Shaping Sounds with Your Hands

Shaping Sounds with Your Hands

This past weekend was my first time in Las Vegas, and after finding out that the popular DJ, Zedd was playing at a club, I decided to spend an exorbitant amount of money to see him. When he began his set, it was extremely fun…But only for the first 20 minutes. All he did the whole time was stand by his computer and hit some buttons, letting the beat build and drop.

The electronic dance music (EDM) genre has greatly changed how people, especially the younger generation, experience live music. The days of a rock band jamming out together on stage has turned into one person standing on stage near a computer and hitting buttons and turning knobs. I’m not trying to discredit the talents of these musicians, but propose that the digital age has changed the music scene and the way we, as consumers, experience it.

DJ performing

According to Forbes, the EDM industry is worth about 4 billion dollars, with EDM artist Tiesto alone making 22 million a year. EDM is the fastest growing mainstream genre in music and this rise can be attributed to the “age of social media, cheap music technology and mega-festivals.” Anyone, today can hypothetically be a DJ, with sites such as Soundcloud to promote their music and programs such as Garageband to make their music.

One of my favorite artists, Imogen Heap, has come up with an innovative way to change this lack of engagement or movement during a concert. Though Heap isn’t classified as purely EDM, her use of computers and synthesizers to make electronic music has left her feeling constrained when performing or even making music.

She refers to it as “The Glove.” Rather than needing to sit in front of a computer and press buttons, she can merely flick her wrist to make the sound of a drum. In her own words: “The gloves help me embody those sounds which are hidden inside the computer, for me to physicalize them and bring them out so that I can play them and the audience members will understand what I am doing — rather than fiddling around on a keyboard and mouse which is not very clear — I could just be doing my emails.”

Wearable technology that helps artist play and create music

The gloves are equipped with a bunch of buzzers, sensors, and buttons that send information wirelessly to the computer, causing sound to emit. According to Heap and the engineers behind the gloves, it creates a natural, fluid process to play music. Heap also believes that this unlimited mobility will not only elevate her performances but also facilitate her music writing process. Heap sees a direct relationship between movement and music and these gloves give her the ability to make that connection in a physical manner.

These gloves aren’t going to necessarily change the music world, and I don’t know if DJs will ever use these technological gloves (they aren’t quite fashionable). Nevertheless, this innovative advancement within the music industry shows how digital can be utilized in extremely creative ways. It can be a way for those who have physical disabilities to play music. Customization of software is also an area of potential growth. Musicians can program movements to certain instruments or sounds that suit them best.

The glove is geared towards a niche market, but there is a growing trend of affordable, wearable technology for the general population such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit. According to a recent study, 83% of 1600 industry experts believe that embedded and wearable technology will dominate the market by 2025. More and more companies are beginning to enter the wearable tech game, altering a variety of industries.

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