Like many people of my age, I was a big Björk fan in the 90s. I went to see this bubble of electric energy for the first time at Roskilde festival near Copenhagen 10 years ago or so and she played with Matmos, who produced all sorts of micro sounds and sampled them live. It just blew the whole crowd away. She was the artist who closed the festival and there were silvery fireworks in the form of huge stars on the sky when her concert finished. It was totally surreal and a huge birthday present for me (I had to work at a bakery as a volunteer but because it was my birthday the boss gave me permission to go).
Although I have not been following most of the work she has done in the last years, I realised that she is doing amazing things in terms of music education, combining science, apps and music to teach children (and I guess adults like me who are musically illiterate) different musical concepts such as counterpoint. Because she is such a genius I thought she was kind of invincible and full of energy all the time, so it came as a surprise to hear what she said about the creation of her album Vespertine in the midst of a more fragile phase of her life:
I was aiming for how you can express yourself when you are absolutely ah.. you exploded 5000 times and there’s nothing left and you’re just lying there like the ruins of you but you still want to make something but you have no muscle, you have no blood, and you still want to create beauty, so you end up using instruments like harps, micro beats and whisper. So you are creating music with no physicalness with no body. That’s supposed to kind of calm you and soothe you. Like hibernation to wait until, to help you to wait until you become strong again. (From documentary Minuscule)
It is extremely interesting to know how someone manages during periods of low energy in the creative process. I have met artists who at some point in their career feel at a loss when their energy starts to change. It is not surprising to see this happen as artists invest so much emotional energy into their work and processes. Björk’s attitude is tremendously inspirational. She transforms the idea of low energy into subtle energy and thus produces and explores a whole different range of sound.
Whisper as an instrument of hibernation is also a yoga practice. There are actually 3 different ways to explore Om chanting as a form of meditation, chanting out loud, whispering and silently repeating the mantra. Funnily enough whispering is said to be the most difficult form but when we feel a little bit depleted it is a very soothing and subtly energising meditation practice.