Photo: Lee Jordan.

Speaking as a sometimes-music-journalist, I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that we were all part of a vast conspiracy. Our job can become wrapping big-name artists into a polished, glamorous narrative. There are small nods to humanizing them, of course, but the message can quickly become: this person is special and different from you, this is the person you should want to be or want to consume, and as a result you’ll buy our magazine. I’ve never believed that myself, and I do believe a lot of great music writing is something very different, but there’s always that danger looming somewhere in the background.

Of course, now it’s 2009. We’re nowadays broadcasting minute details of our lives in real time, blurring the line between celebrity and nobody. We have all become a kind of text-only cinema verité. It can be downright scary to expose yourself that way, even as a non-celebrity. But then, in the occasional high-quality corner of a service like Twitter, something extraordinary happens: the little, insignificant moments of your life can actually prove to be what you want them to be. “Live each day like it’s your last” becomes “live each day like you’ll be pleased to read about it, even 140 characters at a time.”

Combine a really gifted creative imagination with a special kind of personal insight, and Twitter tells the side of a story a music journalist can’t: the day-to-day life of making music. Imogen Heap has been unusually generous with her Tweets. Following her Twitter feed, I think you’ll find new appreciation for her as a person and an artist, and also some of the ways all of us can work through day-to-day creative challenges and juggling to actually make music. It demonstrates that a world in which artists live-broadcast what they’re doing (but in the right quantities, and with the right attitudes) could be more utopia than dystopia.

Oh yeah, and thank God there’s a musician who drinks coffee sometimes and not just tea, and who gets a little wired.

Just looking at the month of January, we get bits of familiar insights into the day-to-day creative struggle. (Tip: go for a jog.)

Busy warbling away on A Cappella song… Darted out for a jog today in the sunshine. It’s a good day here at the hideaway….back to it :)

happy with verse/chorus lyrics/vocals but this one line’s been bugging me! Wouldn’t sit right. Here, by the kettle, it’s come to me :) x

I’m really starting to panic now at how almost impossible this a cappella one will be to do live. One thing at a time Heap! Bed I must go.

Imogen proves to be every bit as much of a gear lover as some of us, proof this ground isn’t the exclusive domain of dudes generally / Trent Reznor dude:

@mark_marshall Main bits: P-Tools, logic for VST/Midi etc, avalon 737, TLM 103, Waves, PlugsoundPro, Nord R3, Ivory, Liquid channel, M+K’s

Lots of NI stuff, TC electronic Voiceworks, Ircam solo instruments, Korg Electribe MX, occasionally dust off Ensoniq TS12

@REVERE I do indeed! So many great toys to play with! I have the Buddhamachine II. Really love it. X I’d love to make one if my own. X

And it’s not all techie gear — don’t forget the musical saw.

There are bits of music to hear:

12seconds – here’s some vocals i’ve been working oooooooonnnn!!! xxx http://tiny12.tv/HQ0JD

… and the moments of frustration that usually get left out of glossy-mag interviews:

@rguidry … my targets keep flying out the window. I’m closer every day. As long as I keep doing it.. I’ll get there. That’s all I know! x

jeeeeez… went jogging…meanwhile my inbox exploded with things to deal with and I’ve got nothing albummy done today. Juggling act. x

And in it, you watch music being formed. There actually is a certain narrative to Twitter, spread out into little pieces – something that gives some hope to our fragmented modern lives.

Had a really great day! Got 3 1st mixes done today. Will go back to them in Jan for a day but for now… Done x :) 6.30am! Time 4 bed x

Worked on rhythm for Swoon/ found some nice harmonies for 2nd ch. Nipped into town with my sis to see Lost and found Orchestra. I like saws.

Just having a bow of the old saw before bed whilst waiting for disk to back-up. Sounds quite nice but a little more practice I think! x

I am so sick of the sound of my voice!! Arghhh! Noises only tomorrow. Gonna start something new. A bit fed up with all these ones… x

Can’t sleep…just thought of lyrical spark for the new song. Throwing down strands of connections with laptop in bed. A start at least…x

ok.. that took a while but I now have a killer first verse and chorus lyrics. Waaaay better! Now for 2nd verse… first another coffee bzzz

Eeyore…I think Ive found my second verse so am going to hit the Heap hay, get another early bird session tmw and sing it into pooter x

I’m not going to try to reach any deeper conclusions about the usefulness of microblogging or Twitter, because I don’t have to. The point is that, with a Web-connected community of musicians, we get to share creative process with each other, and with the musicians we love. They arrive in real-time at times that may be random to us, and there’s no differentiation between our mate, our mum, an obscure artist or a famous one.

Sure, we’re all in information overload, surrounded by distractions. And sure, 99% of the volume of Twitter is crap. But then, there’s that occasional 1% that could remind you you’re not alone. So for that, thanks, Imogen!

http://twitter.com/imogenheap

For another great Twitter feed from a regular tourmate of Imogen’s, see:
Zoe Keating @ Twitter (zoecello)

One Infinite Loop: Zoe Keating, cello, also has a lovely Twitter feed. Proof the daily loop of your life can be interesting, after all, in microblog form! Photo (CC) Jonathan McPherson.
  • http://www.newmusicmonday.com Tim

    Nice article. Fyi though… the picture at the bottom is actually of Zoe Keating. She's toured with Imogen quite a bit and is also an Ableton user. You can find her at…
    http://www.zoekeating.com/ http://www.twitter.com/zoecello
    If you haven't listened to her stuff its really fantastic. All instrumental, cello based classical stuff.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ha, whoops. I know and really enjoy Zoe Keating's stuff, too, so … whoops.

    But actually quite nice to follow her feed, as well, so this is a happy accident.

  • http://www.newmusicmonday.com Tim

    Think she might read the blog too :) .

    http://twitter.com/zoecello/status/1122289022

  • http://www.synesthesiarecordings.com U.S.O. Project

    And I Love Her…

    MM

  • http://chromedecay.org Joshua Schnable

    PSA for everyone who read this – don't tweet at Imogen, Okay? We need her to finish the album…

    I jest, of course, but we all know there's a bit of truth in there.

  • http://mmi-music.blogspot.com/ MMI

    I love the twitter feeds of these artists but they do make me wish I could do music full time… which I cannot.

  • http://undecidedurl.blogspot.com/ Dave Smith-Hayes

    Is it just me, or does this article seem a tad…creepy?

    I enjoyed it (as usual) none the less.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Dave: actually, to me the whole surprise of Twitter is it winds up NOT being creepy, which is sort of what you'd expect being oddly connected to strangers and chums alike, all the time. So that was sort of the point.

    Anyway, I'm actually following more in the geek crowd than the music crowd at the moment … so happy to hear more people to follow, including the very non-famous, as well. Of course, I'm happy to get to share in everyone's musical output, whether they're tweeting about it or not.

  • http://seguesound.com Dri

    Nice one Peter… i just started following Imogen's tweets not long ago. I've had a few weeks with some easy writing contracts coinciding with a pile of remix and releases in the studio so it's nice reading some tweets from artists you respect. I've had all this wonderful time to spend doing music, with great deadlines and outcomes ahead, so its inspiring to have that "procrastination temptation" time spent glancing over other artist's thoughts and experiences in bite size chunks. Or "FUN SIZE!!!" as the confectionary companies say of their tiny chocolate bars in Australia. Tiny size = Fun size, so Twitter is simply fun.

    In any case, I enjoy artist tweets that circumvent the traditional PR channels. After all, we're all up and down about our output and ideas, so its nice getting a feel for art coming together. As for you Peter, get back to work. And erm, you too Imogen. And, sigh, the rest of us.

  • http://microsong.blogspot.com Dan Gillespie

    I just started a blog along similar lines last week: microsong.blogspot.com

    I'm hoping to have a couple friends and local artists come on and share their process when song writing and music making, this has always been the fun part for me.

    Like I said, it's just starting up, but it's cool to see other people thinking the same sort of things. Maybe I'll have to hook up with twitter as well.

  • flonk

    Twitter, Schmitter.

    Peter! How can you write an article about Imogen Heap without linking to the essence of live looping condensed (sp?) in a single video!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25VGdNU3nrU
    I'm dissapointed. But then, it made me watch the video again, so its ok.

  • http://andrew.hicox.com plurgid

    Inadvertent Major LULZ: "dudes / Trent Reznor".

    "Trent Rezonr: not a dude", you read it first here.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, we've got some good additional Twitter feed / microblog suggestions via … Twitter. More soon.

  • Laul

    I vote for creepy. Sorry peter.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Laul: Sorry, I'm just puzzled. Did you read the article, or are you just jumping to that conclusion?

    Look, the whole point is that Imogen Heap has been actively sharing this stuff with her fans – and choosing what to share. This is not information I went and found; it's what she herself published. She has over 11,000 followers now — and in a really rare move, she follows all 11,000+ followers back. (Typically, these are just passive outlets. I imagine she doesn't read all of those, given I don't always closely read my 500 or so, but then that means they can direct message her.)

    A whole lot of the Twitter phenomenon has been limited to tech circles – they've been a huge number of Twitter's greatest hits. And musicians have often been decidedly non-interactive in their communication. She represents a shift, and one I think could accelerate.

    So, sorry, but you get "creepy," I get "people are judging articles they're not actually reading."

    And, also, sorry but paying attention to an extremely talented female musician isn't creepy. The amount of bias we give to the guys at the expense of female musicians sure is. So, yeah, not to get defensive, but I find that frustrating. If she weren't deserving of the attention or this weren't things that she was publishing, it'd be another story, but this is simply the way it is.

  • bliss

    +1, PK.

  • http://chromedecay.org Joshua Schnable

    @flonk – it's been forever since I watched that. Thanks for reminding me/us.

    I might be preempting Peter here, but Wire to the Ear just pointed out an unofficial Ableton twitter feed the other day:

    http://www.wiretotheear.com/2009/02/01/follow-abl

    And, Stretta also recently listed a bunch of twitters to follow:

    http://stretta.blogspot.com/2009/02/twitters-you-

    So, you know, if your RSS feed was looking slim, this should give you plenty to read.

  • TLTL

    I read this site all the time and I'm really surprised at the negative comments here. A popular artist talks about her day/creative process with 11,000 fans and there's something wrong about reporting on it? I guess people just like starting a racket. I would think any musician would appreciate the positive press about their effort to stay connected with their fanbase.

  • http://www.hakimcallier.wordpress.com/ Hakim Callier

    Thanks Peter interesting read. I've been approaching twitter this way for a while as well. I was doing a bit more technical talk about my recording process but the feedback was virtually silent. I think my followers weren't in to it…

    -Hakim

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  • http://www.algie.com Algie Powers

    Awesome article, Peter. Being a singer/songwriter myself I follow Imogen Heaps twitters and anxiously await each new vBlog. In your article you mention conventional media giving the impression of: "this person is special and different from you…" It's the opposite with this. What I've realized by following Heap's tweets and vBlogs is "This is a REAL person, not much different than you and me." Her talent is off the charts, mind you, but it is her hard word and her stick-to-it-iveness that is getting a result. If I hunkered down and consistently put in the hours WHO KNOWS what I could accomplish. It's the tortoise that won the race. It's the small baby steps added one to another that get you there. It's consistently applying yourself and not giving up that makes someone a success. It's amazing that she shows us this process. Very inspiring!!

    I don't think it's creepy at all, in Immi's case at least. I have no idea what other purposes Twitter is being used for and don't want to even imagine.

    I'm very grateful that she takes the time to feed her fans pieces of her life. And I still don't get how she can follow over 10,000 twitter-ers herself. I worry about that part.

  • Claude Ravel

    It's almost 2 am. Not ready to sleep yet. Thinking of replying at CDM about how creepy and stalkerish all that Heap twitter crap is. Just scratched my ass and blinked my eyes. Should I wear my charcoal or my khaki cargo shorts tomorrow? I remember when a personal diary or journal, was just that, personal. I just went jogging for 5 miles in my mind. iPEOPLE, in the future, will kill for carbon tax credits, to help stop global warming, that is not real. Just heard a car drive by on the street at the end of the alley.

  • http://seguesound.com Dri

    Erm, you okay there Claude?

    It's rather perplexing to think people would be bothered by this. The only difference to any artist interviews or blog or press releases is that the PR person isn't involved. Most artists (except intense sci-fi authors…) want to engage with their audience. I dont really like the word "fans". We're all just people. It's not like we care what flavour ice cream the artist is eating, we're more into what mics are used and how the new album is coming along. We like the reflections of an artist we admire as food for thought in our own artistic process. This is wholesome stuff. We're all trying to make good art, and sharing our experiences is a good way to keep motivated.

    This is not however, reading a glossy gossip magazine full of invented stories or carefully leaked PR babble. I follow the Imogen Heap twitters as i like her production and i'm currently trying to finish off music myself. The "fun" part of writing is kind of done and im up to the tiring mix downs, so its nice to glance over the various other artists (some of them close friends) who pop the odd creative thought on Twitter. Imogen's posts are nice enough as i was fascinated with the last two albums. Its kind of like a "inside the studio" article, but in real time.

    Now excuse me, i totally just ate a hamburger and i have to tweet about it. No not really. And yes, its sad i have to say "not really"… you crazy Twitterers :P

  • http://www.sounddesigntutorials.com SoundDesignTutorials

    "Oh yeah, and thank God there’s a musician who drinks coffee sometimes and not just tea, and who gets a little wired."

    It's become something of a rarity ;)

  • Claude Ravel

    The Times of London asked experts about the Twitter phenomenon, and concluded that people use the Internet message-broadcasting service to send 140-character "tweets" relating their most mundane activities because of an underdeveloped sense of the self:

    The clinical psychologist Oliver James has his reservations. "Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It's a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity."

    "We are the most narcissistic age ever," agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. "Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won't cure it."

    For Alain de Botton, author of Status Anxiety and the forthcoming The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Twitter represents "a way of making sure you are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected to you, proving that you are alive. It's like when a parent goes into a child's room to check the child is still breathing. It is a giant baby monitor."

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