Björk Project Part 1: Prelude

Like most thinking people, he admires Björk…

-Alex Ross, writing on Esa-Pekka Salonen

That extraordinary statement is found in Alex Ross’ new book, Listen to This. In another chapter, he profiles Björk, presenting her as a rare artist with a unique aesthetic that borrows freely from many musical traditions while still retaining its own identity. Ross observes her working method during the creation of her 2004 album Medúlla. She seems to work as both a composer, holding an idea for a piece in her mind, and as an Eno-style studio technician, blending a multitude of tracks and takes into a whole. Yet still the boldness of the statement surprised me. Not only do thinking people admire Björk, but most thinking people admire Björk. I recognized that the statement is hyperbole, yet I was eager to discover the music that would lead someone (much less a critic that I greatly admire like Ross) to make that hyperbolic statement. So I decided to listen to her catalog.
Björk was an artist that I only knew at the periphery. She existed more in my consciousness as a pop culture figure than as an artist. Before embarking on this project, I was only familiar with three of her songs: “Hyperballad” from Post, “Jóga” from Homogenic and “The Dull Flame of Desire” from Volta. I liked all three of these songs, but they seemed to exist in a musical space that I couldn’t quantify, and for whatever reason, I didn’t pursue the music further. The only other time I remember listening to her music was to play Medúlla once during high school. I didn’t get it, and since I didn’t get it, I assumed there was nothing to get.
Maybe because I’m more musically mature this time around, maybe because I didn’t start with the most difficult and abstract album first, but I’ve completely fallen in love with Björk. Her music is vibrant but frequently profound, always interesting, and can withstand close and repeated listening. This week, I’m going to go through Björk’s catalog, from 1993’s Debut to 2007’s Volta.
[EDIT: It’s inevitable that I write that I’m going to post these all in a week, then get completely behind. These posts are taking a little longer than I expected to (in a good way!).]

2 responses to “Björk Project Part 1: Prelude”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *