Björk on David Attenborough & Nature Documentaries

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BjorkCourtesy of the Manchester International Festival

Björk is no stranger to the grand statement, so when she describes her new project as “ambitious”, you know something interesting is on the cards.

"David Attenborough did this amazing show called The Song of the Earth, where he's exploring where animals and humans meet, and trying to work out how music-making started. So, he finds animals that make music, and then he meets these tribes performing ceremonies, and you try to imagine how that would have been the beginning of music…

When I met him, I could hardly speak. I think I was the most star-struck I've ever been! We used to watch him as kids in Iceland, and I always thought that he was just the best. And what’s really amazing with him is that he always provides hope. It’s really interesting because for this new project we've watched like five billion documentaries for research, and the nature documentaries made in the States always have an atmosphere of danger to them. Like, if there is an emotional mood, it doesn't matter if they are talking about bees or earthquakes or the making of the earth or whatever… it's always fear.

They’re all like [adopts booming American presenter-like voice] “YEAH! It’s the NATURAL WORLD! And if you get stung by 50,000 bees then you might DIE!” They will always try to make that point, but for me being brought up on David Attenborough it was the other way round. Everything else on television seemed to be violence and all the movies and things were scary… and then you watch David Attenborough and it's like "Wow!" You know, it's hope… it always gave you hope. I think that in Europe there's this tradition for nature to be more connected – the difference between the countries, well, it's really striking what place nature has for people in the States… it’s just scary. Attenborough is definitely a big part of the reasons I ended up doing this project. It was his spirit, his explorer's spirit."

Björk is no stranger to the grand statement, so when she describes her new project as “ambitious”, you know something interesting is on the cards. Biophilia (translating as “love of life” or “love of nature”) is much more than just a new album, with the ten songs also being released as a collection of iPad apps that allow listeners to remake the tracks, exploring different ways of making music through various aspects of the natural world. Bjork assembled a crack team of explorers, developers, designers and artists to work on the project, many of whom she introduces in next week’s special guest-edited issue of Dazed & Confused magazine, but one of the biggest influences on the whole project was someone now in their 80s (though still going strong), and familiar to multiple generations of awestruck children as the genial and gently whispering voice of the natural world.

The Dazed & Confused special issue guest-edited by Bjork is on sale Thursday July 7, including a full interview plus encounters with many of the scientists, designers and explorers that inspired and created the project. Björk will be premiering her Biophilla live show at Manchester Film Festival 30 June-17 July. Biophilia is released in September.

Text by Rod Stanley

Rod Stanley is the editor of Dazed & Confused magazine.