Who she is: The boundary-busting Icelandic singer-songwriter who's sold 20 million albums.
Breakthrough idea: To explore how musicology—time signature, rhythm, cadence, melody, and harmony—originated in the natural world, through an unprecedented multimedia project called Biophilia. It includes a traditional ten-track album, a series of iPad and iPhone apps, a documentary, and a three-year world tour with museum residencies and children's workshops.
Her Aha! Moment: "Since I was a child, I have wanted to start a music school to teach children musicology in a more interactive way, and I finally felt that technology had caught up with us: The iPad was an ideal way to capture children's imaginations. For example, in the song 'Hollow,' they will make rhythms out of DNA strands on the app, inventing shapes with their fingers, and then 'hearing' the shapes they made."
Her biggest hurdles: For the project to work, a ten-foot pendulum harp had to be invented. Björk's team also crafted a unique way to move through the app. Biophilia is structured as a galaxy, with each song appearing as a star in a constellation. The nonlinear navigation allows users to surf the interactive games, essays, animation, and scores to take a million different journeys.
Lesson she's learned: "Sometimes diplomacy can be a web in which everyone gets stuck. This project only worked when we cut the crap and went straight to the point. It felt rude at first not to compromise, but then it became liberating. It wasn't personal; it was for the music." —Kristy Davis