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New Björk

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I suggest to Björk that it’s surprising it took five years for her and Barney to work together—after all, she’s famous for collaborations with romantic partners like electronic-music artists Tricky, Howie B, and Goldie. “Actually, when we met that was one of the first things we said to each other: ‘Let’s not work together,’ ” says Björk, taking a sip of milky coffee. “ ‘Fuck that. Let’s just enjoy the other stuff.’ ” Though she has a reputation for “working with 50,000 people,” she jokes, these collaborations have grown out of extended friendships. “It’s about what’s between you, not two separate egos.”

“It’s colder in Manhattan than it is in Iceland—and the Christmasy thing is a bit insane!”

The short deadlines imposed by working on Barney’s film were intimidating, she says, “but it turned out to actually be healthy for me to not be so decadent.” And the result doesn’t sound hurried at all—it sounds languorous. One entire suite features the ancient Japanese instrument the sho, an element Björk added after she Googled around, searching for “something about this project I was ignorant of.”

“I just took the train out to Montauk on my own and sat there in a hotel and wrote the sho pieces in the space of a week,” Björk says. She then recruited the instrument’s virtuoso, Mayumi Miyata, to perform them. “I listened to everything she had done, and it encouraged me to do the opposite,” she explains. “I was wary of the Japanese stereotypes, and I didn’t want it to sound like some New Age meditation CD.”

Was it hard to write music for an instrument she hadn’t heard of a month previously? She answers simply, “Challenging.”

“I want closeness, and I want contact,” she explains. “I want a middle. And that was one of the fun things about doing this project: There is no middle. I’m a ‘narrative, narrative, narrative’ kind of character, and Matthew is a ‘no narrative, no narrative, no narrative’ kind of person. I knew from the beginning that we had opposite views, and the challenge was to unite them and prove that they’re the same thing.”


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