New Music Technology and Performance

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Live & Alternative

If you read Mondays blog article where I broke down some of the ways that the band, The 1975 communicate and what I have learned and have taken away from that, you will know that I am studying Music Business at university and have a weekly lesson called Musical Opportunities. Instead of explaining everything gain, I would encourage you to read that article so that you can keep up to date on my ethnomusicology journey! (Yes, that word alone is explained in that article too 🙂 ).

Today my focus is going to be more on what it is that I want to study for my Masters which is, Ethnomusicology in terms of alternative live performance.

I am very much in love with musical theatre or just theatre in general, dance, figure skating, concerts, fashion shows, pretty much everything that relates to performance. It’s in my blood as my Dad is a singer/songwriter and music producer, and my Mom is an artist and fashion designer. I just feel complete when I am creating and I’m so grateful and lucky to be born into a family that pushes creativity, but also pushes business and I believe it is those factors that has helped me to be so business minded and the thinking-outside-of-the-box kind of person that I am.

My parents also taught me to not follow the crowd, to find my own voice, and to not be influenced by the main stream and how to be a leader other than a follower. This fact has followed, grown and developed as my life has moved on and maybe become almost ridiculous to some extent. I’ve now come to the place where I don’t like to shop at mainstream stores, I don’t like to dress like everyone else, I don’t enjoy listening to music that everybody has heard of (though I enjoy sharing new artists I’ve found….?) and if too many people have heard about that artist or that artist’s sound starts to become like the mainstream, then I drop them and hunt for new music.

Whenever I go to a store like The Oasis in Birmingham and I’m with my Mum, I always say to her ‘Welcome to my world’ because I really do fit in with the alternative market. At first I thought it was because I wanted to be a non-conformist, but now that I think about it, non-conformists don’t exist because to state that you are a non-conformist is conforming to non-conforming. Confused? Yep, so am I.

I’ve realised that I’m more interested in being at the forefront of something special and different that is happening. I’ve been able to develop my own sense of awareness where I can hear something or see something and be able to tell that it’s going to potentially change the way we see/interact with whatever that things is aimed at. If it’s something that is going to effect a large majority of the world (aka mainstream), then it’s not something that I would jump on. For example I’m not rushing out or camping out to get the latest iPhone because it’s so mainstream, but I would consider getting a gig ticket to see The Hunna or buying a vinyl from the band, Tora because they are doing something different and they are growing within a market that isn’t aimed at the masses.

And as we’re on the topic of gigs and alternative “living” I will take the opportunity to inform you that todays article will be about the effects new media technology has had on alternative live performance.

As I mentioned earlier, I am very interested in things that haven’t been done before and I’m especially interested in how new technology has effected/enhanced the way that we interact with music as artists and as consumers.

I have chosen to talk about Oh Land and Imogen Heap as I believe these two ladies are doing something really great with the music industry – at a time where it’s fast paced, and people want to see something new.

Before I start I would like to just give a quick shoutout to Kimbra as I’m not going to be discussing her work within this article, but she definitely is doing great things and incorporates some great technology in her live performance such as the TC Helicon Touch Live which is how I first came across her (via the video below).

Oh Land

Oh Land is an artist that I have loved ever since I heard her song, White Nights in a Littlewoods Autumn advert in 2012 on TV. At first I thought, ‘what a lovely song’, but when I searched on YouTube and Oh Land came up, I thought I had been transported to another planet altogether. She really takes after her name, Land because it definitely feels like she’s created her own world for herself and aloud us to see a glimpse of her mind.

Coming from a very strong performance background – with both her parents being famous in the classical world (Her Dad is an organist and Mum an opera singer), and with Oh Land aka Nana being a ballerina for 10 years until she had a back injury which ended her dancing career – it’s no wonder that Oh Land is very confident and comfortable being on stage.

With every new performance, whether it be live or for a music video, Oh Land continues to push the boundaries and redevelop her songs to bring a new feel and give a new and exciting experience to the viewers.

There are many weird and wonderful instruments that Oh Land has used for her songs from Omnichords,

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to a motion sensitive light system that she dances in front of

Recently Nana started doing some collaborations with littleBits and I noticed that she has even done a series of live performances using some of the littleBits equipment.

“littleBits makes a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks empowering everyone to create inventions, large and small.” (littleBit, 2016)

Here a few videos of Oh Land using some cool equipment to enhance her live performances:

Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap is another favourite artist of mine who I truly believe is shaking up the way that we as artists interact with music and we as listeners hear and ‘see’ music and performance. Just take a look at her music video below!

There is no denying that Imogen is a naturally born performer and she makes it all that much more exciting. I think it’s because of her love of performing and using her body that helped her to come up with the mi.mu gloves which is a pair of electronic gloves that you can use to make music. She performs her shows with these gloves as well as records her songs with them. This allows viewers to experience something new. Something that feels special because they know that they were used in the process of making the songs that she is performing as well.

I would try to explain the effect it has on people and what they are capable of (even in their beta stage), but I feel like Imogen is the best person to do this. So I will close on a Ted Talk that she did where she explains the gloves and shows them off with two really cool performances!

(Click on the images and quotes to go to the link).

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