In Berlin, musicians and creators gather to work collaboratively on new means of creation and performance. Imogen Heap and her team are among the participants, presenting an interactive workshop on wearable tech. Photo of Imogen with her musical gloves from TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, by James Duncan Davidson.

Happy New Year, from the future. It’s too late for sci-fi movies with a dateline of 2013. If you want something futuristic, you’ll just have to get to work.

That’s what we’re doing in Berlin at CTM Festival later this month, with some of our favorite artists and engineers and designers and artist-engineer-designers. And we’d love to have you join us.

We’ll have live music to enjoy. That includes high-tech original creations — Sonic Robots’ real-life 808 drum machine and band, and Tarik Barri and Lea Fabrikant with their three-dimensional audiovisual space trip. Tim Exile will treat us to his virtuoso digital solo performance; Solar Year shows us what a band-with-laptop can be. MusicMakers@CTM also includes the state of the art in live dance music and DJing, as we share Berghain Kantine with jam sessions and back-to-back Cassette BLN DJ sets from Machinedrum, Sam Barker, Easton West, Lando Kal, and more.

MusicMakers performances at CTM will be at the CTM exhibition opening on January 25 and at Berghain Kantine on February 1.

But we’ll also be heading into the lab.

In a five-day “hacklab,” we’ll combine lots of input with lots of opportunities to work on building new things collaboratively. On the input side, that includes presentation/workshops from leading artists on their craft — Imogen Heap’s musical gloves team, Tim Exile, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Mark Fell (in a conversation with Resident Advisor), Lucas Abela — and participation from the developers at Native Instruments and Ableton.

It’s a chance to work in everything from hacking new controllers and layouts for performance to wearable tech for performance.

The hacklab will be open to all and free. (Some workshops may require supply charges; details on final registration – and schedule – we’ll have for you shortly.)

Join the Hacklab

Tim Exile wants you to do things with controllers. Lots of controllers. Let’s do things with controllers with Tim. Photo (CC-BY-SA) SHARE Conference, Beirut.

We have an open call now for “fellows.” Mostly, we just need to know your interests – you don’t need a finished project! In fact, we’d much prefer if you brought in big ideas and an open mind and built new things! That might mean collaborating with people on ideas you’ve already begun to develop, or starting something new. You’re also welcome to come with a skill set (making garments, building equipment cases out of wood, writing code, sound design, composition, video, animation) and find people to work with.

A selected number of participants will get free CTM passes. Others will get advance, reserved hacklab registration. Final, free registration for the hacklab will follow thereafter as I expect we’ll be limited by space.

You’ll have the opportunity to work with the likes of Tim Exile and his team on controllers, Imogen Heap and her team on wearable tech, with visualists, OSC experts, Pd experts, Ableton experts… the list goes on. If you want to work on a new live DJ rig, a new VJ setup, generative music composition software – we’re game.

Submit here:

Deadline: January 11
Hacklab: January 28 – February 1

If you specifically want to work with the wearable tech crew and Imogen Heap, you can specify that.

A real-world 808 drum machine, powered by Arduino and robotics, is coming along, too.

Imogen Heap: The Gloves

A special portion of the Hacklab, for those interested, features Imogen Heap and her team, in from the UK, working with the musical gloves they’ve developed for her performances. You don’t have to be a technologist – tailors welcome, too.

Workshop Call
Whether you are a novice or professional, a musician, programmer, maker, tailor or performer, if you are interested in using, designing, wearing, testing or hacking the gloves for your own purposes, please submit your ideas for our workshop by sending an email with the subject “The Gloves Workshop” to:

Workshop Description
Computers play an important role in the production of music and we are interested in new ways to compose and perform music live. The Gloves are a new, wearable and stylish musical interface that allow you to manipulate sound by simply moving your hands. In a 4-day workshop we invite you to explore how The Gloves can be integrated within your own projects, showing you how to connect data from the gloves with a wide range of music applications and environments.

Here’s a great demo from Dara O Briain’s Science Club, the British TV program:

Again, head to our call for works. Just be sure to mark “The Gloves” in the subject header. You can also tell the gloves team:

– if you plan to work on your own, with others, or whether you are open to collaboration with other participants
– how much of the workshop you will be able to attend?
– what skills do you bring to this workshop? (Are you a musician, performer, programmer, designer, tailor….)
– what software and/or other devices might you like to use The Gloves with? (other instruments, midi or OSC output devices, synthesizers, animation/puppetry, projectors, games, robotics….)

And yes, tailors are welcome!


  • noomy

    RIP Michel Waisvisz, search, he innovated in this area, beginning in 84, credit due.

    • Peter Kirn

      Right – this isn’t a story on Imogen’s gloves; it’s an open call. We’ll return to the question of gloves in music history at another date.

    • pokibot

      I hope Laurie Anderson gets her fair due in music history. Laurie invented and toured various body & motion devices dating back 30+ years. I’m yet to see someone exceed her blend of music & devices into meaningful songs/performances.

    • Joe

      Why is it that when a ‘pop star’ gets their hands (sic) on
      supposedly ‘new technology’ that suddenly its hyped up and showcased across the media? There is absolutely nothing new in what Heap and her team are showing here. Although its nice to see a woman presenting
      these technologies what about the whole raft of women out there who have been working and performing with these systems for the past 2 decades? noteably Laetitia Sonami ( Lady’s Glove ), Julie Wilson-Bokowiec ( Bodycoder ) and Pamela Z ( BodySynth ) – to name just a few. It will be interesting to see if Imogen Heap will be able to match the quality of composition and performance that these artists have developed and presented in another 20 years time. It’s not just about the technology but what you do with it! i.e. ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’.

      Check out:

    • Peter Kirn

      Because Imogen is willing to fly herself and a huge team from London to Berlin to help other people experiment with this technology basically at their cost – and the other folks that you mention are on the other side of the Atlantic.

      I’m thinking about ways that we could have some sort of wiki that readers could help with to refer to the history. It’s just not practical in every single post – having written this site daily for eight years – to review the history of everything every time you mention anything. It’s okay to say, “hey, look at this” sometimes. But it would be useful to go back and do history.

      At the same time, what frustrates me is the constant chorus of “that’s not new.” It’s actually becoming the single most disheartening thing about writing this site. But yes, it’d be useful then to refer to these traditions, because they are themselves important.

      My hope is that people who take this workshop – i.e., people outside the team – do something musically innovative with this. And I’m patient enough to let that take some time.

    • Tarik Barri

      I don’t get whats so great about things being new. Lets all just make cool stuff with the ideas floating around in our heads, regardless of how old or new they are, and without feeling the weight of the history of all man kind behind every move we make. Paradoxically when being ‘new’ is considered to be overly important, I think it actually hinders people in being free in their creativity.

  • Ivan

    and of course, in this case, Laetitia Sonami…

  • Nathaniel Stephens

    that very short demo of Imogen’s gloves was very interesting. so far i haven’t been very impressed with most of the custom glove-based controller work i’ve seen (sorry, not to be rude). anyone know if there’s more detailed info of her design and layout?

    • nate

      also noticed on her page that Tim Exile is part of her glove team.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes, we’ll have both a Tim and an Imogen team in attendance!

    • Peter Kirn

      I’m hoping to get more documentation of what they’re doing – that’ll be a big part of our goal while we’re there, for sure.

  • Experimentaldog

    I wonder if they’ve been to the New Instruments for Musical Expression conferences…
    All the proceedings are open to read. Many have been making suits and controllers like this for the last few years. It still comes off a bit gimmicky for me. It shines for a little bit, but underneath I know the music may sound the same if the software was controlled by other capable devices. What’s great though, is this is another way to get the performer’s face out from behind the laptop screen. I’d be interested to see Imogen Heap’s setup in full performance or in a more composed interdisciplinary setting. Perhaps more use of choreography in new ways with attention to movement and dance theory. Writing a score and having the dance gestures create the music. It would be cool if they could hack together more kits for an ensemble of gesture dancers.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes – hence we’re hosting a free, five day hacklab to get some people together in person to push the idea further.

      That’s the whole point.

      “All the proceedings are open to read” isn’t enough if you want to get beyond a small circle of academics and people with fairly restricted musical technology backgrounds.

      For one thing, you can’t have a chat with a set of proceedings.

  • Cola Verde

    my cat sounds better

    • Peter Kirn

      Than what? A brief video of Imogen?

      We haven’t posted video of the event, because it hasn’t happened yet. You’re already critical of something that’s actually *in the future*. Amazing.

  • RoyMacdonald

    Hey Peter,
    this is super awesome.
    I just have a doubt.
    you wrote:
    “We have an open call now for “fellows.” Mostly, we just need to know your interests – you don’t need a finished project! ”
    but in the signup link you posted It says that you need to describe your project.

    I’m worried because I don’t have an ongoing project yet an overfilled head with ideas and a lot of seemingly unrelated skills that perfectly make sense and relate to each other in this context.

    So, is there a different way to apply when you don’t have a project to apply with?

    Best regards and have an excellent 2013!

    • Arvid Jense

      I’ve send in my idea. And as I’ve understood it from Peter, your overfilled head would be more than welcome. Just write down one (or more) of your projects that would fit this event and that would welcome collaboration.

    • Peter Kirn

      Absolutely – just send in an idea, or a shadow of an idea, or just some random interests, or… a poem, if you like. We want to be open to experimentation. So fire away!

  • invisible acropolis

    i was skeptical until i watched the video.. i think it could be something that catches on quite well in the future, these gloves would allow something like musical “tai-chi” or “kung fu” or “bagua” … having various standardized sets of parameter modulations giving rise to a few key movement styles and so forth, with endless permutations – ultimately i think the idea will live or die on the ability to produce virtuosity in performance.. it may be possible to arrange the hardware/software components and programming in such a way that allows synthetic expression that is nowhere near possible with a standard keyboard/knob interface – and that of course would drive interest in a huge way

    it could take a while tho.. theremins are notoriously hard to play, and this concept takes that kind of performance to the next level – as all musicians know, its all about practice, practice, practice

    id love to get my hands on something like this so i could put a few years into it, then id feel much more qualified to predict the future of tech like this

  • nate

    Looks like the main controller board for these aren’t humble Arduinos but $300 a pop x-IMU boards. These can do something like know their own position and orientation in space (relative to the Earth that is). So definitely beyond just some gyroscopes and accelerometers here. Superior positional information.

  • Ricardo Matias

    I’m having a tough time understanding what are the workshops/conferences and the performances. I’m interested in attending as an observer to workshops and conferences.

  • foljs

    Let’s hope this is not the future of music.

    I’m not against either technology, new music or performance ideas. I like stuff from Bach to John Cage to Xenakis to early Residents, to Squarepusher, to Luigi Russolo to whatever.

    But this is mostly self-indulging hacks for the sake of it. Little thought has been given to the art or musicality of the output.

    It’s as if a convention for the “future of fine arts” showed novelty brushes, fancy air painting tools and home-made hacked together silk-screening machines. The difference is the fine art world would never go that low.

    (That said, Tim Exile does stand out).

    • Peter Kirn

      I find it stunning that you can be critical of an event that hasn’t happened yet — with content that you don’t know about yet.

      Much of this is an open laboratory for experimentation with technology. Sometimes, early in development, play — without worrying about pleasing other people — is the best way to develop new ideas.

      And the people you listed were *very* experimental people. So, what I find self-indulging is comments like yours. Sorry.

    • RoyMacdonald

      For sure the musical output has not been thought of as the thing that outputs sound or controls it doesn’t even exist yet.”This” is not the future of music. Maybe is what help to move music towards the future.
      Events like this are totally needed, for any kind of art. (Fine arts people probably make this kind of things, if the don’t they should).

  • Kid p

    The real problem with anything musical stems from music being the afterthought and tech being the primary. You know countless numbers of people wanted to get into electronic music after they heard kraftwerk not because of technology but because of the songs and songmanship. This is completely lost on the hacker community today. If the music does not come first it will always suck no matter what it’s wrapped up in. The hacker community has so much energy, dilligence, intelligence, and seemingly foresight but they don’t apply any of it to writing good music that inspires or moves people. These days iPad apps like bloom make better music than your typical electronic musician,hack,diyr and it’s really sad. I remember when the focus shifted from songs to patches and I thought that was sad, now we’d be lucky to even have those days back. Here’s the crux of the issue we would never put up with a punk guitarist that sucked, but we’re willing to put up with a virtual host of engineers that suck and can’t write a song to the point that many don’t even have any interest in doing so. We’ve replaced writing songs with modulating shite.

    • Peter Kirn

      Right, this is a laboratory for people to experiment with technology, so that later things will be developed far enough for them to focus on music.

      But, please, by all means, shoot it down.

  • Kid p

    Just to clarify, tech is not the enemy, it’s the lack of songwriting. People who make good music don’t let the tools get in the way of that, but these days it seems like most are not letting good music get in the way of their tech.

  • lord pyro

    I think this is a great idea. I’d love to check them out one day!

  • Gwydion

    The clip of Imogen Heap and the ones linked by Joe in the comments are interesting. Two things: live music creation becomes essentially dancing? And whether this is a better experience for the audience (based on the assumption that the stronger the connection between what we see and what we hear, then the more we appreciate it)?