Biophilia: Bjork Visualizes Music

Image from Bjork's  Biophilia app i i

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Image from Bjork's Biophilia app

Courtesy of the artist
Image from Bjork's  Biophilia app

Image from Bjork's Biophilia app

Courtesy of the artist

Bjork is a visionary. Sit down with her, and she'll tell you how today's technology gives her hope and allows her to be intuitive and emotive. Talk about music, and the Icelandic singer will tell you how the chorus in a song is like a wide-open space and how the verse is a constricted, narrow tunnel. Launch her collaborative iPad/iPhone application, and you'll see how this vision of music takes shape, literally.

Below is the conversation we had in an office in New York City.

Hear Bjork visionary thoughts on music and technology

Biophilia is Bjork's new album and app. Both are compelling and dig deep into relationships in nature: viruses and cells, the moon and tides. When I spent time with her in August, I had only just gotten an early unfinished version of the application, and just that day had heard the record. Frankly, my head was spinning trying to understand the relationship between the music and the app, which let me manipulate her songs using visuals. I didn't understand the scope of what was on my iPad until she said this: "I found in the touch screen a way to visualize how I see a song when I close my eyes." And then it all made sense.

YouTube

Below is the equivalent of a movie trailer for the Biophilia app. It'll give you a visual idea of what this amazing app is all about.

And here are some notable quotes — insights into the way Bjork understands the nature of technology, music and the human spirit. Fabulous food for thought:

Image from Bjork's  Biophilia app i i

hide caption

Image from Bjork's Biophilia app

Courtesy of the artist
Image from Bjork's  Biophilia app

Image from Bjork's Biophilia app

Courtesy of the artist

For me, this project's very much about solving things, solving riddles. I guess you could say that it is sort of about finding a new angle; how the electronic and acoustic could work together. How nature and technology could work together ... trying to find a fresh point where the listener and the music maker exchange music.

Image from Bjork's  Biophilia app i i

hide caption

Image from Bjork's Biophilia app

Courtesy of the artist
Image from Bjork's  Biophilia app

Image from Bjork's Biophilia app

Courtesy of the artist

A lot of the times on this project, him (Damian Taylor), me and my assistant James, we were in a house for a year in Puerto Rico. So we were basically waking up together, programming together, making music together, getting drunk together, swimming in the ocean. So it was a very good way to be totally immersed in the project. Then we were making pendulums out of buckets and string and rope and we ordered pipe-organ pipes, really cheap ones from eBay, and were plugging the touch screens to that. Basically, what we were making was coming out of those pipes.

I found in the touch screen a way to visualize how I see a song when I close my eyes.

So basically each app has a theme, a musicology theme, and this app (accompanying the song "Crystalline") is about structure.

In the beginning, I thought I would make a music house in Iceland, a music museum for children so each song was a room. So you go to one room [and] you get to play with the lightning, you write a song; you go to another room, there are crystals there, and so on. That didn't happen. ... And then we thought maybe this is a 3D movie, and that may seem like a big jump, but actually for me, going from each song being a room to being a scene in a movie, isn't that much of a jump.

You can use the tool of Western civilization and be impulsive and intuitive and emotional — and that, for me, creates a lot of hope.

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