Singer, songwriter, producer, and creative force majeure, Icelandic artist Björk has opened up her archives to showcase some of her choral arrangements that she’s created over the course of her career.
Collaborating with New York’s design-centric Sister City hotel and Microsoft, the result is Kórsafn—an AI-powered composition that builds on the generative soundscape concept that Sister City launched with Julianna Barwick in 2019. In Icelandic, “kór” = “choral,” and “safn” = “archives.”
“an architectural structure downtown manhattan offered me the hand in an AI tango and i accepted the call, i am alert with curiosity waiting the results. i offered them my choir archives, written over 17 years that will float through the pinball of artificial intelligence by the grid of bird migrations, clouds, aeroplanes and that voluptuous thing called barometer ! hudson valley happens to be one of the most bird-trafficked deltas on the planet, i know this of my own experience …. hope you will enjoy this ! warmth björk”
Now when you enter Sister City in New York City, you will hear recombined snippets of various arrangements written by Björk. Some are even performed by the Hamrahlid Choir—an acclaimed Icelandic 50-person choir considered a national treasure in its own right, and which Björk performed in when she was younger.
This is a living and evolving soundscape, thanks to Microsoft AI. Similar to the earlier iteration, the images in the installation are powered by a camera perched on the roof of Sister City.
However, the AI in this version is more advanced; it’s continuously being trained and learning to identify more objects in the sky above the hotel. It can find and understand with better accuracy a wider range of objects, in much higher detail. So it doesn’t just find clouds, but denotes the density and type of cloud, whether cumulus or nimbus. And it won’t just find a bird, but will also distinguish an entire flock of birds.
All that accuracy and evolution means that the choral arrangements you hear will change over time as well, as the AI learns to identify new objects.