Well-known for her pioneering spirit and penchant for exploration, it comes as no surprise that Björk is among the first musicians to employ virtual reality as a medium. Debuted in March at MoMA PS1 and select record stores, the first installment of Björk-reality arrived as a 360º music video for “Stonemilker,” the opening track off her newest album, Vulnicura (One Little Indian). Just this past week, Björk released the music video on the web, which you can now view thanks to YouTube's 360º video.
Björk is no stranger to futuristic experimentation and expression; her vision for her charged 2011 release, Biophilia (One Little Indian), required the artist to commission several new instruments of her own collaborative design to realize in full. This time around, Vulnicura finds Björk continuing to push the technological envelope while simultaneously scaling back, limiting her focus to her own humanity. With regard to the album’s devastatingly personal subject matter, the artist told Pitchfork, “I had like 20 technological threads of things I could have done, but the album couldn’t be futuristic. It had to be singer/songwriter. Old-school. It had to be blunt.”
Björk applies the same philosophy to her first foray into virtual reality. Flouting the flash of the VR experience, her interpretation is refreshingly simple; through the VR headset, you are transported to Grótta’s beach on the northwestern tip of Reykjavik and delivered to Björk—waiting for you there with an intimate serenade, in her homeland, in the place where this song was written.
The video is seven minutes up-close with Björk; just you and she on an unearthly, beautiful black sand beach. She can be hard to follow—as the music moves through her she whips through the 360º space, splits off into two and coalesces again—but if you catch her at just the right moment, she’ll sneak up and kiss you on the cheek.
With collaborator Andrew Thomas Huang, who also directed Björk’s multi-channel video installation for “Black Lake” at her MoMA retrospective, Björk used a prototype 360º custom capture system using multiple lenses to shoot the 3-D video. Individual video streams were then synchronized and stitched together into a virtual 360º diorama, creating a kind of dome or bubble which the viewer occupies. At Björk’s behest, the audio was specially mixed using a brand new 3D audio rendering techniques so that aurally, it’s as though you are at the center of a 30-piece orchestra, tightly packed around you, playing accompaniment to Bjork’s powerful vocals.
Today, Björk also officially releases "Black Lake" online, along with a special message:
here comes the black lake video
a video me and andrew thomas huang did
i would like to thank him and james merry so strongly for going through with me the longest video process yet
especially to andrew for his talented elegant patience and to take my first visual impulses and weave into them his own magnificent vision :
im so honoured !!
it was a complex yet adventurous process to synchronize with so many departments
i would like to thank klaus biesenbach for commissioning the video
and ta to the haxan cloak , the speaker collaborators , the architect david benjamin , marco perry who all helped me make the most ideal sound room possible for that song
and then thank derek and emma birkett and tamsin . and iris and erna
and arca for producing the music with me
i guess its time for "stonemilker" and "black lake" to get out there into the world after a 3 month stint in a museum ….. ( after all the effort , stonemilker was like black lakes spontaneous baby sibling ha ha ha ) we tried to make it in a way it was both at home in an exhibition and also in the context of a no nonesense music video ( still my fav format) and i hope you dont mind the wait
and back to M U S I C …
can i thank new york for a feisty 5 months , 8 lush gigs ?
most curious though about them next things
perhaps we dont even have the best tools yet
and technology might be where all the senses can merge even better ?
!!! here´s to some more VR vulnicura releases soon !!!
New virtual realities can be eagerly anticipated from Björk, as the artist is currently working with a number of directors on virtual and augmented realities, which will be appearing as they develop. The 3D video for “Stonemilker” will be made available to the public on Björk's own VR platform in the coming months