S1:E1 Debut

Sonic Symbolism, 1er septembre 2022

Mots clés : Shy, beginner, humility, virgin, beige, silver, mohair, the messenger

Björk : I was walking a lot outside, which we do a lot in Iceland. And I was walking to school in Fossvogur. And that was a 40-minute walk. And I walked there from eight years old till 12 year old. In this time, it didn’t matter what weather it was, you just walked to school. You know, it was kind of crazy. It wasn’t just me, but you know, all my friends, too. And it’s sort of, you know, it was character building, there were like fierce blizzards, you know, and you walk to school. And I would sing. That would sort of be my…my comfort. I mean, obviously, it was very scary for an eight-year-old. And I remember moments where I was like, terrified, just alone, like me against the elements. And you just did it, you know ? I think I started to sing as a companion. Like, if the weather was crazy, you just sing loudly, and then you are somehow like : “okay, you’re not taking on me. I’m gonna like, make friends with you, and this is my space here,” and claiming space. After doing this for 10 years or whatever, your music starts taking shape. I wasn’t thinking that at all at that time. Not at all. It was my survival mechanism that I had. (music) Oddný Eir : You’re listening to Sonic Symbolism, Sonic Symbolism.

Duna : This is Episode 1. (music)

Björk : Most of us go through phases in our lives that take roughly three years. And it is not a coincidence that this is often how long it takes to make an album, a book or a film. In the conversations on this podcast, me and my friends try to capture which moods, tempers, and tempos were vibrating during each of my 10 albums. When I get asked about the differences of the music on my records, I find it quickest to use visual shortcuts. That’s kind of why my album covers are almost like homemade tarot cards. The image on the front might seem just like a visual moment, but for me : it is simply describing the sound of it. I try to express this with a color palette. The textures of the textiles, with what I’m holding, and the angle of the posture I’m in shows its relationship to the world. Also, the motion of the mouth tries to share the overall mood of the album. Perhaps, you can call this some sort of sonic symbolism. I hope you enjoy it. Warmth, Björk. (music)

Duna : The words that describe Debut are shy, beginner. (music)

Björk : His wicked sense of humor Suggests exciting sex

Duna : The Messenger. (music)

Björk : Until, well, be that it’s a little now, until He believes in a beauty He’s Venus as a boy

Duna : Silver. (music)

Björk : You know That I adore you You know That I love you

Duna : Humility. (music)

Björk : How come out of all the people in the world Only one can make me complete

Duna : Mohair. (music)

Björk : I live by the ocean And during the night I dive into it

Duna : Beige.

Björk : Human behavior, human behavior And there is no map And a compass wouldn’t help at all Yeah, uncertain Human behavior, human behavior

Oddny Eir : My name is Oddny Eir. I’m a writer and philosopher, and longtime friend of Björk. We started our friendship when we were working intensively on nature protection in Iceland in 2008, and tried to harness a natural energy in new ways. And speaking about energy, I had never known such a source of energy.

Björk : [speaking Icelandic]

Oddny Eir : Okay. In 2021, we sat down by the big lake, þingvallavatn in Iceland, the place of the first parliament of the world, where they first tried making space for democracy, in the year 900. And the Viking women claimed space there too. I think that there is also the place where the tectonic plates meet. But we were not talking about geology or laws. We were discussing Björk’s first solo album ; Debut, which was released in 1993.

Björk : [Icelandic language] Debut [Icelandic language].

Oddny Eir : I was asking her about the pronunciation of the word, Debut, and she certainly finds the word funny and absurd, strange, after having heard it so many times for so many years.

Björk : [Icelandic language]

Oddny Eir : Finally, we switched into English, maybe more used to speaking for hours in Icelandic, but we were doing our best.

Björk : Okay, English ?

Oddny Eir : English, please. So, Debut, if you could get your mind over to the time when the work was not yet there, when you somehow flashed it coming, because you’ve described for me this process, that you somehow, you smell the work, you feel the touch of it, or the vibration, is it possible for you now to get over there and see how it did come ?

Björk : I think out of all my albums, it obviously being my first solo one, it was the one that probably captured the most time. So, it sort of maybe was my life up to that point. So, it was a quarter of a century of time in it. So, when I hear it now it seems a little schizophrenic. But that’s kind of because it has a little bit of me listening to jazz in my grandparents’ house, a little bit listening to things at my mom’s house, and then me writing melodies, hiking on my own. So, it was kind of covering 25 years. Also, of course, uh, my album came out quite late, compared to other musicians. I was like 27, because I really loved being in a band. And I really liked this idea of forming a publishing company that would publish our own music and poetry and books. And I didn’t want to kind of like, go out there in the world on my own. And I didn’t have this kind of ego, feelings, so much. But I think what started to happen before Debut, is that I had melodies becoming stronger and stronger, the melodies I was writing, and I couldn’t place them in the band that I was in. And they kind of almost started to take a life of their own. And I started to want to defend them and to give them the environment they deserve. So, strangely enough, maybe I was fooling myself. It was out of some sort of selflessness, to be the mother of my melodies and provide them with the environment that they needed. And in that sense, start to lead on my own, and start to imagine what sounds could be around them, and what…what kind of world. And I think my first instinct, which is very different to now, was because I had been in a band for 10 years, two different bands, and it was always just the same instruments for every single song, which is amazing, but also can be very limiting. So, Debut, for me, is also a little bit like a kid in a push-up. So, it was like Bollywood strings and the— you know, brass section, and it was just like, "No, I can have everything I want." Like it’s some sort of cornucopia or smorgasbord. (music)

Asi Jónsson : I am Asi Jónsson. In the early days, Björk was occasionally with us at Graham Records, an independent record label and the record store in Reykjavik. I remember the equal discussions she was having with her customers, selling records, washing the floors, cleaning, and doing whatever was needed. Since then, we have worked together from time to time on various projects. And when we meet, we always have an interesting dialogue on the current movements in music and culture.

Björk : [Icelandic language]

Asi Jónsson : Yeah. Okay. Hello, Björk. Good to see you. Can you tell me, moving from Iceland to London, can you talk a little bit about that, because this is happening at the same time, wasn’t it ?

Björk : Yes, it was a decision to— I mean, I thought I would always live here. You know, I mean, a lot of my friends wanted to move abroad. Then so, Iceland was too small and claustrophobic. I didn’t think so at all. I really liked it here. But then, I had to admit to myself that to do the sort of music I wanted to do, I needed to move abroad. And it was a big, uh, surprise to myself, to have to do it. And yeah, so, I moved in, um, January ’93. Yeah. I thought, if you would have asked me five years before, I was never gonna do a soul album, because I thought that was just for, you know, extroverts, uh, flamboyant people — not me. And then when I moved to London with my son, six-year-old, it was kind of very scary, but also extremely liberating, like a high, from a constant high. And I thought I would just be there for you know, three years, and then, I’ll just go back, or something. But I liked it more than I thought I would. You know, I — obviously, I was very lucky because I was surrounded by very creative people right away, and I wasn’t unemployed, but had a lot of work. So, I was a very busy immigrant. And also, of course, I’m grateful to English culture forever, because it was somehow the birthplace of my work persona, if you want. That’s kind of where I was not just a child, or became like a grown-up, as a musician. And maybe that part of me is still a little bit English. But it was a very, very liberating time. And also, it was an amazing time in London. Actually, doesn’t surprise me now when they talk about the ’90s in London like as a special, unique time. I thought it was just me having that explosion in my life. But it actually was extra, extra special with you know, Alexander McQueen and Leyla Arup and Aphex Twin and Chris Cunningham and Hussein Chalayan, and Dazed and Confused and— I mean, there was a lot of things that are still exist, you know, kinda pillar in English culture were being created around this time. And I was woven into all of it. (music)

Asi Jónsson : She had made some brass arrangements, and was experimenting with electronic music, listening to Debut, you get the impression times were exciting, and that life was fun. And I want to quote you also, when you said you’re working on concepts that didn’t come to the surface until the later albums. What do you mean by that ?

Björk : Yes. Yeah, I think I was just learning to own my own musical world, and learning to be proud about it. It was difficult for me as a character, to be that selfish at the time. You know, maybe coming from the punk background where we were very against like, egomaniacs, or..or the rock stars of the ’80s, we thought they were vulgar, and we were like, making fun of them. And it was all about DIY, and everybody helping each other to release the next poetry book, or make posters for each other, and everybody voluntarily ran in bad taste. So, I come from very much this kind of spirit of that sort of ego of the ’80s was that. So, everybody were equal. And I think it was the best school in the world. Even though I would have gone to 10 music universities, they wouldn’t have been better than the 10 years I had with the Sugarcubes, because they were amazing teachers inside that band, you know, and cook.

Asi Jónsson : Yeah.

Björk : How bands write together, it’s magical. And when it works well, it’s..it’s a total high and it gives you faith in humanity. The fact that six people can be in one room and do a three-minute-long song together, its…it’s a miracle.

Asi Jónsson : Right.

Björk : But then you do that for 10 years, and then you’re like, "Okay, maybe I— It’s not just that I wanna be a megalomaniac, and do everything myself, but maybe just moving from six people to like, two people, then it was one-on-one."

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : So, you have 50%, 50%. So, each person has more space. (music)

Asi Jónsson : I mean, when you are moving to London and doing Debut, was there a statement in a way of saying goodbye to rock, and to the rock world ? Or maybe the rock world is alive in experimental electronic music, and music with brass arrangements ?

Björk : Yeah, I mean, I think moving to London, and doing Debut, was so impulsive for me. I wasn’t aware of it then. But looking back at it now, and actually, it wasn’t till 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, where I slowly started realizing that it was the family play of indie music, which was, uh, like a branch on the music tree, with drums and guitar and bass, you know.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-mm.

Björk : And then there was another branch that [00:18:00] went another way. And that was more like Brian Eno and Kate Bush. She did amazing programming on Fairlight and electronics, and-and then later, you know, like associates and stuff. You know, that’s— it’s just an important branch on the tree. But in the ’80s, it’s hard to imagine now, but in the ’80s, this was very…not really talked about in the media. And a lot of people would talk about Kate Bush like she [00:18:30] was just a crazy person. Like she was just possessed. Then people would be like embarrassed to say that they listened to Kate Bush at home or something. So, you really had this environment, looking back at it now, it’s kind of a more patriarchal sort of rock branch.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : And then the sort of more electronic— I would say not only matriarch, but also, just queer, you know.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : Because a lot of these bands, like, you know, even Soft Sell and those pioneers in electronic music with you know, amazing vocalists—

Asi Jónsson : Yeah.

Björk : —were gay. And it was like queer music too, which is something I’m beginning to understand later, you know.

Asi Jónsson : Yeah.

Björk : So, I think maybe I just found a home there, you know. I think that’s more my branch in the tree. And I think in the beginning, I was rebelling against the other branch, but not knowing exactly what I was rebelling [00:19:30] against, which is often the case. And then later, you kind of understand that, and then you go, "Oh, okay. Now I understand." You know. (music)

Björk : His wicked sense of humor Suggests exciting sex His fingers, [00:20:00] they focus on her He’s Venus, He’s Venus as a boy

Björk : I think maybe unconsciously in Debut, I was trying to map out all the different categories in me. And that’s maybe why I called it Debut. And I was like, "Okay, this is my beginning. It’s mine zero point zero." I want to say, okay, a little bit of me is Jazz, a little bit of me is dancing happily to Bollywood music.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : Or like, rhythms like that. And a little bit of me is introspective.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : And a little bit of me is me walking around cities and wanting to come with this kinda, a world of a girl from Iceland who was, you know, 27, and the sort of things she is experiencing.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : Because, you know, there were not so many lyrics like that at that time about the lives of women, or girls, you know, just doing normal things. (music)

Björk : Lately, I find myself out gazing at stars Hearing guitars like someone in love.

Björk : I have a complicated relationship with Jazz.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : Because 90% of jazz, I don’t like but there’s 10% which I love more than anything. I’ve actually had several debates with friends who love Jazz, through the years. We’ve been trying to define it, what it is that I like. And I think I like jazz when it’s more African or more like Folk. Especially when it comes to the musicology, I like it to be a little clashing, the notes. And yeah, not a smooth cocktail in Manhattan in the ’50s. Maybe because that’s not me.

Asi Jónsson : No.

Björk : I also like jazz when it is more open to nature, to the roots in nature.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : Because I’m like obsessed with nature. So, you know, for example, The Inflated Tear by Roland Kirk is one of my favorite jazz songs. And I didn’t understand it why, then, but I understand it better now, where they are more open to their roots in nature.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : And that sort of discordant chords, and it’s more chaotic, or more sort of punk. (music)

Asi Jónsson : It’s interesting, what you’re saying about, like, all of these different high tension musical concepts that you were dealing with then. In a way, I think the Debut album really did capture that in terms of songwriting. I mean, you have, like, songs like, Come To Me, One Day, and you have these brass arranged songs like, Anchor Song, and then you have Aeroplane, and you have the dance tracks ; Violently Happy, or Big Time Sensuality, and then Human Behavior. I mean, there is a sample in Human Behavior that’s credited to Go Down Dying by the Brazilian musician, Antonio Carlos Jobim. (music)

Björk : If you ever get close to a human and human behavior Be ready, be ready to get confused and me and my here, after

Asi Jónsson : It seems like Brazilian music has inspired you also, a lot during this period of time, like, in the early ’90s.

Björk : Yeah. I think somehow, there was a soft rebellion in the fact that I didn’t align myself with a sort of Western, you know, the USA and England rock sort of patriarchy, first world culture. Sorry, these are all very, very big and ugly words—

Asi Jónsson : [chuckles]

Björk : —but it simplifies things. But that, I promise you, back then I was not thinking about any of these words. I really did not understand. I was very, very functioning just with impulse and instinct. And I think anything that was like, what I call Second World Music—

Asi Jónsson : Yeah.

Björk : —which is probably wrong to say, but, you know, countries that are, like, similar to Iceland, in the sense that they didn’t industrialize till much later, not till the 20th century. So, they still had contact with nature.

Asi Jónsson : Right.

Björk : But they still were modern. So, they were not first world countries, like, living in poverty, but they were in the middle. And what I think happened is that that’s a big part of the world that hadn’t really been…. was underrepresented, at the beginning of the ’90s. And if you want to put this in a category, this is basically, you know, South America, Thailand, and Indonesia, and Iceland, and you know, all these countries who are not, they don’t share the sort of three-chord guitar kind of male, Christian tradition.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : You know, but they-they need like, space or some sort of representation. And I felt really, like, that was my world. And maybe, unconsciously, they’d be worth me saying, "Okay, I’m a citizen of this country, you know, this part of the world." And-and putting a little bit of all of these different cultures. Also, I-I would like to say that some of it was some kind of feminist, because what was really happening a lot to women in music at the time is you could be one thing. You know, you could either be a serious singer-songwriter, or you could be the-the sexy frontwoman, or. But you’re not allowed to be like a humorist or um, serious, or clumsy, or you know, have plenty different characteristics.

Asi Jónsson : Mm-hmm.

Björk : So, I was really focused on— I remember reading my diaries at this time, and I was writing a lot over and over again, that I have the right to be one day silly, the next day, clever, and then humorous, and happy and sad and angry, and dressed like a clown, dressed like a mother, and dressed you know, sexy if I wanted to, and like a techno person next day. So, it was very much about that statement, too. To have access to this diversity as a woman, to not be pinpoint into one, one role.

Asi Jónsson : Right.

Björk : To be able to be, you know, like, you have all the smurfs, but you just have one female smurfette. But to say, "Okay, I wanna be all the smurfs." You know, like, that’s my rebellion. (music)

Björk : Can... And there is no map uncertain.

Oddny Eir : The diary form. Like, the feeling that the lyrics are some kind of diaries. At the time, of course, like, constructed and poetic. More like poetic than diaries maybe, but did you write a diary at that time ?

Björk : Yeah, I mean, I started writing in diaries when I was a teenager. And I went always through a lot when I was a teenager. And I think it was like some form of like, healing, or even though I didn’t call it that at that time, but it was more like a resonance between like, just trying to understand how I felt. And I would write in my diaries regularly, few times a month, since I was, I don’t know, 16 or something. I still have them all. I have suitcases of diaries. But I don’t think I ever thought I would use them.

Oddny Eir : Yeah, because I would think about this effortless, like, looking at the texts, there is this attempt to catch like the spirit of a conversation of like, what happens when you relate to something new, when you relate to a new person, `when you relate to a new culture or something that is this in-between space ?

Björk : Mm-hmm.

Oddny Eir : So, it’s a little bit like, in old Icelandic, was called magic writing, that you would put two different things together and that would, uh, open something.

Björk : Mm-hmm.

Oddny Eir : You cannot understand it in a logical way somehow, why this element and this element together, is like this alchemical process. You don’t quite understand how this and this together—

Björk : Mm-hmm.

Oddny Eir : —like the synergy of it will become something totally else, and be a key to..to a whole dimension. And what I’m describing is actually the quality of mystical writings.

Björk : Well, thank you. That was a very beautiful…

Oddny Eir : Description.

Björk : Description, thank you. Yeah, I’ve never thought about it as that, and I didn’t know about this magic writing, but I think it very well describes at least what I’m trying to do. But the thing is obviously, I’m more a musician than a wordsmith. So, I’m sometimes quite clumsy with words, and it sometimes takes me a long time to get to where I wanna get. But I think if I tried to describe, now, my headspace in this time, I would have to say yes, I agree with you. I think I definitely benefited. You know, I never planned it that way. Oddny Eir No ?

Björk : The fact that I had been writing diaries for 10 years at this point, you know, which is a long time, you know. And I had managed to somehow like, get some essence there, and break the shell off just garble, you know, when you just write [babbles] forever, and it’s nonsense, and then you get to like two words that actually matter, you know. You look at them and like, "Yeah, that represents how I feel right now." (music)

Björk : And then later, I was blessed enough that my mother decided to make an album, like a children’s album, when I was like 10, it came out when I was 11. But it was like songs of other people. And only one song I wrote myself. And what was most magical about it was that I got to go into the studio and see the magic of that. And everybody was extremely kind to me, and teaching, and showed me how everything worked, and record my voice, and played it backwards. And I was just like, "Wow, this is a magical place." But maybe what was not good about the whole thing is it sort of, because I was so introverted, that it broke my innocence. Like, my idea of myself, how I exist in the world, maybe a little bit too early, you know, just to go to a bus, and you notice people are watching you, you know, when you are 11. And I would not advise it to other parents, you know, but I mean, I was lucky I was in Iceland, so no harm came to me. I was offered to do another album, because it went really well, but I didn’t want to. So, I retreated. Now, I think maybe it was because I knew that tree that I already had started working on, it wasn’t part of that. You know, it was some sort of a lie. I felt like because all the grownups did the work, that I was lying, because I was the face of something that wasn’t me. And then I started being in all those bands, and that was amazing. And I just wanted to be with equal people that were my age. And then I did sort of 10 years of that. And then when I was 27, when my album finally comes out, which is 16 years later, part of that was maybe because subconsciously, I thought, "Now I’m ready to— like, this branch, this tree is mature enough. It can stand maybe with so much from grownups, but more or less, it can take on the world by itself." And I think because I started writing my melodies, kind of like a free structure in nature, on my own, in introversy—

Oddny Eir : And finding your ways, like, it was also like on your way, always to somewhere, through the weather, you know ?

Björk : Yeah, totally. And because I did that for 10 years before I started doing bands and everything, I think the shape of my melodies, they are kind of like crooked trees, you know. They’re kind of a little bit wild, you know, and also with a lot of space.

Oddny Eir : Well, I see the crooked trees, but I see them as crooked pathways, somehow. The singing and the melody making is part of your surviving, as a child, going along, because it’s — I remember, we walked this way once, and it’s quite a long way from your home back, then to school.

Björk : Mm-hmm.

Oddny Eir : And in those bad weathers, during wintertime. So, it’s a question also, of like, surviving and making it joyful, instead of being horrible. And then it’s understandable that then, when this singing becomes just some layer in other people’s artworks, it’s not what it is essentially for you. For you, it’s more. It’s some more question of life and death a little bit. So, it cannot be compromised as being just a singing or just a melody. It’s just, it’s something else.

Björk : Yeah. Thank you. That’s very beautiful. I think that’s also why a lot of my melodies are 80 BPM, because that’s the speed I walk in, and it actually explains a lot.

Oddny Eir : What is that ? 8P ?

Björk : 80 BPM.

Oddny Eir : What’s that ?

Björk : 80 beats per minute.

Oddny Eir : Oh, okay. Okay.

Björk : Even though I write melodies, I’m not walking outside. They..they almost always end up being in that speed. (music)

Björk : So don’t make me say it It would burst the bubble Break the charm

Asi Jónsson : I mean, I’ve said to you before, that in a way, I felt that it was quite different from what was happening on the electronic, or the British scene at that time. And I remember that you later on defined that Debut is kind of house music where the starting point is songwriting. Was that done like, consciously, or ?

Björk : Yeah, I guess that’s one way of looking at it. Yeah, for sure. Because I started going to the clubs in like ’88, ’89 and going up to Manchester, to the raves there and the clubs, and I was like, "Wow, this is my music." Like, you know, those kind of acid house wear parties, and you would’ve to sit, listen for eight hours to music that was not amazing. And then suddenly, one person would come at 4:00 AM and would just be like, "Wow." With one synthesizer. And the whole house would just explode, you know, just with innovation and originality. (music)

Björk : Suddenly that music was going to the club, you know, being social and having 20 people dance just to one synthesizer, you know, like [mimics instrumentals] you know, like, it was just a miracle for me. And I really felt like, "Oh yeah, I found my people." You know, "This is my tribe." But what hadn’t happened a lot in like, ’91, ’92, ’93, was that you would have people write songs with that material, you know ? Asi Jónsson : Right.

Björk : So, to have like a narrator, or to have like somebody to sing, you know, it would mostly be just like one sentence repeating through the whole song, if there was something, which is also very liberating too, when you are dancing and you just want more the sort of trance, release catharsis, you know, when you were dancing for six hours. I mean, it was just one of the most magical things that period, ever. You would have to dress to go out, that you could go completely wet through, but still look okay. You know, that’s kind of why we would put the hair up in little buns, because it would be like, your hair could go completely wet, but you could still dance, and you could still look okay, you know, completely sweaty. So, I think maybe looking back at it, I gave it a voice, you know, just like, "Okay, here,I’m walking down the street, and I’m having some tea, and I’m—" You know, like the, putting a character in this, more narrator. And I think that music probably usually was pretty abstract, and not verbal at all. Quite sort of introvert to give that some sort of extroversy, you know, of a story. (music)

Björk : I tip-toe down to the shore Stand by the ocean Make it roar at me

Oddny Eir : Joyfulness, like in a dancing…

Björk : Mm-hmm.

Oddny Eir : Why was it important ? Did you feel the urge to remind yourself and others of joyfulness, or like, this ecstatic state, somehow ? Did you feel that, like, when you were dancing in London, what emotional side did you lack there ? Why did you have to fight for it ?

Björk : Yeah, probably combination of things. Okay. One way to answer it is an Icelander abroad. Very often, they are the quirky, eccentric poet that is next to the Viking king, and was entertaining him with eccentric stories. Who is kind of wise, and can tell the truth, and be entertaining, and then just go home and doesn’t get put into any battle or any, like, conflict. So, I think part of it is being Icelandic, and I can’t even think about it, why. It’s probably the reason why we survived winters for 1,000 years, was, if we couldn’t take on the dark, and flip it, we basically died. You know, that’s why there’s a song there called Violently Happy, which is sort of my clumsy attempt to make fun of it. We are almost like, it’s almost too aggressive, you know, that you have to be happy, you know, to survive. But I also think on another level, and this is just me thinking out loud right now, and especially, looking at it from further away, is there was a certain exhaustion for the sort of black goth, who were like, obsessed with Voltaire and Antonin Artaud and Bukowski, you know all this kind of Wagnerian rock, 20th century, industrial revolution dying after the World War II universe. And we wanted a new universe, which was maybe 21st century, which was more biological and technological, where you can have technology and biology work together, and you can leave the industrial aesthetic. You can leave it behind, and that those sort of blood and graveyards, and suicides and baths and, you know, vampires. I mean, it still has darkness, just as much darkness, but it’s the darkness of a black hole in space. It’s a new environment, time. (music) Violently happy Cause I love you Violently happy But you’re not here

Björk : Actually, it’s more like, Icelandic nature, a little bit, like, the extremes of solstices. You feel the earth to remember the light in the most darkest moments.

Björk : Yeah. Totally.

Oddny Eir : So, not to get into the darkness for the darkness, but get into the darkness for the, um—

Björk : Mm-hmm.

Oddny Eir : —for the light, somehow.

Björk : Totally. And also, the older I get, I think more and more about the aesthetic of the two world wars in the 20th century, and the sort of, how a lot of countries had to deal with that. Not just emotionally and psychologically and the terror and the trauma of it, but also just the aesthetic of it.

Oddny Eir : Mm-hmm.

Björk : And a lot of ’80s stuff, musically, was like ghost of a ghost of a ghost, the post-post-post World War II. So, I think there was something about the ’90s in London, which was about, "Okay, that’s finished. Let’s start a new chapter in the book," and it’s the prequel to the 21st century. I actually look at now and laugh, kindly, to CD covers from the ’90s, of electronic music. A lot of it is the biological and the technological merging, you know. And it’s not a human scale. Because the human scale is like a Shakespeare play, a Greek tragedy, all this 20 century Western civilization stuff, you know. Where we were going was in the quantum physics, you know, the vibration of the atoms, going on a space shuttle, first time out of our solar system, you know, where we dethrone the human. The human is not anymore the main character in the story, or something.

Oddny Eir : Mm-hmm.

Björk : And a lot of times, music was actually about that. That’s why guitar solos were illegal, because the human was not the protagonist anymore, which is a contradiction to be a singer. It’s like, how do you place the human voice in music, where you don’t have a human protagonist ? You know, you place the singer amongst the animals, or one of musical instruments, or an introvert.

Oddny Eir : Did you think about that challenge then ? Or was it more like, intuition, or somehow, like, this challenge of putting an element that could belong to the guitar solo, or like, could be as symbolic of the old system, as the guitar, the voice, putting that in that new music ?

Björk : Mm-hmm. I don’t think I was aware of it then. And I also, I was just really introversed, and it wasn’t till later, where I could sort of connect the dots, and sort of see like why I made the statement, you know. I think we could probably talk for six hours about the female voice. Of course, I was supporting that somehow. And you know, my grandmother, when I played her Anchor Song, she was an abstract amateur painter. I said, "Oh, this song is about this painting of yours." And she was a woman of few words, and she said, "I know," and then we never discussed it again. (music)

Björk : Down to the bottom Underneath all currents And drop my anchor And This is where I’m staying This is my home (music)

Björk : And also, my mother who was — you know, I wanna be kind to her memory — but in some ways, the black sheep of her family. And I wanted to defend her, and to find a voice and she didn’t have…felt like she had a voice in her life, but she gave it to me, you know. Since I was five, she was always encouraging me and maybe a little bit too much sometimes. And so, in many ways, I had these two ladies behind me, which is a whole nother story, you know. But, just so I name drop a little bit for you, which is another completely different way to answer your question, is, I once met Brian Eno and strangely enough it was the only year where he wrote a book. He wrote a diary every day, and this book came out. And he met me that year. We went to the same steam room in London, and I probably went out the night before, to 27 raves and never been so hungover in my whole life. I sat in the steam room, and was trying to recover. There was, like, a lot of steam. And then the steam kind of went down a little bit. Like, I could see Brian Eno’s face. And the only thing he said to me was : “I’ve realized that in countries that don’t have a lot of hierarchy, the melodies, they jump in a very anarchistic way, up and down, and there’s a lot of space between every single note. But in countries like England and Japan, there is small space between the notes. Do you agree with me ?” And this, the anarchy in Iceland was something like that. This was his opening icebreaker line to me. And I looked at him, probably really hungover, and just said, "Yes." Then the smoke came again, and he disappeared. And he, uh, put it in his book. And I was at…It was really funny. But it is an interesting theory that maybe goes a little bit—

Oddny Eir : Yeah.

Björk : —with what you’re saying. And I also think] that singers who write similar melodies to me, if you could make that kind of melody making into a branch on the tree, and you would put other singers on that same branch, you could say that it is breaking out of this kind of oppressive narrative that is Western civilization for women. And it is kind of like, you think I’m gonna go there ? I’m gonna go the opposite. And then I’m gonna go over there, and then I’m gonna go over there. So, it is kinda— You think you catch me and control me, but no you don’t. (music)

Björk : The atmosphere Will get lighter And two suns ready To shine just for you I can feel it I can feel it (music) Asi Jónsson : Sonic Symbolism is a co-production of Mailchimp Presents : Talkhouse and Björk. It was made by Björk, Asi Jónsson, Oddny Eir, Ian Wheeler, Julie Douglas, and Christian Koons. Duna : It was produced by Chrstian Koons and edited by Christian Koons and Anna Gyða. Special thanks to Derek Birkett, Catherine Verna Bentley, Zach McNees, Ævar Kjartansson and Duna Hrólfsdóttir. Asi Jónsson : Music appears courtesy of One Little Independent Records. (music)

Björk : An aeroplane Will curve gracefully Around the volcano With the eruption That never lets you

publié dans Sonic Symbolism