The Creation Myth As Science: Bjork on “Biophilia” – Exclusive Interview

SD: How much of your beliefs and your own person interests are in this? I’m thinking about “Cosmogony,” where you talk about the birth of the universe. Is it all from your mind or did you draw inspiration from other sources?
Bjork: For me… sound works different than images. Sound is more like billiards or a pool table because you hit one ball and it goes to the end of the board and it kicks free and it comes back to you. You can really see physics and that is sort of how it works. When I was picking the 10 subject matters, I don’t think it was a coincidence that virus that multiplies and the micro and the macro is like a galaxy and it sounds very utopian and it sounds like a galaxy. Thinking about a solar system: you have the sun and then the planets swirling around it, that is pretty much how sound works.
If you are a musician and you are either writing a song or actually mixing it, you sonically place it. Where do I put the bass and where do I put the high frequencies? That is sort of why the subject matters ended up in this project because every song is a visualization of sound.
That particular sound, Cosmogony, I guess after watching documentaries about string theory, it was sort of a personal joke, maybe my sense of humor is local and a lot of people might not find it funny because they are talking about Big Bang being 20th Century and string theory being so 21st Century. Big Bang theory felt like a creation myth that is 100 years old. Me and my friends, probably after a few glasses of something, were sort of thinking “I guess all creation myths at the time of their making were science”. I’ll bet the pharaohs thought pyramids and mummies were the future – that was pretty science fiction. 3000 years later it is just mythology and the creation myth. In this song you have 4 verses. The first verse is the American native creation myth, next verse is Sanskrit creation myth, the 3rd verse is Aboriginal creation myth and the 4th verse is Big Bang theory. But it is also tongue and cheek. It is Monty Python. I guess it doesn’t translate as well in print.

SD: Which of the songs should be the starting point for people who listen to this?
Bjork: I guess I picked “Crystaline” to be the first single probably because for most people who haven’t studied music or think of themselves as sonic sound people, structure is pretty easy to get. That song focuses on music structure and is sort of about the verse being claustrophobic. [In the app] you go through them and then you can pick whatever tunnel comes next and depending on what you picked, that is the next section of the song. If you picked the chorus, everything becomes the opposite of claustrophobic. Everything is spaced out in a nebula.

SD: So after the beginning, is it really about discovery? You want the listener to figure out his/her own path?
Bjork: Yeah, in the app you can make up your own path so you can basically make your own version of the song structurally and then these crystals are hovering over your path and whatever path you choose shows in the bundle above. You can email it to your mates and they can play your version of how you think the song should be.

SD: When people come see this live, will you play Biophilia front-to-back or is it a concert with other Bjork music mixed in?
Bjork: I guess because usually people feel that concerts should be an hour and half, this album is only 50 minutes so I added some songs, but older songs. It is kind of fun because I have a 24-piece choir so I picked songs that I wanted to perform when I couldn’t afford to bring that along on earlier tours. I also picked songs that were musically from the same kind of family as this album. Emotionally for me, the last tour was bombastic but this is kind of the opposite. This tour is about harmony and equilibrium. It is a little more mysterious.

SD: With some of these songs, for instance “Virus” or “Moon,” you can tell right away which element we are talking about. One that stands out in contrast is “Sacrifice.” How does that song fit in?
Bjork: It is funny you picked that one because it is really the odd one out. A couple of years ago I spent 8 months in Puerto Rico, I rented a house on the beach. While I was there, 5 of my friends [couples] divorced. A lot of them had been together for 10 or more years and it was weird to be on the other side of the Atlantic and try to email or talk on the phone. Maybe because all the other songs are about elements, I guess I became an anthropologist and decided to write down in my book all the things that the girls were complaining about and all the things the guys were complaining about. It was interesting because all the guys were all complaining about very different things while the girls were all complaining about very similar things. So I ended up picking out sentences that they all had in common and skipping what they had different. I kind of puzzled it into a lyric. It was really powerful. It is about complaining. It is quiet and a sad song.
That app is different from the other apps. My friends who designed the look of the whole project, called M&M in Paris, they designed a special music font so that app is about musical notation and music font. That app is called Element. So it is the odd one out.

SD: Do you have a favorite among the apps? Is there one that you spend the most time on?
Bjork: No. It is too hard. Also it is kind of a weird project because in a way I was working for so long with imaginary instruments because some of them didn’t get ready until a week before the concert. It has been a lot about fantasizing about things. But now I can write my next project with the apps and with the musical instruments.

SD: So is there more to come?
Bjork: Yeah I’m looking forward to that. Now that the app box is ready online – that is what the internet should be good at. To be spontaneous. You should be able to write a song and just put it online. So in a way I’ve just gotten to know these apps, and it is exciting.

[lastfm]Bjork[/lastfm]‘s Biophilia is available now at iTunes and Amazon. More information about the apps for iPad can be found at her website.

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One Response to The Creation Myth As Science: Bjork on “Biophilia” – Exclusive Interview

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