September 13, 2004 20:08 | Bits / Culture / Technology

More thoughts on Björk, Medúlla and the music biz


  1. Previous Björk entry: Björk's Pirate Flag
  2. Bjö Medúlla Interview
  3. This Blog Sits at the: Björk: Shapes, not patterns
  4. - Le chant des possibles (fr)

First of all, Med√∫lla is still standing at the gates of my ear, ringing the bell hoping to get into my head. Melodic, yes; beautiful, yes; easy to digest, no. ;)

Second, as far as being "Avant Garde" or "fresh and new" or "on the cutting edge", lest it be noted that many have done technically the same thing (produced music from "found sounds"), not least of all Björk collaborators Matmos, before and for years now. (Recent discovery - for me - Matthew Herbert produces amazing stuff entirely 100% based on samples and live sound recordings. Check out "The Mechanics of Destruction" for a really conceptual opus.) Of course she may be the first "mainstream" (or ultrapeer) "recording artist" to do this, and she did a sweet job of it too.

The leading edge of culture is like an expanding bubble. Depending how near or far from the perimeter you are, the more or less "new" the artifact seems.

This is not my reason for posting this, mind you. It is just a lead in. ;)

So, we have this person who goes on a family camping trip for her grand parents' diamond anniversary. For fun, around the fire one presumes, they start singing songs; folks songs, pop songs, what have you. "Hmm" she thinks, and she proceeds to get family members to "sing" various instrumental parts of pop songs. Musta been a riot.

Back at the studio, she composes a few songs, pulls out a few she's had lying around, asks various friends to visit and sing little parts and stuff. Thank you! Lock the doors and edit it all together in ProTools (Apple's Sountrack at $199 could do the trick too) for a few weeks...

Now, the only reason Medúlla is sitting on store shelves, in Amazon's database, at the iTunes Music Store, is because it's Björk and that means two things:
a) she has major distribution deals via record companies
b) she has authority as an ultrapeer (established identity, voice, recognized output quality, etc... she's a celebrity)

I am NOT talking down to this. Credit is due and deserved! Totally.

What follows is not influenced by any purple kool-aid I may or may not be drinking at the behest of my current professional environment. It's just a thought. :)

In the above "context" list linked french article, Björk is quoted as saying essentially that she slightly regrets not fully exploring the potential of the process she employed.

Well... "Get back in there girl!" I say.

Take a break from contract requirements. Put some stuff together and start a new project, to further play with all this. While doing that, keep a journal, live on the web (cough weblog cough), have friends contribute to it as well. Keep a photo journal too.

When done, put it online. Seed Torrents, drop into NewsGroups, share it on Kazaa & Gnutella... Slap a CC license on it and let folks download it for free. Put up a PayPal "donate" link, and a few bucks may come back too.

"Why the hell would Björk want to do this?" one might ask. "Why the hell would she not?" I'd answer. Legal issues aside (the only fly in this ointment), it would be an awesome experiment. An extreme test of emerging music industry business models. While hundreds of struggling musicians are trying to use current tools to GET a voice, what happens when someone who HAS a voice uses them? Is it not the point here to get as many people a copy of one's work?

It would be Björk actually waving her pirate flag.