the time … I just plug stuff in and twiddle knobs. In the end it's important to have fun.”
The Eigenharp is certainly that!
She first got in to the tech side of music by accident.
“When I went to boarding school I didn't get on so well with my music master. I spent a lot of time in this cupboard. Inside was an Atari computer and some sequencing software. It was exciting.”
Imogen attributes her distinctive style to “the indescribable things. The combination of the things that i'm probably not doing very well or don't know how to do officially”
One of the reasons the Eigenharp appeals to Imogen is its portability. It can be fully integrated into both studio and live setups, saving a lot of space and time.
“There are lots of pieces of gear that aren't integrated. It would be great to not have physical limitations when you're interacting with the sounds that you want to create.”
The Eigenharp isn't completely invisible of course, but certainly adds an exciting visual element to live performances “lights are always good. I think It looks pretty sexy.”
Imogen's first impressions pretty much encapsulate what the Eigenharp is about. “You can play it so many ways. There's an infinite amount of things you can do with it. Mind boggling.” The entry level Pico looks “fun too.”
Imogen loves interacting with her fans. After leaving her label about seven years ago, she has been communicating with them via regular web blog, twitter posts and online video diaries. She finds it refreshing, inspiring.
“I love this instant, spontaneous, collaborative world we're living in. I want to take advantage of it. As a solo artist you're in your own space. Just me on my own, noodling around going slightly mad. Having this other force out there to bounce off and react against and get creative with is great. I love the random, unexpected nature of that.”
Eigenlabs embraces online interaction – its buzzing community exchange tips and ideas on our website forum. Social networking sites like Facebook and Youtube mean players can upload their latest compositions and performances for all to see.
Her latest project, Love The Earth Film, embraces the flexibility modern technology provides. It also highlights Imogen's passion for the world around us. She has asked fans to send in video clips of beautiful natural scenes. These will be edited together and Imogen will compose her first orchestral score to accompany the film live at the Royal Albert Hall.
The future of music for Imogen is more open collaboration, interacting with the audience using technology and making the most of the sounds around us. The Eigenharp can facilitate all of these things with gusto.
“I'm very positive about the future of music … the fact that kids have access to incredible music technology, very cheap is going to add to so many varieties of new music.”
Imogen's latest album 'Ellipse' is out now
Her new DVD 'Everything In-Between: The Story of Ellipse' is out in November.