The Polar Music Prize 2010 is being awarded to Icelandic artist Björk. With her deeply personal music and lyrics, her precise arrangements and her unique voice, Björk has already made an indelible mark on pop music and modern culture at large, despite her relative youth. No other artist moves so freely between avant-garde and pop. With her albums and videos, Björk has taken avant-garde to the top of the charts. She has also always embraced technological advances, combining computers with ancient sounds. Björk has introduced an arctic temperament to popular music and shown how passionate and explosive it can be. Björk is an untameable force of nature, an artist who marches to nobody’s tune but her own.

Chapter: Debut

From Spit and Snot to Debut

77ísland - official discography © 2007 Mos.
First record from the 11-year-old Björk, with covers of The Beatles’ Fool On The Hill – Alfur Út Úr Hó! and Stevie Wonder’s Your Kiss Is Sweet – Búkolla.

Björk began her musical career in Reykjavik at the age of 11 by releasing an eponymous album of children’s songs and pop covers. In her teens, Björk continued exploring music, first playing drums in the punk band Spit and Snot, and later trying her hand at jazz-fusion in the group Exodus. The early punk influences were apparent in her later bands Tappi Tikarrass, translated from Icelandic as “Cork the Bitch’s Ass,” and KUKL. After shifts & restructurings, KUKL eventually morphed into the alternative rock band The Sugarcubes in 1986.

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Björk performing with the Sugarcubes. Photo: Masao Nakagami, via Wikimedia Commons

Björk achieved international success as the lead vocalist for the group, and after the group disbanded in 1992, Björk moved to London and began focusing on her solo career.

KUKL, the political post-punk band that later morphed into The Sugarcubes.

Avant-garde?

The term “avant-garde” can be used to refer to any group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially within the arts. Björk’s close relation to the avant-garde throughout her solo career has established logical links between easy pop melodies and heavy industrial sounds; between seemingly incompatible genres such as techno, jazz and Big Band; and between music and the visual arts, fashion, and cinema.

Debut officially marked the beginning of Björk's solo career in 1993. The album was designated "Album of the Year" by NME, garnered Björk the title of International Solo Artist at the BRIT Awards, and sold Gold in the US and Platinum in the UK. (Photo: © One Little Indian)
Wildbirds & Peacedrums performing "Human Behaviour" at the 2010 Polar Music Prize ceremony
Chapter: Visual representation

"A visual representation of every music"

Björk has long understood the power of the visual representation of music to express the nature of her songs. With innovative and intricate videos directed by unconventional film directors, photographers and visual artists, Björk brings an important visual aesthetic to her art, creating exciting new worlds and adding wonderful new dimensions to her music.

"Human Behaviour" directed by Michel Gondry © 1993 One Little Indian Records Ltd.
"Violently Happy" directed by Jean-Baptiste Modino (C) Bjork Overseas Ltd./One Little Indian Records Ltd.
"Army of Me" directed by Michel Gondry; characteristic modes of visual expression.
"Triumph of a heart" directed by Spike Jonze, features beatboxer Rahzel from The Roots, Gregory Purnhagen, and Japanese beatboxer, DOKAKA.
"Hunter" directed by Paul White
Chapter: Arts and technology

Music, art and technology converge

Biophilia, released 2011 on One little indian, is an interactive multimedia exploration of music in the context of the universe’s physical forces, processes and structures. The innovative app album for smart phones and tablet computers was a collaboration with artists, designers, scientists, instrument makers, writers and software developers. The Biophilia-project also expanded into education with a series of workshops for schoolchildren to explore the intersection of music and science.

"Hollow" from the album Biophilia
Selmasongs, the soundtrack of Lars von Trier's motion picture Dancer in the Dark featuring Björk and Catherine Deneuve.
Chapter: Army of mixes and films

Army of me remixes

In the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, Björk took to the internet and asked for remixes of her song “Army of Me.” From the hundreds of submissions, she chose a collection of 20 remixes and covers which she then released to help raise money for UNICEF’s emergency work with the victims of the disaster.

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Cover art for Army of me remixes. © One little indian.
Björk at the Academy Awards wearing the famous swan dress designed by Marjan Pejoski. (Photo: By Cristiano Del Riccio, via Wikimedia Commons)
Drawing Restraint 9 from 2005, a visual art project by Matthew Barney. Björk both acted in the film and composed its soundtrack.
Chapter: Interview
Interview with Björk in New York 2010, by Jan Gradvall.
Chapter: Polar Music Prize

Stockholm August 2010

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Björk and Ennio Morricone. © Polar Music Prize.

Björk received the Polar Music Prize together with Ennio Morricone in August 2010 in Stockholm.

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Prize artwork by Karin Mamma Andersson. © Polar Music Prize
Robyn performing "Hyperballad" at the prize ceremony
Björk's father reading the citation
Ane Brun performing "Jogà"