Bjork unveils 'Biophilia' with help from David Attenborough

Narration from nature legend introduces Icelandic art-pop queen's vast multimedia project

Bjork unveils 'Biophilia' with help from David Attenborough

Photo: Carsten Windhorst/Press

The opening of Bjork’s ambitious new multimedia project ‘Biophilia’ at Campfield Market Hall, Manchester, last night (June 30) was ushered in with lightning, giant pendulums, a 24-piece female choir – and David Attenborough.

The BBC presenter and naturalist provided an introduction and narration to Bjork’s three-week Manchester International Festival residency, her first UK shows in three years. Bjork had recently declared her admiration for Attenborough since childhood in a Rolling Stone interview, describing him as "my rock star".

The stage was set up in the round, with custom-built instruments including two giant computer controlled pendulum harps, a pin barrel-organ known as a Sharpsichord, a ‘gameleste’ (a celeste redesigned with gamelan parts), and a Tesla coil, a sort of electrical transformer circuit that can be used to generate music and accompanying lightning flashes.

Alongside a small selection of older tracks, Bjork, in blue sequinned dress and orange wig, unveiled all 10 of the new songs that will comprise the 'Biophilia' album, to be released this autumn, while screens above the stage demonstrated some of the animations and games that will be included in the 10 iPad/iPhone apps that will accompany it. Each song and app explore a different pair of scientific and musicological concepts.

‘Thunderbolt’, featuring the Tesla coil, demonstrated an app in which the drawing of lines and shapes can be used to manipulate arpeggios, while the animated accompaniment to new single ‘Crystalline’ guided the audience through a series of video game-like tunnels representing verse segments, before emerging into an open field of stars for the chorus.

A three-song encore of ‘One Day’ (played on the hang, a steel-drum like percussion instrument), ‘Declare Independence’, and following Bjork’s suggestion that “it might be appropriate to dance a little bit,” 'Náttúra' closed the show, which will go on to tour seven other cities until 2014. Bjork will return to the UK to headline Bestival in September.

Bjork played:

'Thunderbolt'
'Moon'
'Crystalline'
'Hollow'
'Dark Matter'
'Hidden Place'
'Mouth's Cradle'
'Isobel'
'Virus'
'It’s Not Up To You'
'Sacrifice'
'Sonnets/Unrealities XI'
'Where Is The Line'
'Mutual Core'
'All Is Full Of Love'
'Cosmogony'
'Solstice'
'One Day'
'Declare Independence'
'Náttúra'

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