New York Post

You can touch this

Bjork issues wild new album designed for iPad users

So you want to play Bjork’s new record, “Biophilia” ?
There’s an app for that.

In fact, there’s 10 apps in all — one for each song in a collection that could be viewed as one of music’s most unusual and important innovations since Thomas Edison captured his own voice singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on a wax cylinder.
The project is the first app-inspired multimedia suite, in which Bjork’s electronically ethereal music is married to games and interactive musical instruments designed for the iPad.
Speaking to The Post from her home in Iceland about “Biophilia,” Bjork, 45, erupted with mad-scientist excitement that would dwarf Eyjafjallajokull.

“I’m trying to unite the electronic and the acoustic and join nature and technology,” says the pixie-like singer. “I want to unravel the mystery of music and explain it to people outside the traditional music-school definitions.”
That’s a mouthful, but at its simplest, “Biophilia” is a traditional record full of songs about the natural world, including “Moon,” “Crystaline,” “Solstice” and “Thunderbolt.” The tunes are organic in melody and electronic in instrumentation, yet there is a warmth that is often ghostly and fragile.
Two years before the iPad’s debut in 2010, Bjork had already written much of the music on a little-known touch-screen tablet, the Lemur, specialized for digital music. She wanted listeners to have the same interactive experience she had. “Of course, you can just listen to the music,” she says, “but there is so much more to this.’’
Scott Snibbe, executive producer and developer of the 10 “Biophilia” apps, agrees. “Listening to this album without the apps isn’t like watching ‘Avatar’ without 3-D — it’s like watching ‘Avatar’ without the picture. The combination of the music and the apps [is] the full expression of Bjork’s concept.”
As innovative as the iPad is, Bjork recognizes hat it’s not a piece of high-end audio equipment. “What I realized was that if people listened to the songs through the iPad [internal speakers], the listening experiences would be [just] about my voice and the instruments.”
To get the full sound, Bjork designed the bass beats so that they’d only be audible through headphones.
“I wanted the beats to be so deep, so sub-bass they required headphones to even hear them. So that’s part of the drastic opposites-of-sound I was trying to adapt the music to and format for touch-screen technology,” she says.
If you’re still scratching your head at what exactly “Biophilia” is about, you’re not the only one.
“It’s not easy to understand this project, since it combines so many new things,” Snibbe says. “But think of the violin. This was a high-technology instrument when it was invented. State of the art, interactive music technology in the 16th century. Think of this the same way.”
While violin skills take years to hone, fiddling with “Biophilia” apps is much less challenging. In fact, its simplicity is actually inviting. The app for the song “Virus” shows magnified images of red blood cells beings attacked by green viruses. On one level, it’s a game in which the listener fends off a virus attack. But the hitch is, if you save the cell and protect against the virus, the song gets stuck in a loop.
To win the game, you have to let the cell die. Bjork calls it a “femme-fatale love song, where the love is so great it eventually kills the object of desire.”
For all its cutting-edge effects, the project hearkens back to a tradition that was lost with the rise of digital music — the tactile experience. LP album art allowed listeners to explore photos, liner notes and lyrics while playing tunes. Now the iPad offers a new way to become immersed.
“I was trying to figure out a way to humanize this new technology and make it soulful and emotional,” Bjork says. “I love that you touch it. These apps give blood and muscles to the music.

DAN AQUILANTE

publié dans New York Post - 09.10.2011

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