Internationally acclaimed Icelandic pop star Björk has given the world music that cannot be easily described. Her music has been influenced by a range of styles from Thai pop to the atonal compositions of Alban Berg. New Yorker critic Alex Ross once described her as “warm, watchful, sharp-witted, restless, often serious, seldom solemn, innocent but never naïve, honest and direct in a way that invites confidences, shockingly easy to talk to on almost any subject but herself.”
In turn, she has also inspired other musicians and composers, and was even the subject of a controversial exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Critics called the MoMA retrospective a “fiasco,” “ludicrously infantilizing and tedious,” and “embarrassing,” to select a few choice words and phrases from the Guardian, New York Times, and New Yorker, respectively.
Even the biggest Björk fan might not know that she admires Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. However, listening to Pärt’s music, which many describe as “holy minimalism,” and then Björk’s, it’s easy to understand why. Her 2004 album Medúlla, which you can hear entirely on YouTube here, was recorded using almost exclusively vocal tracks, which are layered on top of one another to create soundscapes similar to those that Pärt creates.
Björk sat down with composer Arvo Pärt, among other musicians and composers, for the 1997 BBC Documentary Modern Minimalists. Listen to the first half of this interview below.
As the interview begins Björk says to Pärt, “I like your music very, very much because you give space to the listener. He (the listener) can go inside and live there.”
In a warm exchange between the two groundbreaking artists, Pärt discusses his approach to composing music saying, “one line is my sins and another line is forgiveness for these sins.”