Björk Brings 'Biophilia' to Richmond

Large Image

Music is a fluid, ineffable phenomenon, triggering everything from repressed emotions to unexplained reserves of energy in its listeners. Music is also a product of math and science, the thing that happens when a string is struck and the resulting sound waves find their way to our ears.

Björk's Biophilia, which was released in the fall of 2011 and will be performed in-the-round in Richmond's Craneway Pavilion on May 22, 25 and 28, 2013, explores the nexus of music and science as only the diminutive Icelandic artist can. While the mechanics of sound (the struck string, etc.) are definitely a part of Björk's A/V-geek investigation, she's more interested in what music can tell us about our DNA, the interaction between a virus and a cell, the growth of crystals, the structure of the Earth, indeed, the very order of the cosmos.

When Biophilia debuted in the United States in New York in 2012, more than half the performances in its 11-night run were held at the New York Hall of Science at the site of the 1964 World's Fair in Queens. For her Northern California dates, the first stop on a six-city North America tour that ends at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, Björk has selected a similarly out-of-the-way space in the Craneway Pavilion. Designed by Albert Kahn, the building opened in 1931 as a Ford assembly plant and was retooled during World War II for tank and jeep production. Today, it's part of a complex that includes the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park.

The exterior of Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, California.

As in New York, the current tour will include educational programs for school kids (for the Richmond dates, these will occur at the Exploratorium), revolving around the enhanced, interactive versions of the album created for the iPad. San Francisco gets Björk's music-education curriculum for three days; Reykjavík middle schools have made Biophilia a core part of their teaching materials for three years.

With its high ceilings, 40,000 panes of glass and industrial vibe, Craneway promises to be a good home for Biophilia, as the live performance (see below) of "Thunderbolt," a track from the album, suggests. I mean, do you really want to see a MIDI-controlled pipe organ, a gravity harp, a pair of musical Tesla coils and a 24-member choir of Icelandic women hemmed in by the beautiful confines of The Fox? Probably not.

And then there's Björk's voice, as mysterious as the viruses, crystals, moving tectonic plates, and miracles she sings about. That, too, seems to cry out for a space that understands technology, a venue that has seen raw materials combined to make something new and greater than the sum of its parts. By the end of the show, you may not be humming Björk's melodies, such as they are, to songs like "Crystalline," "Dark Matter" and "Mutual Core," but it's a good bet you'll be infected by the science bug that bit Björk.

Björk performs Biophilia and pieces from other albums at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond on May 22, 25 and 28, 2013. For tickets and more information, visit

More on Music

The Latest on KQED Arts

Theater Review | Apr 15, 2014

Doctor Faustus Gives Hamlet a Schooling in Witty 'Wittenberg'

Martin Luther, Hamlet and Doctor Faustus prove an irresistible combination for a college comedy. By Sam Hurwitt  

Multimedia | Apr 14, 2014

Here's to the Late Adopters

Sometimes it's OK to wait for the bugs to get worked out before jumping into new tech. By Emily Eifler  

Music | Apr 14, 2014

What Is Up With BottleRock 2014?

If I could use only one word to describe the 2014 edition of the Napa Valley wine, food and rock festival's eclectic rundown of artists (based on the opinions I've heard voiced and, to a lesser extent, my own) it would be: huh? By T.J. Mimbs  

Literature | Apr 13, 2014

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson: Q+A with Maira Kalman

Author and illustrator Maira Kalman latest book, Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything, is a whimsical and hypnotic look into one Founding Father's life and accomplishments. By Ingrid Rojas Contreras  

Performance | Apr 12, 2014

The Sean Keane Exit Interview

Last month, Sean Keane, one of San Francisco's top standup comedians, announced that he is moving to Los Angeles in May. Before letting him board that 'Greyhound of the Skies' flight to Bob Hope Airport, it seemed only fitting to subject him to that most ignominious of employment traditions: the exit interview. By Anthony Bedard  


Also on this week ...

The New Environmentalists: From Chicago to Karoo
KQED Celebrates the Earth

April 22 is Earth Day, but KQED is celebrating our planet all month long. Tune in for special programs, attend special events, and find more resources online.

View of a dry Mt. Diablo from Briones Regional Park in the East Bay. (Lauren Sommer/KQED)
Where's the Rain?

KQED covers news about California's drought, offers water-saving tips, and more.