Sunday, November 4, 2018

Björk's 34 Scores


Copies of Björk's 34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste have just arrived at the San Francisco Public Library.  Properly speaking these are not arrangements of her songs for solo instruments, but for voice accompanied by one of these instruments.  (In one case there is an arrangement for voice and two pianos).

The Biography In Context database entry on Björk describes her as "an Icelandic singer and musician known for her experimental sound and unusual look."  She is difficult to pin down by genre, having performed in diverse styles like pop, rock, electronica and classical music.  34 Scores spans 22 years of her career, including songs from the Debut, Post, Homogenic, Selmasongs, Vespertine, Medúlla, Drawing Restraint 9, Volta and Vulnicura albums.

Björk has always performed her songs with in a variety of settings and with a variety of ensembles, so the some of the unconventionality of this collection is not surprising.  How often do you hear music for the celeste (also called celesta)?

from Music and Musicians by Albert Lavignac (Henry Holt and Company, 1907).

This keyboard instrument is best known from Tchaikovsky's use of it in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker

Already, there are online celeste versions of Björk's "All Is Full Of Love."


She has written that this collection came about through a self-examination of the meaning of "music documentation."

When cds were slowly becoming obsolete, i was curious about the difference of midi (digital notation) and classical notation and enthusiastic in blurring the lines and at which occasions and how one would share music in these new times.
Popular music songbooks and sheet music long preceded recorded sound.  They have always only provided an incomplete representation of songs.  They especially miss a singers' unique style and inflection.  Naturally Björk's florid vocalizing cannot be adequately captured in musical notation.  Nevertheless these arrangements give us the essential elements of the songs and capture her music in a novel way.

34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste by Björk (Wise Publications, 2017).


Further reading on Björk and her music:


Björk: There's More to Life Than This: The Stories Behind Every Song by Ian Gittins (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002).

Björk by Nicola Dibben (Indiana University Press,|2009).