Artist: Elliphant Video: "Down on Life" Highlight: "When we told people we were…
- Posted on Jul 29th 2011 1:00PM by Lonny Knapp
Courtesy of Bjork
The music on the Icelandic singer's latest album and multidisciplinary art project, 'Biophilia,' was created using massive, imaginative, one-of-a-kind instruments, and Spinner spoke to the brains behind Bjork's bespoke noisemakers.
The Gameleste: This midi-operated love child of celeste, an instrument not unlike a piano but with a more subtle timbre, which boasts tuned gongs native a Gamelan, the name for an Indonesian orchestra, is a collaboration between UK-based cymbalsmith Matt Nolan and Icelandic organ-maker Björgvin Tómasson. Co-inventor Nolan, gives Bjork credit for dreaming up the machine.
"It was Bjork who made the realization that her existing celeste could form the basis of the new instrument. A stroke of genius! She had it sent to Bjorgvin Tomasson in Iceland. He had already made her a compact MIDI-playable pipe organ, and Bjork was already in touch with me about a different instrument project, one that was more cymbal-based. So, when the idea of "a MIDI Gamelan in a box" came up, I was first-call for the tonebars. I think, in the end, I was the only person both able and willing to do it. It was rather extreme!"
Listen for It: The Gameleste is featured on the track 'Crystalline.'
The Gravity Harps: The Gravity Harps are four 10-foot pendulums with cylindrical harps attached to the end. As each pendulums swings they gain momentum causing the harp strings to ring out producing an elaborate music-box melody. Inventor Andy Cavatora, a graduate of the MIT Media Lab, tells Spinner that Bjork's desire to control elemental forces inspired his design.
"Bjork's vision was to incorporate forces of nature into the show, like lightning and magnetism. She likes pendulums as a manifestation of gravity, and I like them a lot as natural oscillators, too. Just like a guitar string or organ pipe or the LC circuits of an analog synth, pendulums transform one kind of energy into another and back again. In this case, it's gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy."
Listen for It: Hear the Gravity Harps on the track 'Solstice.'
The Sharpsichord: It took self-described sound sculptor Henry Dagg, four years to complete the Sharpsichord. The massive, pin-barrel harp is not unlike a player piano; it allows even a non-musician to make music. The user inserts a series of pins into a choice of 11,520 holes on a metal roll then cranks a hand wheel. As the roll turns, the pegs pluck strings to produce a melody. Dagg tells Spinner that Bjork reached out to him after British electronic musician Mathew Herbert showed her a YouTube clip.
"During its development I had been arranging songs and recording them with various singers, then posting the video performances on YouTube. Last year, Nick Kenny, a local artist was discussing some proposed work with Matthew Herbert, and he pointed him to one of these clips. Matthew had been working with Bjork, and he sent her a link, and pretty soon I had an email from her asking about the possibility of working together on a song with the sharpsichord."
Listen for It: Hear the Sharpsichord on the 'Sacrifice' track.