Weird Science: “Biophilia” – Björk Geeks Out On New App Album – Plus, New iPad Releases by Gruff Rhys, Polyphonic Spree, more

On September 22nd, Björk’s new Biophilia leaked.  By the next day almost the entire album had been uploaded by various users to YouTube – providing fans a preview of the highly anticipated project.  (UPDATE October 4th Hear the album via the leak in the embedded videos below, or listen to an official stream at npr.org/first-listen). 

Designed to be the world’s “first app album,” Björk’s has teamed with computer software designers, musicologists, multi-media artists and inventors for the ambitious project combining music, apps, the internet, installations, and live shows (the entire album debuted live this summer at the Manchester International Festival).  Recorded in part on an iPad, it will be released as both CD and – more innovatively – as a series of apps (some of which can be previewed below).  Biophilia for iPad includes ten separate apps to explore the song’s themes – all within one “mother” app.  The apps also come with themed games, an essay each, the song’s musical score, and animations (for example, the “Virus” app is a study of cells being attacked by a virus, watch below).  All in all it’s like a giant science project (of the learning-is-fun variety).  Its obsessed with the modern things, but it’s based on the ancient philosophical concept Musica universalis (in other words, “the music of the spheres” – the idea that the movements of the planets creates a cosmic symphony).   Check out the songs’ scientific connection in this chart:

1. “Moon” (Lunar cycles, sequences)     5:40
2. “Thunderbolt” (Lightning, arpeggios)     5:11
3. “Crystalline” (Structure)     5:03
4. “Cosmogony” (Music of the Spheres, equilibrium)     4:51
5. “Dark Matter” (Scales)     3:17
6. “Hollow” (DNA, rhythm)     5:44
7. “Virus” (Generative music)     5:21
8. “Sacrifice” (Man and Nature, notation)     3:57
9. “Mutual Core” (Tectonic plates, chords)     5:00
10. “Solstice” (Gravity, counterpoint)

The Guardian: “Björk has revealed plans for a three-year educational tour, inspired by her upcoming “multimedia” project, Biophilia. Not only will the album with that name be accompanied by 10 iPad apps designed by some of the world’s top software designers, the Icelandic singer is mapping out a string of eight six-week residencies, comprising live performances, scientific expositions, and children’s courses on nature and music. Growing up, she explained, “my rock star was David Attenborough”…Biophilia just keeps getting bigger. “It felt like the music industry was off the grid, and I wanted to solve the riddle,” Björk said in one of two new interviews, with Rolling Stone and Pitchfork…the current notion of Biophilia took shape: an album whose songs interweave natural and musicological themes, interpreted in lectures, software and performance. This September, Björk will reportedly release the 10-song album called Biophilia, in traditional physical and digital formats. She will also issue 10 separate iPad apps, one for each song, created by top app developers including Soundrop’s Max Weisel and Theodore Gray, who designed The Elements: The Visual Exploration. These apps integrate interactive games, musical animations, animated scores, lyrics and academic essays… From there, Björk will hit the road. Through 2014, she hopes to visit eight cities around the world, spending a month and a half in each. On top of twice-weekly performances of the album, Björk will host scientific exhibitions and classes for schoolchildren. Kids will be able to “try out the instruments on the iPad and write songs and take them home,” Björk said. “And they’ll be teachers showing them the basics of musicology and showing them how, for instance, the viruses on the Virus app move in similar ways as the music”… As for Björk’s gigs, she has lots more planned than just some feathers and a barrel of sparkle-paint. The singer will be using custom-build musical instruments, including Björgvin Tómasson’s digital gamelan-celeste, four 10-foot “pendulum harps”, which use gravity to strum their strings, and two Tesla coils. She is also employing “an award-winning 24-piece Icelandic female choir”. The goal, Björk said in a press release, is to evoke “an atmosphere similar to being inside the app itself”… Naturally, the whole thing will be documented. Pulse Films are working on a 90-minute Biophilia documentary”

Other artists working in a similar realm include Gorrilaz (recorded an entire album on iPad last fall, then rushed released it), The Flaming Lips (created “Two Blobs Fucking” to be simultaneously played on combinations of 12 separate iPads, smart phones and computers) and Polyphonic Spree…

Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys’ Whale Trail” will be released as an  iPhone/iPad game on October 20th.  The audio track was uploaded on soundcloud/pias in September (click link to hear and watch app preview in video below).

Originally scheduled for September 27th release, Biophilia has been set back to October 10th (pre-order here).  Nevermind petty concerns like release dates though, this is 2011.  Listen to the album – and check out some of the multi-media and concepts that tie into it –  right now, below:

The album opens with “Moon.”  Below is the music video, above is a preview of its app, “a musical sequencer that explores the similarities between the cycles of the moon and tides with sequences in music. change the phase of the moon to control the number of notes, and change the phase of the pearls to alter their pitch.”  Download the app from http://itunes.com/apps/biophilia.

“Thunderbolt” uses the tesla coil as a musical instrument. 

Interesting lyrics too…
“Cold froth on my twig,
My mind in whirls
Wanders around desire.

May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, or have I too often now?
Craving miracles…
Craving miracles…

No one imagines the light shock I need,
And I’ll never know
From who’s hands, deeply humble,
Dangerous gifts as such to mine come.

May I, should I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
Craving miracles..

My romantic gene is dominant
And it hungers for union,
Universal intimacy,
All embracing.

May I, should I or have I too often
Craved miracles?
May I, can I or have I too often
Craved miracles?
Crave…

Waves irregularly striking,
Wind stern in my face.
Thunderstorm, come,
Scrape those barnacles of me!

May I, may I or should I too often
Crave miracles?
May I or should I or have I too often

All my body parts are one
As lightning hits my spine,
Sparkling
Prime runs through me,
Revive my wish
Inviolable.

May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, should I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…

“Crystalline” is most people’s introduction to the project, released as the above music video directed by Michel Gondry.

Above is the Biophilia App for iPad  for “Cosmogony” piano score.  If you read music notation, pick up an instrument and play along…

Björk’s “Virus” app… your seventh grade science teacher would approve….

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