Björk and Sir David Attenborough Team Up in a New Documentary About Music and Technology

There’s a long and com­pan­ion­able his­to­ry between music and math­e­mat­ics. While it is often said that every cul­ture has its own form of music, it’s also near­ly just as true that most ancient cul­tures explored the math­e­mat­i­cal prin­ci­ples of sound. Leave it to the Pythagore­ans of Ancient Greece to notice the rela­tion­ship between musi­cal scales and math­e­mat­i­cal ratios.

How music and sci­ence inter­sect is a more mod­ern inquiry. Fields like neu­ro­science and mod­ern med­i­cine and tech­nol­o­gy make both the roots of music and cog­ni­tion, as well as how sci­ence can inspire music, a crack­ling fron­tier.

Chan­nel 4 in Eng­land aired a new doc­u­men­tary When Björk Met Atten­bor­ough on July 27th with—who better?—naturalist David Atten­bor­ough as host. Atten­bor­ough, who was famous­ly grant­ed priv­i­leged access to film Dian Fossey’s research on moun­tain goril­las, teams up with a less elu­sive but fas­ci­nat­ing fig­ure this time around. Atten­bor­ough actu­al­ly co-hosts the pro­gram with Björk.

Björk’s album Bio­phil­ia is the launch­ing-off point for the doc­u­men­tary. It’s an apt choice. Björk has called live per­for­mances of music on the album a “med­i­ta­tion on the rela­tion­ship between music, nature, and tech­nol­o­gy.”

New instru­ments were spe­cial­ly designed for the album and the songs are con­cep­tu­al­ly wed­ded to nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na. “Moon” fea­tures musi­cal repeat­ing musi­cal cycles; “Thun­der­bolt” includes arpeg­gios inspired by the time between the moment when light­en­ing is seen and thun­der is heard.

In the doc­u­men­tary, Atten­bor­ough explores how music exists in the nat­ur­al world, tak­ing view­ers through the film­ing of the Reed War­bler and Blue Whales. For her part, Björk argues that cut­ting-edge tech­nol­o­gy keeps music intu­itive and acces­si­ble. Fea­tured are the instru­ments Björk devel­oped for Bio­phil­ia: the “pen­du­lum harp,” the “sharp­si­chord” and the “game­leste,” a com­bi­na­tion game­lan and celes­ta pro­grammed to be played remote­ly on an iPad.

You can watch the doc­u­men­tary above.

via io9

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Philip Glass Remix His Own Music—Then Try it Your­self With a New App

Day of Light: A Crowd­sourced Film by Mul­ti­me­dia Genius Bri­an Eno

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @mskaterix and learn more about her work by vis­it­ing .

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