She’s self-produced, self-written, and potentially the greatest musician ever to have had a song covered by an orchestra of kazoos. She’s written tunes so catchy that you’re singing them before you’ve heard them. Imogen Heap could – maybe should – be a female music idol, and yet many of you out there haven’t heard of her…
If you have, it’s probably because of ‘Hide & Seek’, the ballad that hit #1 on iTunes after featuring in The OC. The song ‘was an improvisation with my boyfriend’, says the artist to Cherwell. ‘It took the length of the song to write the music’. Written in a flash of inspiration, the song has become popular culture, weaving its way through a capella repertoires and club remixes. But Hide and Seek is by no means the only game Heap plays.
An adventurous composer, she has written for everything from the solo 5-octave array mbira (don’t ask…) to full orchestra. Explaining her unconventional taste in instrumentation, she confides: ‘I don’t like steel drums… but when I heard the hang (a drum found in the Swiss Alps), I followed the sound. I just walked towards it and found someone playing it in their lap’. Apart from instruments, Heap also records sounds from all over her house – floorboards creaking, eggs frying – then edits them down to their skeleton, before fleshing them out with her personality. She maintains that great sound comes first, melody second.
Heap’s ambition certainly matches her eclecticism. ‘It was always my dream as a child to premier my first piece of orchestral music in the Royal Albert Hall’, she tells me. This dream was realised last Friday, when she gave the premiere of her composition ‘Love The Earth’ at the venue. Explaining the inspiration behind the piece, Heap says that ‘one of the things I remembered from school was the Fibonacci sequence and its connection to the golden ratio, which appears everywhere in nature’. In the event, she conducted one hundred musicians across eleven movements, whose lengths in minutes were equivalent to the first eleven numbers of the sequence.
This recording will in turn be set as a soundtrack to an eponymous nature film.’No pets,’ Heap protests. ‘No people. Just nature. This will be aimed at real nature enthusiasts’. Yet this project represents only one side of an endlessly complex artist who’s making a name for herself as a composer, a filmmaker, and above all a songwriter.
Before long, Imogen Heap will be everywhere, and you’ll finally hear those catchy songs that you’ve been humming all this time.