Bjork: Interpreted is putting a new spin on the iconic artist’s catalogue

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Bjork: Interpreted is putting a new spin on the iconic artist’s catalogue


Bjork is undeniably one of the greatest conceptual musicians of all time. She’s released ten studio albums that all dabbled in various genres and styles, she’s appeared in six films, and has published eight books. In short, this woman hasn’t slowed down since her self-titled debut album dropped in 1977.

Hence, the stakes are high when it comes to Stonnington Jazz Festival’s Bjork: Interpreted performance. A group of Melbourne’s premier jazz and cabaret musicians, such as Mama Alto, Tom Barton, Georgie Darvidis and Hanna Cameron, were handpicked by musical director and bassist, Claire Cross.

Though her own partner is taking reigns on the keys, Cross made sure to venture outside her own immediate base of friends and reached out to various artists whose reputations preceded them. Despite this careful curation, Cross is still nervous about her debut Musical Directorship hinging on reworking the genius of one of music’s living legends.

“Bjork’s work is so well honed, and almost perfect. So it’s been a real struggle to consider, ‘What can we bring to the table?’ It’s all such iconic work in everyone’s minds, so it’s a bit daunting. However, when the opportunity to reimagine such a legend arises, you take it.”

Despite her nerves, Cross, along with vocalist Tom Barton, have performed Bjork’s work previously; their astounding yet unassuming exploration of Bjork’s ‘Pluto’ as part of The Surface Project garnered over a thousand views online and gave Stonnington Jazz Festival’s Artistic Director, Chelsea Wilson, the idea to expand upon that concept.

“[Wilson] came upon our Pluto video, and she was like, ‘Hey, what do you think about putting on a huge show of just Bjork arrangements?’ And obviously we responded with, ‘Hell yeah, we’d love to.’ It was something that naturally occurred, strangely enough.”

Though the initial idea was exciting and ambitious, Cross is now well-aware of the pitfalls of trying to reimagine such an artist’s oeuvre. As musical director of the show, Cross has spent hours organising original arrangements while also trying to keep the integrity and intensity of Bjork’s original releases. As a result, Cross finds herself turning to the discographies of numerous other artists in search of inspiration – or, occasionally, just a break.

“Whenever I hit a bump, I try to find music that I really like by artists that I really admire, and think, ‘Oh, I really like the sound of that’ or ‘I wonder how I can integrate that into whichever Bjork arrangement.’ There were some random picks, like a Grizzly Bear song and Ulfur’s Arborescence. If I hit a huge bump, though, I obviously turn to the other musicians, like my partner and the man on keys, Harry Cook.”

Fabian Acuna is credited as visual artist for Bjork: Interpreted, yet Cross remains tight-lipped in regard to the Melbourne-based artist’s contribution to the performance.

“He’s been working hard. There’s going to be a thematic sense about it, so he’s going to draw from the colour schemes and patterns that correspond to each album and the songs that are being played. All I can concretely say is that it’s going to be projected over the band while they perform, and it’s going to be a whole spectacle. It’s very exciting.”