M talks to Björk

The Icelander speaks to M about her most ambitious work to date

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 26 Sep 2011
  • min read
Welcome to Björk Week. For the next five days we will be exploring the Icelander's latest project Biophilia, and catching up with some of the key collaborators that helped bring it to life. But firstly, lets hear from Björk herself to find out more...

M: Biophilia is a pioneering project, both in terms of the way it was composed and the way people can access it. How hard was it to see the project through from conception to realisation? Did you have to reprogramme the way you think about music?

Björk: Well, I felt the touchscreen was an opportunity to write my music structurally closer to how I feel it is shaped than usually. Making electronic music sometimes forces you to iron out organic things, make the songs more linear than they are. So for each song there was a different algorithm written, a different programme. So Crystalline has a crystal shape, the one about moon is water-based and so on.

Once 10 songs were written with 10 different programs, it seemed like a waste to just treat it how I treat my other albums and then release it like that. It was kinda easier to release the songs how they were written. So I guess the apps are like flesh and bones on top of those programmes.

There were many moments where I thought that this project would never be complete. But at the same time there was a very stubborn element in me that would never ever have given up. First, each song was going to become a room in a house. Then a scene in a film. And then finally, the third stage was that each room/scene became an app, which was actually a much more natural home for the songs – it started on a touchscreen and ended on a touchscreen. I didnt have to reprogramme how I feel about music though. It was more like technology finally caught up with us and it could reveal how I’d felt about music the whole time.

M: Did you come across any barriers to your ideas?

B: All the time! There was at least 50 times when I got stopped by collaborators who just didnt get it…

M: What was your manifesto for Biophilia?

B: To follow with my gut the true nature of the songs. And, no matter how many fancy accessories, make sure they still have an emotional and musical connection to the heart of the song.







M: Many of the apps in the Biophilia suite have an educational element, and your tour will include children’s music workshops. Why is the educational aspect of the project so important to you?

B: The touchscreen became a window for me to readdress how I feel about structures in music, and correct my own education. I felt the way musicology was represented to me in my childhood didn’t match up with how I felt about it. So by going to that point, not only was I providing myself with continuity and educating myself, but it somehow felt I was solving that riddle. And, since I was making all that effort anyway, I might as well share my discoveries. So, if kids that have not learned music yet play along with the apps, they might get an introduction to musicology.

M: You have said you want people to be able to interact with Biophilia ‘in a million different ways’. Are you happy with how audiences have interacted with the project so far?

B: Perhaps that is a misunderstanding! I think some computer nerd did the calculations on in how many different ways one can go through Biophilia and the answer is more than million ways! Which means it is not very linear, right? So far I have been overwhelmed by people’s reactions. Proves that listeners are way more open-minded than the music business people are…

M: Has the internet made you think differently about the way you create, because it has changed the way music is consumed?

B: I feel technology has caught up with us and now people like me, who believe it or not, are not really good with gadgets, can be more intuitive and tactile while writing music. Technology was made by humans and the whole point with it always was to make better and better tools for humans. It is especially designed around our needs, to express ourselves as makers or as listeners.

Biophilia is easily Björk's most interdisciplinary work to date. It has spawned a 90-minute documentary, world tour, app suite, exhibition, educational workshops and full-length album, released 10 October. To read the inside story on the making of Biophilia, read our feature here.

To explore the Biophilia apps, click here, and to read an interview with the Biophilia production manager and learn about the live shows, click here.

Lead single Crystalline was released in June. Watch the official video here: