Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 272
Fri. Dec 27, 2013


“♫ When
your eyes/
pause on
the ball/
that hangs
on the third
from the

If you’re looking for the most non-traditionally magnificent song for this or any winter holiday season, you must discover the mystically wondrous sound of Björk’s “Solstice.” Björk described this hauntingly beautiful Biophilia track as, “Sjón wrote this poem which I really, really love and it’s called “solstice,” which is basically a Christmas carol and it’s sort of about the fact that the four seasons are because of the tilt of the earth.” Sjón’s poetics are what first caught my lyrical ear but then I learned how Björk brought “Solstice” to light.

According to Scott Snibe, Biophilia’s executive producer, who described how Björk recreated her 2011 on the stage, when he told The Vine, “You’ve got Bjork, you have a 24-women Icelandic choir — which is really something, they accompany her on most songs — you have a round performance space with a central stage with audience all around. Eight video screens on top, video on the floor and then five or six custom-made instruments she had made. One is called a Gravity Harp, which plays a harp component of a song called ‘Solstice’.

Björk had to have her musical devices commissioned to create “a new instrument that would harness a force of nature.” If you’re wondering how you create such an instrument, Björk turned to a master student at M.I.T’s Media Lab, Andy Cavatorta. Cavartorta’s was to bring Björk’s idea of a Gravity Harp to life. Andrew Maranntz of The New Yorker described Cavartorta’s and Björk’s creation as “It is made of spruce, walnut, rubber bushings, epoxy, forty-four harp strings, and six five-pound dumbbells. When it moves, it looks like a set of wind chimes on a giant robot’s front porch.”

When Bjork saw Andrew’s creation, the Icelandic singer described the “Gravity Harp” as “If there is an element in nature that is similar to counterpoint, it would be the effect of gravity on a pendulum, when you see and animation, like the one we found online of double pendulums, the way they interact is very similar to how melody and counterpoint work… Maybe that’s why I was attracted to pendulums, or maybe it could be just the simple thing that I’m trying to break out of the 4/4 (time signature) and the computer. I really like this idea of a bass-line that works like a pendulum and that is kind of driven by gravity and sort of has regularity but is sort of irregular at the same time.

Irregular and innovative are two words that are synonymous with Björk. In fact, Biophilia was a musical project that Björk created on her I-pad. But Björk’s dream is for Biophilia to be more than just an album but a living breathing interactive project as she told The Independent UK, “I don’t want to promise anything but I would like to find a future international home for Biophilia – even though it’s actually in an app. My dream originally was that it would be a museum or something, in Iceland, in nature, where kids could come and do courses.”

For now, we Björk fans get to experience her multi-media creation Biophilia from home. I suggest you begin with “Solstice.” The song that began as a Christmas poem by Björk’s lyricist Sjón and who’s musical structure was so complex that M.I.T’s Media Lab Andy Cavatorta had to create a new instrument called a “Gravity Harp” to bring “Solstice” from Björk’s mind to life. Any track that needs a poet and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist to help create Björk’s song is one for me. Celebrate the seasons with this timeless Bjork i Pad creation that mixes poetics, technology and imagination all in the span of a five minute anti-pop song, the future begins now.