Dark Matter

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Présentation de la chanson dans l’application Biophilia

the song "dark matter" connects breath, the human soul and the cosmos. Björk’s working title ’pneuma’ comes from the ancient greek word meaning the "breath of life" which was thought to inhabit not just humans but the cosmos as well. Björk evokes these ideas in the track by using wordless vocals and organ, which are both air-driven instruments. The title ’dark matter’ updates these notions for a twenty-first century scientific context : modern cosmology and astronomy suggest that the universe contains "dark matter" — a substance whose existence cannot be directly observed but is inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. In the song "dark matter" these ideas take on intensely mysterious and spiritual expression.

Analyse de Nikki Dibben

Dark Matter was one of the first tracks Björk created by improvising using a computer game controller to play with musical material. In this track Björk and Mark Bell explored different music scales — the collections of notes on which whole pieces of sections are usually based.

The wordless singing reflects the way the song was composed : the gibberish heard here is Björk’s compositional language in its raw form —strings of vowels and consonants which she uses to create melodies before she has lyrics.

The song is in free-time — it lacks a regular pulse and beats— and these musical qualities evoke the idea of timelessness and the vastness of space an there is and analogy between the amorphousness of space and the fluid song structure. The coeval line is made up from two small motifs which are developed and varied through the rest of the track : motif ’a’ — the slow repeated notes in the first bar and a half of the lead vocal, and a motif ’b’ —the little triplet flourish that follows it. Although there are repetitions of material the music is more developmental in character than the other tracks on Biophilia. The motifs are taken up, varied and extended in length until the ’outro’ where the motifs dissolve back into their raw form as isolated pitches —the sound "elements" in their basic state.

Björk focuses on scales in Dark Matter — the selection of pitches that give a piece of music its particular tonal quality. The music slips and slides chromatically between and within the motifs : in other words , pitch movement in this track doesn’t stick to a single musical scale but slides from one to another, creating its shifting and mysterious sound, and the changing palette of musical moods.

The Dark Matter app allows users to explore musical scales, representing their relationships in term of magnetism. A musical scale is the ascending or descending series of pitches that make up a musical key, and can be represented visually as points on a line. Different cultures divide up the available pitch space in different ways, but the basic principle of having scale "steps" is the same. The app presents twelve buttons corresponding to the twelve notes of the equal tempered chromatic scale.

The music commonly encountered in pop, rock and western art music is based on different selections of seven notes from this twelve-note pitch collection. For example, compare the first line of ’happy birthday’ to the first line of the song ’maria’ some the musical West Side Story when you start singing them both on the same note : when you get to the word ’to’ in ’happy birthday to you’ you are singing the fourth degree of the major scale, but when you say ’-ri-’ in the line ’ma-ri-a’, you are singing a sharpened fourth, found in a different type of scale —the lydian mode.

In the dark matter app, the musical scale is represented like a magnetic dipole in which electric current circulates. Just as there are forces of attraction and repulsion in magnetism, so pitches within a scale attract and repel each other. These attractions are partly caused by proximity : a note is more attracted to a neighbour note than a pitch further away in the scale.

Another cause of musical ’magnetism’ is tonality : this is the system of relationships between notes within a particular scale (the ’key’ of a piece of tonal music). You can hear tonal ’magnetism’ in the way that the exact same pitch has a very different quality in different scales. Try it for yourself. Sing the start of the children’s nursery rhyme ’twinkle twinkle little star’, and stop on the word ’star’, remembering how it feels and sounds. Now sing the first line of ’happy birthday’ , starting with the same note on which you started ’twinkle twinkle’ and stop on the word ’you’. You might notice that the note on the word ’you’ in ’happy birthday’ sounds a bit more tense, or unfinished, than ’star’ in ’twinkle twinkle’ — but in fact they are both the same pitch. The reason the have a different quality is because the two tunes use different scales : in ’twinkle twinkle’ ’star’ happens on the third degree of its diatonic major scale, whereas in ’happy birthday’, ’you’ occurs on the seventh degree of its major scale (and wants to resolve onto the note above it).

Björk’s use of different pitch collections in this song creates the equivalent of different colours from one moment to the next. You can use the app to create different scales and hear what these sound like.


Musique : Björk et Mark Bell
Programmation : Mark Bell, Damian Taylor, Björk et Leila Arab
Bourdonnement et mise en forme sonore : Leila Arab
Arrangements vocal : Björk
Ingénieur du son : Damian Taylor et Curver
Mixage : Björk
Production : Björk


Dark Matter (Alva Noto remodel) 05:48 Alva Noto
Dark Matter (With Choir & Organ) 03:25 Björk

Versions utilisées dans les App

Dark Matter (Animation Version) 03:23 App
Dark Matter (Score Version) 03:16 App