Cornucopia – Björk takes on NYC with her new stage tour


Björk is all set to go on tour with a new stage concert called Cornucopia. The new concert production conceived by the Icelandic superstar will be presented at The Shed – a new Manhattan venue that will open in the spring for its inaugural season.

Björk states herself:

“I am very excited to announce that I will be part of the Shed’s opening season in Manhattan next spring,” Björk wrote in a statement on Twitter. “This winter I will prepare my most elaborate stage concert yet, where the acoustic and digital will shake hands, encouraged by a bespoke team of collaborators.”

The music Bjork will be performing at “Cornucopia,” and whether she will be premiering a new album, was unclear at press time — a rep said details will be announced in the coming weeks. One of these collaborators that we know of will be the Icelandic flute ensemble known as Viibra who worked with Björk extensively on her last album, ‘Utopia’, including Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, Áshildur Haraldsdóttir, Berglind María Tómasdóttir, Steinunn Vala Pálsdóttir, Björg Brjánsdóttir, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, and Emilía Rós Sigfúsdóttir, with Katie Buckley (harp), Manu Delago, (percussion) and Bergur Þórisson (electronics), will join Björk on stage for her performances at The Shed.

The Shed, a wildly futurist forthcoming arts center in New York, isn’t waiting until its official opening in the spring of next year to start presenting shows: From May 1-13, it will present “A Prelude to the Shed,” a free, 12-day multi-arts event on an undeveloped lot on 10th Avenue and 30th Street, near its still-unfinished site in the city’s Hudson Yards neighborhood.

“A Prelude to The Shed is an exploration of architecture as an extension of human body, culture, and environment. Can architecture be more human? This curiosity led us to reconfigure a steel shed into a comfortable interface to interact with people physically; inside and outside, in light and darkness, individually and collectively,” said Adeyemi. “Using simple technologies, we made the structure so that it can be moved and transformed by people, enabling its participation in different formats of art, education, events, and public life.”

“Cornucopia” is conceived and performed by Björk and directed by John Tiffany. Media artist Tobias Gremmler will create the digital visual design in an environment created by stage designer Chloe Lamford. The creative team for “Cornucopia” also includes Margrét Bjarnadóttir, choreography; Bruno Poet, lighting design; Iris Van Herpen, costume design; Gareth Fry, sound design; John Gale, sound engineering; and the artist James Merry.

Björk was asked recently on the topic of Utopia and her upcoming work – How do you stay liquid when it comes to your music?

Well, for example, I did a little falsetto experiment on Utopia; more songs than usual are now sung like that, which is kind of hilarious! It was almost like a continuity of “Cocoon,” an old song of mine, where I was trying as a singer to get underneath the skin and break the barrier between the singer and the listener. I discovered that the sonic contrast on this album, the point where the fantasy and the real meet is extreme. I guess that’s what the title Utopiais about. I like that the word has luggage. It is about your fantasy but also about how you mix reality into it, and how you do that is really descriptive of what kind of person you are. I’m curious about the gap between the two.

Further details and on-sale dates for tickets will be announced later this year.

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE IN MUSIC CREATION

Björk’s relationship with technology has gone far beyond using off-the-shelf tools to create her music. She’s allowing fans to purchase  her latest album, Utopia, via cryptocurrency, but this is just the tip of the iceberg: over the past decade, she’s looked to emerging technologies such as touchscreens and virtual reality to create her art, usually long before they reach the mainstream. Here a snapshot of technology she’s early to shape her music, mostly in her own way:

Obsolete portable sequencers like the Yamaha QY20 to sketch tracks at home in 1995, even using one on stage at during the ‘90s

Whereas DAWs such as Logic or Ableton Live allow you to make music using instruments inside the software, Pro Tools is focused on recording and editing audio. Instead of simply using Pro Tools as a basic mixer for multi-tracking however, Björk has previously used it as an instrument in its own right.

Another key piece of software that Björk started using during around the time of Vespertine is Sibelius.  As she does with Pro Tools, Björk likes to push the boundaries of what Sibelius is intended for. According to her RBMA interview, she has even used it for making beats, “really weird chunky sounds, and then transferring it to live musicians”.

Long before Apple made touchscreen music-making mainstream with the iPhone and iPad, a device called the Reactable offered an early take on gesture-controlled sound design. Björk adopted the Reactable for the live shows around her Volta album in 2007. It was used on stage by collaborator Damien Taylor, specifically on the track ‘Pluto’, adding to the track’s, visceral, chaotic synth sound.

MAC/MSP: Before she started writing Biophilia, Björk came up with a set of specifications for a suite of virtual instruments that was created using the programming language Max/MSP. These were written for several unusual input devices, of which one was the Lemur (the Reactable and a Logitech video game controller were two others).

VR: When Vulnicura was released in 2015, it was accompanied by an ambitious series of virtual reality videos by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang, frequent Arca collaborator Jesse Kanda, and Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, who took the audience everywhere from the highlands of Iceland to the inside of Björk’s mouth.

If you want to know even more about this creative genius in music you may want to check out a documentary that was released earlier this year by WeTransfer. Through this video you have the chance to go beyond the headlines and explore more of Björk’s work, delivered (strangely enough) by file sharing site WeTransfer.

We Transfer dubbed the series “Work in progress”, and Björk and Jesse Kanda were the subjects of the first episode in the series. It featured early performance footage from Björk as she shares her thoughts on Iceland’s music scene, the power of music videos, and the collaborative process.

The rational behind the documentary is according to the company:

“Our Work In Progress series looks at how collaboration really works. We want to go beyond behind-the-scenes, and tap into what creativity looks like, sounds like and feels like. We don’t claim to explain it; this is not a practical, how-to guide. But by showing how creative minds see the worlds around them, and understand each other, we’ll open a window onto some of the magic and the mystery.”

Björk and Jesse Kanda worked as a pair on two of the Icelandic artist’s most amazing videos – 2016’s Mouth Mantra and last year’s Arisen My Senses. In the film we get a sense of how and why the duo are drawn to each other’s way of working.

“When I collaborate with someone I really want to go on a trip. The work that comes from that is a natural fruit from friendship.”

On another note:

The Juniper Tree, the film in which Björk made her acting debut, is getting a re-release.

Based on the Brothers Grimm story of the same name, the Nietzchka Keene film only had a cast of five actors and came out in 1990 when Björk was 25-years-old. At the time she was lead singer of The Sugarcubes.

The Juniper Tree was filmed in Iceland and was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival.