• Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Björk: Inextinguishable Environmentalism 

ByCameron Donnelly

Mar 25, 2023

Few artists demonstrate a biophilia as strong as Björk, and not just because of her homonymous 2011 album. Her work and life are forged out of facing the elemental conditions of her home, Iceland. She described the birth of her singing practice walking to and from school, “I think I started  to sing as a companion. Like, if the weather was crazy, you just sing loudly.” 

Between this time and 2007, she put out 5 studio albums, each featuring different degrees of  environmentalism. But it was on her sixth album, Volta that the politics of her environmental  perspective became much more overt. A large portion of her time leading up to this album was spent  on a boat, complete with recording studio, searching for inspiration. Following the introverted and  maternal, Medúlla, Björk told her podcast that after that album cycle, “I was ready to go out into the  world and be extrovert and be activist and fight for what I believed in.” 

Volta opens with ‘Earth Intruders’, using military imagery to convey how humans have intruded on  Mother Nature’s world and the discusses the terror that we continue to inflict upon it. Adoration for  nature is also relayed in songs such as ‘Wanderlust’, in which she tells us, “I feel at home whenever the unknown surrounds me, I receive its embrace aboard my floating house”. The rest of the album  oscillates thematically between these two emotional peaks culminating in a poignant and well  produced statement on Björk’s worldview, perfectly encapsulated in the lyrics, “I have lost my origin  and I don’t want to find it again.”

A year after the release of Volta, Björk utilised some outtakes from the drum section of ‘Earth  Intruders’ to create a new song alongside Thom Yorke and Sigur Rós, called ‘Náttúra’. All proceeds from the song went to an environmental campaign of the same name, co-founded by Björk. The original goal of which was focused on protesting new aluminium factories on Icelandic soil. On Björk’s podcast, Icelandic writer Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir tells us, “Just before the bank crisis in Iceland, Björk asked me to join her in trying to raise awareness of renewable energies to work in more  harmony with nature. We were fighting against the monopoly of those polluting industrial  companies.” 

In the years following, Björk doubled down on her environmentalism on Biophilia, released in 2011. A concept album exploring the interlaced existence of music, nature, and technology. “I really liked  to connect nature with musicology, and connect with it, raw materials. So, it’s not human scale.” The entire project is a love letter to natural processes and each song covers a different aspect. Whether that is tectonic and volcanic movement on ‘Mutual Core’, the moon’s phases on ‘Moon’ or the  formation of crystals on ‘Crystalline’. Each live performance of the album was introduced by a  voiceover from David Attenborough. He announced, “Welcome to Biophilia. The love for nature in all  her manifestations. (…) In Biophilia, you will experience how the three come together. Nature. Music. Technology.” Even outside of her songs, Björk continues to be a beacon of environmental hope. Throughout her life, a significant portion of her time has been invested in. In 2015, she joined a group of Icelandic  activists in protesting against the proposed construction of a dam in the Icelandic highlands, going as  far as to cancel multiple tour dates in order to be available for support. Furthermore, the album  rollout of Biophilia was accompanied by a teaching program in musicology within schools in Paris,  Oslo, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Manchester, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Björk aimed to use  technology to provide a new angle on understanding music utilising bespoke software she had  assisted in developing for the album.

Even outside of her songs, Björk continues to be a beacon of environmental hope. Throughout her  life, a significant portion of her time has been invested in In 2015, she joined a group of Icelandic  activists in protesting against the proposed construction of a dam in the Icelandic highlands, going as  far as to cancel multiple tour dates in order to be available for support. Furthermore, the album  rollout of Biophilia was accompanied by a teaching program in musicology within schools in Paris,  Oslo, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Manchester, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Björk aimed to use  technology to provide a new angle on understanding music utilising bespoke software she had  assisted in developing for the album.

Having also collaborated with Greta Thunberg in 2019 for her Cornucopia live shows, in conversation with her in 2022, Björk said “I felt that I could have the biggest impact on the environment at home,  and give to one thing at a time; put all the eggs in the basket and follow it through.” A focus on  improving what is within your power to change is a necessary and frequently overlooked part of our  fight to save the environment, our home. 

Image “Bjork” by Minirobot is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.