MEDIA & THE ARTS
Music of the Hemispheres
This is your brain on Björk
BY JAY GRIFFITHS
If I wERE To SAy which part of the human
body Björk represented, I’d have to choose
the corpus callosum. This is the neural tissue that connects the brain’s right hemisphere with its left hemisphere. It is the
bridge, the junction between two worlds.
Biophilia, Björk’s new multimedia project, is about the joining of the two worlds
of technology and nature. She electrifies
the place where they meet, both in the
outside world and between the two hemispheres of the mind, which appreciate nature and technology in very di=erent ways.
In Biophilia, music quite literally harmonizes nature with technology.
Biophilia is a hybrid project. In addi-
tion to live performances and a traditional
album release, it includes film, installa-
tions, and even iPad apps that allow users
to manipulate and remix the music. The
project is hybrid in character too, letting
di=erences collide into harmony. Björk
uses hybrid instruments, including a pen-
dulum harp, whose ten-foot pendulums
swing their sequence into the harp strings.
Some of the instruments—specifically
designed for the show—are even hybrid
by name, such as the gameleste, half
gamelan and half celeste, or the Sharpsi-
chord, a pin-barrel harp amplified by two
huge stainless steel horns, like an antique
gramophone-cum-harp. The Sharpsichord
is like an acute pun, as if referring both to
musical notation and the brain’s acuity.
Björk’s mind is so acoustically
generous that music is generated
for her by symbol, by virus, by
system or process is set up that then of itself
creates music: the wind chime is the simplest example. Similarly, the huge pendulum harps use gravity to strum their strings.
But one could say that the whole world
is an example of generative music, depending on how you hear. And Björk is not only