“It’s very brave to look complex things in the eye and say, calm down.” Some Björk TV clips from the 90s explore minimalism, immediacy, tiny handheld instruments, and the work of the late Mika Vainio.

So let’s start our week with some of that inspiration.

For a 1997 BBC show, the artist explored “modern minimalism” – including a visit to a glass harmonica player (involving a chicken baster!), plus the wonderful Mika Vainio (aka Ø):

Someone surely knows what that is in the cigar box Mika has (or even who made it); it seems to be an Atari Punk Console-derived creation. (This breed of electronic instruments makes mayhem with a 555 timer chip and originates – as far as I know – with famed inventor/author Forrest Mims.)

For her part, Björk explains that she does a lot of her work “in her head” – and of course with that distinctive, powerful voice and its esoteric melodic utterances. So her creative setup is accordingly arranged around immediacy.

Indeed, the funny thing about the history of studio recording is how many artists worked to escape them – and perhaps even their imposed order. Instead, Björk created informal, living room-style by taking over a villa in Andalucia to make Homogenic, and added to some designed disorder:

Other unorthodox methods of recording were used during the production, including Björk wanting to record outside on the porch and using non-professionals to help with production, such as Rebecca Storey, who was hired as a babysitter but added to the production staff after showing interest in the equipment.

That sounds pretty good to me, especially as all of us live in a world of relative chaos at the moment. It might remind as artists to lean in, make more chaos and disorder, and hit record.

Since 2021 brings many people still more time at home, sometimes in small flats, here’s a cute little clean-floor setup of tiny instruments. Being partial to tiny music devices, I can only nod approval.

This isn’t 1994, as some note that the Yamaha QY22 wasn’t out yet. I’m guessing it’s also in the 1995-97 timeframe. You likely can’t understand the conversation, but rather just marvel that Icelandic adds as many diacritics to the word “studio” as I think any language does:

The Yamaha QY22 is itself charming. Introduced at the time as a “VHS video cassette-sized style sequencer” – see, the 90s are longer ago than we remember – it bears an early resemblance to today’s smartphone music apps.

[ Image ] QY22

In turn, it owes serious resemblance to the little-known but groundbreaking Philips PMC-100, a tape cassette-and-membrane keyboard all-in-one studio, designed by pioneering inventor Lyndsay Williams. (She went on to Microsoft Research and as I recall a lot of interaction design firsts.)

For more recent hits, here’s Far Out this week noting the roots of some creative sound design – pushing Celemony’s pitch-warping processor Melodyne to the breaking point and then some:

What’s That Sound? How Björk really created electricity on her song ‘Thunderbolt’

Refresh your memory on that one:

Bonus – mistakes, pain, and Estonian legend Arvo Pärt in conversation: