björk is dropping the world's most futuristic book of sheet music

Time to dust off your harpsichord.

by Hannah Ongley
May 2 2017, 4:50pm

From shooting videos in 360 degree VR to popping up in an art gallery as a live 3-D avatar, Björk gets technology. Perhaps she has has traveled so far into the future that going in the opposite direction now appears more exciting. For her next mind-bending musical project, Björk is experimenting with a more traditional medium: sheet music. The Icelandic icon is about to drop a career-spanning score book of 34 songs from Debut, Post, Homogenic, Selmasongs, Vespertine, Volta, Vulnicura, Medúlla, and her Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack. All you need to channel some of Björk's palpable magic is a piano, organ, harpsichord, or if you can source one, a celeste. Bjork, like Tchaikovsky, is a longtime fan of the piano's little cousin — for her groundbreaking digital album Biophilia, she developed a MIDI-controlled celeste-gamelan hybrid that could be controlled via iPad.

The score book will likewise blend traditional mediums with new technologies. Björk and her longtime pianist Jonas Sen aim to expand the possibilities of conventional notation by incorporating custom fonts and artwork. They have also devised a special layered approach to arrangements, spanning from simple transcription to radical reinterpretations of the original songs. "There are three levels to these keyboard arrangements,"says Sen. "In one we simply transcribed the songs from the original to the keyboard. In the next level we arranged them so they sound different from the originals, yet convincing for the keyboard instrument in question. On the third level the songs are radically different from the original, almost like they are new compositions."

34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste is out June 5, so start dusting off your harpsichord or looking for one on Craigslist. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Ari Magg
[The Passionate Issue, No. 244, June 2004] 

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34 scores for piano
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