This is an English transcript of the TV show about (Björk Gudmunðsdóttir) first shown in England in 1997 on BBC under the name 'The South Bank Show : Björk Special', and later on Bravo channel as 'Bravo : Bjцrk Special'.
Produced & Directed Cristopher Walker ©LVT MCMXCVII
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The transcript can content some inexactnesses or mistakes due to the incorrect understanding of some of the words. All the intonations, pauses, interjections and word combinations like "you know" are as they sound in the show. Duration 51:30, transcript is made with the time marks from the very beginning till the end of the show. Words marked with double interrogative sign (f.e. ?surgo?), unfortunately, were not defined surely, conjectural versions are given.


English transcript: Leonsdóttir
Layout: Eraserhead

00.00 Part one

00.00 Narrator: - On the night South Bank show the icelandic pop-star Björk.

00.34 Narrator: - Hello. Björk is an original voice in pop music today as well as being Iceland's most famous export. Although she's only 31 her career spends 20 years and it composes jazz, folk, punk, classical, dance and electronic music. Her experimental approach to pop is resulted in new fusions and unusual combinations across musical styles. She's worked with people as diverse as Tricky and the Brodsky quartet and written songs for Madonna and Bernardo Bertolucci. The South bank show travelled with Björk to her native Iceland and to Southern Spain where she was recording her third solo album.

01.17 [clip: Hyperballad]

02.53 Bono (U2): - How many singers have anything to say that ?along? anything original to say or an original way of getting it across? She just has a very unique way of seeing things.

03.05 Björk: - I think, people are always scared of new things. If you wanna make happen something that hasn't happen before you're gonna to allow yourself to make a lot of mistakes. Then the real magic WILL happen. Because if you just play really safe you won't get any treats.

03.21 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (President of Iceland, 1980-1996): -You can not say that Björk is copying anybody. This personality that's absolutely unique, the warmth, the mature attitude to life, that heart of a child and her Icelandic way of being.

03.51 Björk: - I come from Iceland and this harbor is probably my roots you know. And and aah and the weather, and the mountains.
- For me this is the heart of Reykjavik.

04.07 Björk: - I never try to do things that are Icelandic, you know. I don't ?surgo? my way, just the fact that that ahh like all my family a thousand year back are Icelandic and I was born here with all those things inside me and... with those fat face and this body, you know. And, and with this influence I think that's enough I don't have to... It' so much subconsciously there, I don't have to focus on it consciously as well. But I'm, but I'm... yeah, there IS a big chunk there.

4.39 [clip: The Anchor song]

5.55 Björk: - Well, I always sang since I was a kid. It's always been like my natural reaction to things.

06.02 Björk: - My step father who started with my mother when I was four and he played me lot of lot of music and had lot of time for me. And he used to seat with me af every evening sometimes. And we'd write down lot of lyrics, we go through things, we pick up the chords. And he used to be in a top-forty band in Iceland.

6.22 [clip: young Björk]

6.29 Björk: - They send me to classical music school when I was five. And I was there for ten years. It was very conservative but I was spire of a rebel.

Narrator South Bank Show

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland, 1980-1996

Björk at the harbor

young Björk

6.40 Björk: - I do my own little projects in the corner, I get a lot of freedom. I would talk to a lot of... that's how I got introduced to like just say Stockhausen (Karlheinz Stockhausen) and electronic music. You know, I basically got introduced to all music there is, I mean in European at least, let's say four-five hundred years. And, and even though I ended up deciding that majority of it was not maybe my cup of tea at least I knew it existed. So I could like say: "OK, I've dealt with this", you know. So I think very quickly I say: "OK, you got classical music, you got pop, you got jazz, and everybody thinks that their stuff is great and the rest is crap. I've just very quickly loved introducing my grandparents to Jimmy Hendricks' stuff or my my mom to classical stuff or or or or bringing jazz accords to school, you know. And then it's just kinda came out that when I started being in bands because I was so kinda... obsessed with with new things getting made that I kinda ended up just being on the microphone, you know. But it was very natural process.

07.52 Björk: - I've been singing professionally more or less since I was about eleven-twelve.

07.56 [clip: Bænin]

08.10 Björk: - It's a small town and people knew I did gigs, I played flute, I sang. And then this guy wanted to make a childrish record.

08.17 Björk: - It sold 5 000 copies which which is gold in Iceland. But but then they wanted to do... then it came out in a record company in a record company it was like they wanted to do another one. But I didn't want to. I, so I... said OK, that's it. Because I felt very ?ungood? I was doing interviews and all sort of stuff and people recognize me in the street and my school. I got much more attention that I wanted... before I asked for it. Well, I think a lot of people don't get the attention till long after they want it. So so I immediately sorted down in my head that that's not what I want. I want to make music.

09.03 [clip: Violently Happy]

09.44 Evelyn Glennie (percussionist): - She can be extremely childlike in her voice. Or it can be totally in command and make an absolute queen... This sort of exaggeration of the emotions it's it's what really comes through in her voice.

09.58 [clip: Violently Happy]

11.20 Björk: - It's been quite a mad century for Iceland. Because like hundred years ago my grandparents generation they they were brought up in in like mud houses. Their lifestyle was like in middle ages, you know. And then we became independent in 1944. And we became after World War 2 like I think the fifth reachest country in the world or something. But really quickly. It developed in maybe in eight years what say England has developed in four hundred years. It's so quick that it's almost violent.

12.00 Björk: - Iceland was a colony for six or seven hundred years and it was treated very badly by the Danish. And and and we were not allowed to play and music and dance. It was supposed to be an act from the devil or something. And and so what we got obsessed with was storytelling and the sagas, you know, that all our culture is basically literatural very literatural based.

12.31 Björk: - Probably the most important music in Iceland was half-talking and half-singing, kinda chanting.

12.37 Njáll Sigurðson (folk musiс historian) reciting a rimur.

12.53 Njáll Sigurðson: - Björk, she uses her voice in a very specific way. There's a specific sound in her voice. And... you can say the same about the voice of the of the old Icelandic ?quairenman? who were reciting the rimur. It's not a singing voice, not exactly; it's not a speaking voice. It's somewhere in-between.

Björk's first album

Evelyn Glennie, percussionist

Njáll Sigurðson, folk musik historian

13.18 [clip: Unravel]

14.37 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir: - The women of the sagas they are very strong. And Björk is one of them.

14.46 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir: - It is said about the Icelanders is that they are bold in art. They do not calculate the steps: "If I do this today this will happened tomorrow". They do today what they have to do today. All that is very Icelandic because we live with this nature on the ?helmets? that we have to defy all the time. We are not thinking about it every day but it forms our character of course.

15.11 Björk: - I think when you come from a place where nature can kill, I mean you could literally not be here in a week... that is something that makes you humble. And I think it's healthy, it puts you in your place.

15.39 Björk: - If there's such a thing as Icelandic characteristics we're talking about an individual who is fiercely independent. It's like so self-sufficient, it's like arrogant. And like anarchy it's just like... somebody people who invented anarchy like hundred, 2 hundred years ago... you know, Iceland people, it's like "So?"

16.04 [clip: Tappi Tíkarrass]

16.19 Einar Örn Benediktsson: - The Renaissance of Icelandic music was happening in 79-80 and so... that scene was like has been called "the Icelandic punk scene" because that scene, it was like so much do-it-yourself. It was not like a political thing, like right wing or left wing or anything like that. We were singing in Icelandic and we were dealing with Icelandic reality and we were putting out our records and doing basically everything ourselves.

16.49 Björk: - It was, you know, very stupid local sense of humor. Bunch of 16 year old terrorists drinking absinthe that was smuggled from Spain, and writing terrible tunes and being arrested a lot of times and having art exhibitions and making our own films and and basically act as sort of terrorism, if you want, sort of sabotaging what we thought was really snotty.

17.12 [clip: Kukl]

17.17 Björk: - I think the people ended up forming Kukl and the Sugarcubes, Badtaste... ah... they... they... they were bound to meet, you know, because in such a small town having same obsessions basically being terrified of mediocracy... I think that was always being our biggest enemy... that mediocracy, materialism and narrow-mindedness... aah small-town mentality. And we'd do anything to break that down.

17.47 [clip: Birthday]

18.27 Bono: - The girl has a voice like an ice pick. Such a pure... sound. When the Sugarcubes play with you too, I would be preparing in the dressing room... I even if I couldn't even hear the band I couldn't hear anything, you know. I could just hear this low rumble through these... you know, stadium walls or wherever it happens we play. I could always seem to hear that voice. Just it seemed to travel through metal and concrete and glass and... you now... 50 000 ?puntoes? in line, you know, it just went straight to my heart, what can I tell you.

19.00 [clip: Birthday]

19.19 Einar Örn Benediktsson: - There was nothing like it. There was a void in the world of pop music and certainly there was a light. And it happened to be us and we were from Iceland and we were the Sugarcubes.

19.31 Einar Örn Benediktsson: - Somebody told me that Birthday had been chosen single of the week in Melody Maker. And my response was "Oh, shit!" Because I knew it was trouble. And boy, it did prove out to be trouble for us.

19.44 Björk: - That was like companies they came here and got offer to succeed trillion billions and... and and we just told them all you know to "F U C K off" because we were being terrorists you know that. And that took about one and a half year that we just kept sending them back.

20.01 Einar Örn Benediktsson: - The agent of the Sugarcubes was never to become like... world famous. We were doing this for fun.

20.10 Björk: - Two or even three of the Sugarcubes were probably the most promising poets or writers of Iceland's new generation. And they were finding themselves they haven't written a letter for two years... ehhh... ehhh because they were doing sound checks in like Texas and Alabama and playing doing guitar solos. Which which is kinda funny. I mean, it IS funny. But it's only funny for so long, you know.

20.37 Einar Örn Benediktsson: - The trappings of the business, I think, were the like the end of the Sugarcubes. We just had had enough and we were all friends and so instead of spoiling a very good friendship ... we destroyed a business relationship.

20.51 Björk: - I had been making music like for theatre, for film, like pop stuff eee jazz stuff eee experimental stuff, electronic stuff... basically try everything basically work with everybody in Iceland. But always with other people's visions.

21.27 Björk: - I moved to London to make my own album. It was time for me then to write songs about me. I was 27. I thought: 'OK, you know, you're coward if you don't try move things. It was a very big decision to move, mostly because of my son. I'm a really family orientated person.

21.55 Björk: - When I came to London I was very looking. And and and I was very sure that I wasn't gonna do... I was gonna do an album that haven't been done before. So hmm... when I'm... the people I was most attracted to and and the scene I was most attracted to when I came here was people who knew as little as I did about what was gonna happen. Not people that already established things but people that was still trying to sort of entering the unknown, if you want, and and trying to discover something that hadn't been discovered before.

22.32 Björk: - London is gorgeous because it functions as a as a brewing pot for people from all over the planet, unsimilar missions to me. And if I don't talk to them regularly and I don't see them play regularly I just go mad.

22.50 Björk: - You know in Iceland I was very much the ?odd one out?, you see. I just need to know that I'm not the only one.

22.59 Björk: - The people that ended up in my band without me planning it so were like... one person form Iran, one from India, one from Turkey, one from Cypress, one from Barbados. This is a bit like immigrants united.

23.13 Björk: - For me... for whole... brit-pop thing and the Oasis thing and the whole guitar thing. It's this kind of British scare of loosing britishness. And the immigrants taking over in that.

23.27 Björk: - English people, like the brit-pop scene, they just seem to repeating on one, trying to sort of hold the Victorian flag alive but it's just... you know, dead, you know. And and it don't seem to to be doing anything fertile.

23.40 Bono: - The nostalgia is the order of the day for the most here. Except in dance culture and club culture people learn to the future which is, I think, why Björk was attracted to that.

Unravel

Kukl - France (A Mutual Thrill)

Birthday

Einar Örn Benediktsson

Björk in London

Bono (U2)

23.49 [clip: Björk in a music shop]

24.24 Bono: - If she IS shopping around she is the... ?a melody markers of? good ideas. ehhh And what's wrong with that? I mean that's what you do, isn't it? You just... you shop around.

24.35 [clip: Björk in music shop]

24.39 Björk: - I'm just obsessed with people with exciting ideas. And and it's a bit of a weakness of mine really. I've got no interest working with people who would do what I tell them to do, you know. It's just no point, I might as well just do it myself then. So I much rather work with people who are just as strong as me and preferably stronger. And so it's like ahhm I give nine billion and they give nine billion or whatever. And and that's the kick.

25.02 Evelyn Glennie: - She is able to hold on to her identity... ahhm... to her own style, no matter who she collaborates with. And a lot of the musical combinations that she has have never been done before.

25.16 [clip: Come to Me]

26.35 Narrator: - In 1993 Björk released her first solo album of original work. It turned her into an international star. She followed with the second album in 1995 and then after 4 years in the lime light the pressure got too much. She invented her feelings on a journalist at Bangkok airport.

26.53 Björk: - I do all these songs inside me and the only way to get them out of my system was to put me in extreme danger. I think you can only do that for so long. So I did that for 4 years and then it just exploded.

27.10 Björk: - When you're going to that sort of speed of of living, like 9 thousand miles per hour, you don't exactly fade fade down. I think you sort of explode really. And crash. That's what I did.

27.22 Einar Örn Benediktsson: - Björk does not need adolation adoration for her to make her music. And being stared at in the street and whispering "There's Björk". It does her more harm than anybody people can ex... no, they don't know how much harm they are doing.

27.40 Reporter: - Iceland's pop-queen leaving her home in West London late this afternoon still distressed at the discovery she've been a target of a crazed fan's attempt to harm her.

27.49 Björk: - I'm just It's just kinda very sad thing, you know. Just when somebody shoots the face off, you know. It's terrible. I'm not sure if I'll dream very properly ... for a while.

28.00 Reporter: - These are the last pictures of the bomber. His body was discovered after neighbours called police. Bizarrely he filmed himself making the chemical explosive.

28.08 Björk: - People shouldn't take me too literally and and and get them over to my personal life. I make music for people, you see.

28.15 Björk: - Basically the bomb got sent to my house and I moved away from London. And ?freak? down in Spain. Then I realized that was just kinda one guy who did that really. And you can't blame that on a... nation, can you? You know. But but it is is it doesn't matter when that happens to you it doesn't matter what people say to you. You... just no logic. It's just when you've gone through that experience you just... you just wanna go and never come back, you know.

Björk in a music shop

Come to Me

Björk - after bombing

28.54 Part two

29.12 Narrator: - Much of the past year Björk has been living in Southern Spain where she recorded her third solo album.

29.24 Björk: - I think there's something very special about living at the ahh edges of of continents. And it fee.. it just feels completely different and it shouldn't, you know. That you look out the window and you can see another continent other there. And and it's just kinda like... is a really healthy turn on somehow. The idea that every morning you could wake up and literally go to Africa.

29.46 Björk: - When I lived by the ocean there I used to wake up every morning and have to walk for like an hour and and like cross ("p-hhh" shows a splash). And then I felt like I was in Spain. And then I could work. And I wake up the morning after and I still hadn't just grasped the idea. So I did do that for a month. And then I moved up here to the mountain. And and the only way I can take all this in, because it's just so outrageous... And and I keep just thinking on that not just looking at the backdrop or something ... and it's just like... you gonna pull the curtains in the sack.

30.33 Björk: - These are the thing that I owe, that I usually have in my house where I do only demoes. So we we set this up in, brought these down to Spain.

30.47 Björk: - When I did Debut and Post they were very much like greatest hits of my musical passions for all my life. And I knew it would take two albums to do that. That's why I called them "Debut" and "Post" - "Before" and "After" of getting rid of the the back catalogue almost, you know. Gracefully, you know. Because you can only move on if you do that, you know. So this is like a fresh start for me and that's why I want to call this album "Homogenic" or "-genous" or "-genius" or whatever, I'm still working on that. Because it's one flavour. It's just me, now, you know, here. And and it's gonna be... instead of like all these different instruments, it's just gonna be beats, strings and voice.

32.01 Björk: - I knew that this album would be like "back to Iceland" sort of what I'm about. But it's very hard to get a start from a complete scratch with no tradition whatsoever. But there were some pioneers who were trying to hmm look at the landscapes and the country and try to change that what they saw and what they felt into audio.

32.21 Sibbi Bernhardsson (violinist): - There are certain Icelandic composers and when they compose Icelandic music they, you know, try to imitate... geisers or volcanoes. 'Cause the landscape in Iceland is very rough. It's, you know, we don't have like this, you know, trees. We don't barely have any trees. We've lot of lavas, we've lot of volcanoes and there's a lot of outburst stuff, you know. Weather is only the wind comes or snow storms. And that kind of sounds, I think, she's looking after. And she has talked about that, she wants more this raw sound, not this beautiful european sound maybe.

32.55 Björk: - To find that voice is is very chalenging, you know. And it's almost like you have to invent your own roots. And that's one of the reasons why I got the eight string players. I wanted them all to be Icelandic.

33.10 [clip: Björk in studio]

- It needs more vibrato...
- ...more drama
- ...just very Mata Hari
- It's almost too...
- It can be a little bit...

33.29 Sibbi Bernhardsson: - Well, I've picked up some her uses of intervals, for instance, fifths. And it's very traditional in Iceland and actually very unique. Icelandic folk songs often use this interval of fifths. It throughout, you know, the whole song, you know. And that and she uses that in her pieces that way, it makes it very Icelandic.

33.47 Sibbi Bernhardsson: - For instance in the "Hunter" the two celloes they are playing two bar motive, and, you know, one of them plays the lower note then the other cellist plays it the fifth above. And and there when you hear that that's just right away, you know, that's Icelandic.

34.11 Björk: - I wrote a song called Hunter and it's based on... what my grandmother told me on Christmas about two different types of birds who are aahm birds that always have the same nest all their life like swans. And they always have the same partners, all life. And the birds that travel all the time and they always have different partners all the time. And kinda like ehh to make a concsious decision to stay a hunter.

34.36 Björk: - It kinda ended up being a little bit of a bolero, I guess. Maybe because it's Spain.

34.41 Björk: - That's the only song with the string arrangement I asked Deodato to do completely.

34.46 Eumir Deodato (strings arranger): - One of the notes that we had and we discussed maybe trying a figure such as a bolero, you know, Ravel's Bolero. In the course of the recording we've decided to exaggerate certain aspects of of the string parts by having the strings doings lighting notes and kind of lugish and a sluring.

35.09 [clip: Björk and Deodato in studio]

- ... so lovely if the one person could do a solo... on top.
- Ah?
- One person could do a solo on top.
- Sure.
- There have to be stun.

35.28 Deodato: - When she says me something it's prety much done... What she what I understanded and and I was correct in understanding it that way is that she really wants a colour. She really wants the humanizing factor into tracks that are basically...ahm I just say sequenced, using different sounds or using electronic sounds.

35.50 [clip: Björk and Deodato in studio]: - It's good if we just put one take down and have that as well. We come tomorrow ..(Deodato: We can do more scenic sense...) we can listen to it. And then we know what to fix (Deodato: - Absolutely), if that works or not. But at least we put it down,OK?

36.17 [clip: Hunter]

37.16 Björk: - I used to work quite a lot with QR-20. That is different machine but the same size. And you have eight tracks and one hundred noises. And and you can make as many songs as you want. And a lot of my tunes for last four years I wrote on that. It's it's so incredibly ahhm convinient. Put the batteries in and you can take it. And you can and you can write on the airplane or your grands house or on the top of the volcano... or in a club or in a tube. And and and this is different machine. This is like a sampler. Mark Bell bought this one and he's just teaching me it.

37.54 Mark Bell (LFO) (electronic beats): - It is just the way of capturing like noises like let we say acoustic instruments so. You know the noises but then there... being able to change the pitch of them...you know, it's make them any noise in like music thing bare door shutting for a drum sound.

38.09 Björk: - What I'd love to do... live.. is kinda put lovely effects on my voice.

38.32 Björk: - I made a conscious choice that the beats for this album will be very simple almost naive but still ehm very natural but very explosive. Like they are still in the making. which for me is very much Iceland.

38.57 Björk: - And we would collect very slowly over a period of almost a year a library of noises

Björk in Spain

String orchestra at studio

Sibbi Bernhardsson, (violinist)

Deodato, strings arranger

Björk speaking about sampler

Mark Bell, LFO

39.08 Björk: - Iceland is geographicly propably the youngest country on the planet. It's still changing and growing and very raw.

39.23 Björk: - Lot of the eruptions at least few hundred years ago and the lava was very thin and went over a big area very quickly. And it went over lakes. And steam broke through with sort of a presure though the new lava. And it made little hills.

39.52 Björk: - There's a lot of energy here. I wanted the bits to be like this.

40.08 [clip: Pluto]

40.36 Björk: - I'm obsessed with electricity. My dad he's an electrician and my grandfather too. And I've been obsessed since I was a kid with people like Stockhausen and Kraftwerk, Brain Eno.

40.53 Björk: - Electricity has always existed and it's not just a phenomenon of this century. And and it's always been in the thunder and lightnings and and and in Iceland the Thor's hammer, you know, and in acupuncture, it's been around for one or two thousand years.

41.11 Björk: - Electricity and equipment are just tools. Instead of wood or leather or metall. And all these things that we so far make music out of. Stroking string, we are using electricity and and to to make for the air.

41.27 Björk: - For me that is probably I would call "techno".

41.38 Björk: - I find it so amazing when people tell me that that eeh electronic music has not got soul and they blame the computers. They got their finger and point at the computers like "There's no soul here!" It's like you can't blame the computer. If there's not soul in the music it's because nobody put it there. And it's not the tools fault. 42.01 [clip: 5 Years]

43.10 Mark Bell: - There's like picks behind it with drums are real hard and then the voice beatiful. It's just at the contrast. 42.15 [clip: 5 Years]

43.16 Mark Bell: - For something be beautiful something's got to be, you know, ugly. If everything is beatiful then, you know, nothing is beautiful.

43.59 Sigrún Edvaldsdóttir (violinist): - When you first meet an icelander sometimes they are cold. But then when they warm up to you they are very firery, we are very fiery people.

44.26 Björk: - You are in all this different moods through ah one week. You are grumpy, you you are you are cheerful, you're stupid, you're you're delicate, you're complicated, you're moody. And and of course there's there's a song for every occasion, you know.

44.43 Bono: - Joy is the hardest thing of all to put across. Whether you paint or a filmmaker or whatever you do, you know. And it's easy to paint with black it's easy to to be angry. But the ecstasy, you know, in her voice is is unusual.

45.05 [clip: Jóga]

46.22 Björk: - Most of my work I do in my head. Just when I'm doing other things. And and I don't notice because I've been doing it for a long or or because I spent so many years without recording my songs. I wasn't till twenty seven I started recording them. It had naturally become quite organized in my head and it got all this different sections and little cupboards and drawers. And I start the idea and I put it in a drawer and I can come back to it a year latter. And it will still be there.

46.51 Björk: - So I walk in a room and and it looks like I'm starting a song. But it's actually in a way I've maybe been working on it for a year.

47.05 [clip: Björk and Deodato in studio]

- Wasn't that much better?
- I feel it could still go much further
- It should sound more like The Sound of Music
- Syrupy... over the top

47.15 Björk: - I write about one song a month. And it's usually just the theme of that month like the soundtrack to that month in my life.

47.22 Björk: - This is the lyric to a song about my best mate Jóga. But all the other pages there's absolutely no way I'll open for you whatever you offer me. Because it's so private, it's scary. And I got a beautifully secret code which is called Icelandic. So you guys will never find out what it says in this.

47.47 [clip: Jóga]

49.00 Björk: - Number one, two, three, four and five and all the way up to seventy three I'm a pop-musician. And I'm I'm making music for everyone. Not for for VIP or or educated people or or something like that. So I want to make that... It has to be pop-music, you know, that everybody can relate to. And and so so it's it's a challenge to experiment and I haven't got a clue will it work or not. But you have to try.

49.30[clip: Jóga]

51.20 At the end the narrator announces the next show.

"Five Years"

Sigrún Edvaldsdóttir, (violinist)

Björk and Deodato at studio

Transcript: Leonsdóttir
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