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Scott Snibbe + Björk: Biophilia

Posted by Maya Davies,

There has been a lot of hype about the release of Björk’s latest album, Biophilia due to the cutting-edge technology and highly creative app features, offering a multi-platform user experience. The full app suite is conceived as a constellation from which to explore the different tracks and accompanying content. There is even an amazing intro narrated by David Attenborough. We caught up with interactive artist Scott Snibbe who’s been integral in the production of Biophilia.

Hi Scott, navigating around the album is very a unique, interactive and innovative experience. Can you tell us about how this concept developed?

Björk had the idea of creating the app album Biophilia, a project uniting music, nature, and technology. Björk came to us two years into the project (after two ideas didn’t work out), with her songs written, recorded in rough form, and a five-page manifesto of ideas for making them interactive. From her treatment, we created storyboards for our apps, her designers,M/M Paris designed and storyboarded many of the other apps. Björk and her assistant James Merry also created sketches and storyboards, and copious notes.

What were the inspirations and intentions for this app when you and Björk first started working on Biophilia together?

Substantially, they came from Björk’s personal experience with nature, and the infinity of the natural world that she saw in many nature documentaries on BBC and National Geographic, science museums, science conferences, and personal conversations with great science communicators like Oliver Sacks and Theo Gray.

Several people collaborated on this project – how did this collaboration work and can you describe your involvement in the project.

My studio’s job was producing and engineering the entire project, creating three specific apps – Cosmogony, Virus, and Thunderbolt – and creatively and technically directing and advising the creation of the other apps in cooperation with her designers M/M Paris. The collaboration occurred over email, Skype, and select, very fun, meetings in Iceland, New York, London, and Cupertino.

It’s interesting to think how new technology and this album might revolutionise the way people ‘play music’ or play with music. Do you think Biophilia represents the future direction of music?  

Yes, I do think the iPad is the future of music, but I like to think of it more as a return to the past. Music has been interactive for about 35,000 years, except for a brief period between about 1940 and 2010, when pre-recorded music dominated. I think the interactive app is a return to music’s roots. In the 19th Century, the “music app” was sheet music. People would take the music to their favorite songs and play them on an instrument of their choice, make the songs longer or shorter, make up new lyrics, and so on.

Music is meant to be interactive, so an app finally allows contemporary musicians to give fans the experience of interacting with music the same way musicians can. There is also this added benefit that Björk can now change parts of her app, or make new songs available. Up until now, there was no way a musician could take back a song, or change a song once their fan bought the album!

Posted by Maya Davies

Maya joined It’s Nice That in 2011 as our first ever events manager as well as writing for the site, in particular about architecture. She left in the summer of 2013.