Björk’s Gravitational Pull
All artists today must navigate between analog and digital, and make functional decisions about technology that determine aesthetics. Björk is one such artist whose work directly addresses the intersection of technology and raw sound. Andrew Marantz writes, “The most Goldbergian of contemporary pop musicians, the one who most elegantly splits the different between techno-worship and Luddism, is Björk, whose new album, “Biophilia,” is a meditation on creativity, the laws of physics, and how to make simple things complex.”
When Björk went to visit MIT Media Labs, the pre-eminent centre for out of the box, human-machine research, she met Andy Cavatorta. He was a graduate student at the time and they immediately clicked. He was hired to design a robotic instrument for her Biophilia tour that would harness the forces of nature: lightning, gravity and the Earth’s magnetic field.
“I should mention that I’d already quit this business twice before I met Björk. While audiences loved the idea of music and robots together, it contains an aesthetic dead end. If the content of music is emotion, the Jungian unconscious, the deep mystery through which our raw atoms create meaning out of the chaos of the world, then robots possess nothing of what makes us care. I could see little place for them in music beyond fleeting novelty.” Andy Cavatorta
In the end, they focused their energy on the Gravity Harp, that uses pendulums. Pendulums are natural oscillators, that transfer gravitational energy into kinetic energy. The robotic pendulums, each containing a harp with eleven strings. These pendulums hang in the air and swing slowly swing back and forth, in the pattern of a sine wave. A long line of pendulums that each play one note. The rhythm is determined by the energy of the earth’s gravity pulling the wooden instrument.
The New Yorker, “Inventing Björk’s gravity harp”
Origin Magazine, “Building Gravity Harps for Björk by Andy Cavatorta”
The Funambulist, “Björk and her beautiful gravity harps”
Demo of Björk’s Gravity Harps