Björk Presents Groundbreaking Experimental Musicians in Modern Minimalists, a 1997 Documentary

Exper­i­men­tal music, by its very nature, stays out of the main­stream. All styles of music begin as exper­i­ments, but most soon­er or lat­er, in one form or anoth­er, find their way to pop­u­lar accep­tance. But if one liv­ing musi­cian per­son­i­fies the intrigu­ing bor­der­lands between the pop­u­lar and the exper­i­men­tal, Björk does: since at least the 1980s (and, tech­ni­cal­ly, the 1970s), she has steadi­ly put out records that con­sti­tute mas­ter class­es in how to keep push­ing forms for­ward while main­tain­ing a wide fan base, seem­ing­ly giv­ing the lie to John Cage’s dic­tum that mak­ing some­thing 20 per­cent new means a loss of 80 per­cent of the audi­ence.

Cage, an icon of min­i­mal­ist exper­i­men­tal music who still caught the pub­lic ear now and again, does­n’t appear in the BBC’s Mod­ern Min­i­mal­ists [part one, part two], but only because he died in 1992, five years before it aired. But this Björk-host­ed whirl­wind tour through the com­pa­ny of a selec­tion of inno­v­a­tive min­i­mal­ist com­posers of the day actu­al­ly feels, at points, a bit like Cage’s 1960 per­for­mance of Water Walk on I’ve Got a Secret: we not only hear them talk, but we hear their music, see them make it, and get an insight into the way they work and — per­haps most impor­tant­ly — the way they think.

“When I was asked to do this pro­gram,” Björk says in her dis­tinc­tive Ice­landic inflec­tion, “it was very impor­tant for me to intro­duce the peo­ple I think are chang­ing music today.” That ros­ter includes Alas­dair Mal­loy from Scot­land, Mika Vainio from Fin­land, and, most famous­ly, Arvo Pärt from Esto­nia. Björk not only draws out their musi­cal philoso­phies, but responds with a few of her own.

“Peo­ple have moved away from plots and struc­tures, and moved to its com­plete oppo­site, which is tex­tures,” she says over a series of post­mod­ern land­scapes, “A place to live in, or an envi­ron­ment, or a still­ness.” And the role of the musi­cian in that mod­ern real­i­ty? “To take these every­day nois­es that are ugly, and make them beau­ti­ful. By this, they’re doing mag­ic.”

via Net­work Awe­some

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Björk’s 6 Favorite TED Talks, From the Mush­room Death Suit to the Vir­tu­al Choir

Hear the Album Björk Record­ed as an 11-Year-Old: Fea­tures Cov­er Art Pro­vid­ed By Her Mom (1977)

A Young Björk Decon­structs (Phys­i­cal­ly & The­o­ret­i­cal­ly) a Tele­vi­sion in a Delight­ful Retro Video

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

John Cage Per­forms Water Walk on US Game Show I’ve Got a Secret (1960)

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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