Jo Hamilton – who now has 20,000-plus Facebook followers, 10,000 of them having joined in January alone – has the only prototype of an AirPiano in use anywhere in the world outside a laboratory.
The singer/songwriter’s increasingly high profile is acknowledged by the release this month of a special edition of her critically-acclaimed studio album, Gown.
Compared to artists as diverse as Goldfrapp, Bjork and kd lang, Hamilton’s music has its roots in a childhood spent in a remote area of northern Scotland.
“There were three of us in our one-room primary school at the top of a hill in the Highlands,” she recalled. “With our teacher from the Isle of Skye, we sang together, nostalgic old Gaelic lullabies and island folk songs about the land, sea, and returning home, while in the distance we could hear the roars of the rutting stags.”
Gaelic traditions are only one influence upon Hamilton, who has also add the opportunity to absorb many other musical cultures. She spent large parts of her youth in Turkey, UAE, Kuwait, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, before studying classical viola in Edinburgh and the Birmingham Conservatoire.
A key part of Hamilton’s musical arsenal is the AirPiano, an innovative musical interface developed by Omer Yosha that allows the user to play and control software instruments on an attached computer by moving their hands in the air above it.
In a nutshell, the AirPiano’s array of sensors create a virtual matrix of keys and faders in the air above it. Each of the eight sensors can provide three keys or, alternatively, one vertical control fader. LED feedback confirms user actions and assures easy interaction and control. A custom software allows creative MIDI mapping as well as the assignment of Open Sound Control (OSC) messages.
Jo Hamilton is the first performer to have had access to an AirPiano prototype. In addition to using the interface on stage, she also supports its development by reporting back to Yosha about her experiences.