As PSFK learned back in 2011 when we visited Reykjavik, Iceland is indeed a magical country. In no other place in the world do active volcanoes mix with glaciers, geothermal springs bubble in abundance, and wild ponies roam the countryside. Iceland’s reigning queen of experimental music, Björk, has certainly made these ideas and natural elements part of her music and performances, with her newest project ‘Biophilia,’ she takes ’multifaceted’ to new levels.
In 2011 Björk released Biophilia to a flurry of enthusiasm and curiosity. Taking the form of a standard album, Biophilia was actually a multimedia app created to explore the relationship between art and science, and included a series of global performances featuring custom instruments, and a real-life educational program and residency based in New York. A literal smorgasbord of creative productions, the app included interlinking stories, animations, and games which utilized Björk’s songs to help users navigate ‘the cosmic landscapes conjured up by the album.”
Now that Björk has broken through the walls of music, art, education, and storytelling, the only barriers left to her full conceptual vision are…the Android and Windows 8 operating systems (both of which Biophilia is currently unavailable on). That’s where Björk ’s Kickstarter campaign comes in. Here, users can donate to not just fund the app’s transition to Android and Windows, but also the Biophilia Educational Program, through which this media will provide an open-source curriculum guide for Biophilia Educators, and teach kids about music and science using an interactive format to inspire creativity and a love of learning.
Originally meant to be a concept album which included a series of apps housed in one “mother app”, a live show and an educational program for children from all backgrounds, Biophilia is now a full-on initiative to encourage kids to explore their surroundings and think outside the box. As one publication put it: “It’s all about exploring the areas where music, nature and technology meet, showing people how sound can work in nature while at the same time exploring the infinite expanse of the universe, from planetary systems to atomic structure.”
For those curious about the Biophilia Educational Program, it will act as a non-profit initiative with the aim of making the ideas from Biophilia available to teachers and children around the world. This will be accomplished through free interactive science and music workshops for children that travel with Björk’s Biophilia live show residencies. In addition to New York, these workshops have also taken place in Manchester, Buenos Aires, Oslo, Björk’s home city of Reykjavik, and Paris this February. As part of this world wide educational tour, the program has collaborated with local schools to create lessons and plan curriculums around this unusual project, aimed at melding nature and science, music and technology.
For those who doubt how willing teachers are to let an Icelandic pop-star steer their lessons, one happy customer from Buenos Aires sent in this quote to the Kickstarter page:
The teachers were as excited as the kids. Not only because of this new experience but also of the bigger concept. It’s revolutionary practice opens the mind to think about education differently.
Using touch screens and other hands-on methods, the creators and implementors of the Biophilia app are hoping to generated funds through their Kickstarter campaign to pay not just for the conversion of the app, but also for the development of an open-source curriculum guide for Biophilia Educators:
We would like to be in a position to pay educational specialists to create Biophilia lesson plans and give them what they need to assist teachers to use the Biophilia apps in their music and science lessons.
For those hoping to stay in the loop during this evolving process, the creators have also launched the Biophilia Educational Program website at biophiliaeducational.org, where both educators and parents can access the entire Biophilia Educational curriculum for free.
As for the actual Biophilia app itself, it has widely been regarded as the world’s first “app album,” meaning each song on the record has its own “interactive interpretation.” By experimenting with the app, players can learn about time signatures, scales, chords, and a whole lot of other practical techniques.
The video gives a relatively accurate idea of how the app works:
For those curious, each of the 10 songs within the Biophilia app reveal a different musicology theme and a corresponding natural element, which you can explore. Some of these themes include:
Thunderbolt - Arpeggios : Lightning
Moon - Sequencers : Tidal patterns
Dark Matter - Musical scales : Dark Matter
Crystalline - Song structure : Crystals
Hollow - Time signatures : DNA
Virus - Interactive music : Viruses
Solstice - Counterpoint : Gravity
Mutual Core - Chords : Tectonic plates
Sacrifice - Notation : Interaction of the sexes
Cosmogony - Harmony : Equilibrium
Images and credit: NPR, Submarine Channel and Spin