“For her new album, Bjork has merged the two sides of her artistry to create a new experience of music — again. Every album Bjork produces resolves itself into a story. The story begins with the songs, the raw material through which Bjork channels emotion, autobiographical experience and philosophical ideas.“ E. Witt-The NYT
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
The Peculiar Genius of Bjork BY Emily Witt, The New York Times
“The songs cohere into a universe. They take on colors, elements, an instrumental sound. They have a physical character, whom Bjork will portray on the album cover: the volcanic beats of Homogenic as a patriotic warrior; the tribal rhythms and trumpets of Volta as a wanderer in electric blue, neon green and red.
The albums and their stories map the bifurcation of Bjork’s artistry. There is Bjork the musician, who creates her music in an emotional cocoon, tinkering with technologies, concepts and feelings; and Bjork the producer and curator, who seeks out collaborators to help her translate her work beyond sound, who has an unparalleled ability to disperse herself across a vast range of media.
Bjork has been feeling a little sensitive about her visual collaborations lately. It’s not that she isn’t proud of them, but she worries sometimes that the visual element of her work overshadows the music, her life’s obsession.
Bjork, now 49, spent her teens and early 20s immersed in the collective do-it-yourself ethos of Iceland, where if someone else wanted to put out a record we would just make the poster by hand.
The move from the provincial to the global, from the charming mess of homegrown collaboration to the unknown possibilities of a career as a soloist in a newer genre of music, was also her declaration of independence from the macho vernacular of rock ‘n’ roll.
From then on, mostly it was my songs and my vision, and I would decide what would be in which song and when. Going forward, she would express her vision clearly to her collaborators, and choose them with great care.
Bjork tailored her collaborations to the specificity of each song, to the character and story that she wanted to convey.
She rarely records in a studio, preferring the spontaneous session. Antony Hegarty, who sings accompaniment on a song on the new album, recorded the track while they were on vacation in the Caribbean.
She creates a circle around her which is her universe, and before each circle closes itself she jumps outside to create a new circle…So each album goes into a new direction regardless of the success of the previous one.”
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking.Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The songs cohere into a universe.
- The albums and their stories map the bifurcation of Bjork’s artistry.
- They are the stories that have coalesced.
- It is the Saturday before the winter solstice.
- Bjork has been feeling sensitive about her visual collaborations.
- Bjork moved from the provincial to the global.
- It was her independence from the macho vernacular of rock ‘n’ roll.
- Each album doubled as a nexus of to often-obscure fashion designers.
- I can see Bjork shaking her head and morphing into a polar bear.
- She doesn’t make records in a traditional way.
Reading Comprehension: True /False/NA-Statements
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Bjork keeps a small cabin near New York.
- Bjork drove to the cabin in a Land Rover.
- Bjork still worries about the visual element of her work.
- Bjork is 50 years-old.
- She made a record of folk songs at age 11.
- Her first solo album was called ME.
- Human Behavior was her first music video as a solo artist.
- Bjork exposed popular audiences to often-obscure fashion designers.
- Bjork loved to dress up as clowns when she was young.
- She will be making a feature film soon.
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1. The following two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each one, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“Bjork has been feeling a little sensitive about her visual collaborations lately. It’s not that she isn’t proud of them, but she worries sometimes that the visual element of her work overshadows the music, her life’s obsession.”
“She creates a circle around her which is her universe, and before each circle closes itself she jumps outside to create a new circle,” said Gondry. “So each album goes into a new direction regardless of the success of the previous one.”
2.With your group members make a list of questions you would ask Bjork if you met her.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class.