Saturday, February 4, 2012

Björk brings non-linearity to the text of music

Icelandic musician and artist Björk has released her latest album Biophilia as an iPad app. Every song, and the album itself, has levels of interactivity integrated into the music, text, sound and visualizations. Users are able to interrupt, distort or add to the songs as they play. While much of our reading has focused on using hypertext to distort the linearity of text, this application allows for the distortion of the linearity of music - seemingly a first for a world-wide popular and successful professional musician.

Bjork describes the project well in terms of how it uses hypertext to allow for interaction. "Much of nature is hidden from us, that we can neither see nor touch, such as the one phenomena that is said to move us more than any other in our daily lives: sound," she says on the front page of her website "With Biophilia comes a restless curiousity, an urge to investigate and discover the illusive places where we meet nature. So too can we use technology to make visible much of what is not visible in our natural world."

This type of installation seems to be right in line with the notion of stereographic plurality discussed by Marsch. He says, "creative hypermedia installations combine at least two (for now) modes of sense experience: sight and sound" (paragraph 10). While I enjoyed Ankerson and Sapnar's Cruising and it does elicit a sense of stereographic plurality, I'm not sure whether it qualifies as non-linear. Espen Aarseth says, "A nonlinear text is a work that does not present its scriptions in one fixed sentence, whether temporal or spatial. Instead, through cybernetic agency (the user[s], the text, or both), an arbitrary sequence emerges" (p. 767). While there are many ways to play with how the user experiences Cruising, I would suggest that no manipulation results in an alternative sequencing.

Here are some videos that help illustrate what is being done by Bjork in Biophilia:


  1. This is like installation art, only now it's moved out of the modern art museum or gallery into our hands and our homes. It's also an interesting way to market a performance that wouldn't be possible without touch screen technology, a high market penetration of smartphones and tablets, and digital commerce. A lot of technology had to reach a tipping point for this to occur.

  2. I wonder, Atypical, have you downloaded this app?

    I've been reading about it and one of the words that seems to be used consistently to describe this 8th full-length work is: interdisciplinary. That's quite an unusual choice of term for a *musical* piece; an album really. I wonder if this is in part a marketing-ploy to attract a different audience or is it really indicative of a change that has undergone both the production and (assumed) consumption of this kind of work?

    If the *work* is interdisciplinary, does that mean it requires a certain kind of interdisciplinary (or transliterate, if you will) reader/listener?

    Then there is the title itself, with this techno-avant-garde album, what is there for the nature-lover?