The Future of Music? Bjork’s Immersive Biophilia iPad Experience

Biophilia opens into a three-dimensional galaxy with a compass allowing navigation between the 3-dimensional universe and a two-dimensional track list. Take a closer look by tapping on stars within the constellations and you’ll see that each is an in-app purchase that gives access to the inspired combination of artifacts for each new Björk song: interactive art and games, music notation which can be used to sing along karaoke-style, abstract animations, lyrics, and essays that explore Björk’s inspirations for the track.

Over the past few months there has been so much to follow in the world of iPads and music technology that you might have missed out on the groundbreaking Biophilia iOS application released by Bjork to accompany her recent Biophilia album. The truth is, apps that release to support albums, films and other marketed material usually fall short of interesting and I (wrongly) assumed this was the case with Biophilia when I heard about it. As it turns out, Biophilia is one of the most interesting interactive music applications I’ve ever seen (on any platform) and it is not at all a marketing gimmick. It’s an experience that aims to re-create the moments that originally made us fall in love with music through its interface.

I came full-circle to understanding when I was researching iOS apps for our blog column and came across the work of Scott Sona Snibbe, an established artist and interactive designer who released the incredible collaborative visual art app called Motion Phone. As it tuns out Snibbe was contracted by Bjork to help conceive Biophilia along with a few other artists who came together to conceive the project. Snibbe explained this process during a keynote speech at the Amsterdam Dance Event last October:

“When the iPad came out, she saw myself and a couple of other interactive artists and developers creating these naturalistic music apps, and invited us to come and work with her on the project. Biophilia is the first app album that’s ever been made. An individual app element corresponds to every song. This isn’t an add-on to the audio album. The album was conceived as this fully interactive project, and this is the strongest expression of it. You’d often sit on the carpet and let the whole thing wash over you while looking at the liner notes and artwork: it was a complete, immersive, sensory experience. That was the falling in love stage with the music, but I’m sad to say many of us may not have felt it in a really long time.”

When asked about how much control Bjork maintained on the project Snibbe explained that she was open minded to ideas but also knew what she wanted to do. “She had very specific ideas about the interactivity with the music. 80% or 90% of this is Björk’s vision, but she’s so gentle in the way she communicates it. She’s not at all a tyrant. It took me a while to realise that when she says ‘Let me think about it’, it means ‘HELL no!’”

In addition to Biophilia, I highly recommend checking out Scott Snibbe’s Motion Phone iPad application. This application is the result of 15 years of work that culminates into one of the most immersive collaborative art experiences available. The program allows users to create real-time motion graphics through the touch interface and collaborate across a network with other users. At 4.99 it’s currently one of the most interesting motion graphics programs that you can find for your iPad.