Crystallizing on Crystalline

If you were to write a song about crystalline, what would be the first thing that might pop up in your mind?

Crystals? Swarovski? Or… diamonds??

The Science Daily? The Smithsonian?

Sounds intuitive enough, huh?

While you are certainly on the right track in thinking along the scientific line of logic, you are still not quite there yet — by Bjork’s standards, that is.

What’s Crystalline to her then?

Not to say that Bjork’s version is the model answer to the question, just that it is exactly what makes her our Bjork, and not any other singer-songwriter out there.

So what do you make of this electronic-rooted, drum’n bass-infused number of our Icelandic music goddess?

Let’s get a little clue from the lyrics first:

Crystalline
Internal Nebula (Crystalline)
Rocks growing slowmo (Crystalline)
I conquer claustrophobia
(Crystalline)
And demand the light

From this stanza, it is clear that crystalline is something coming from one’s inner self that keeps growing — something that one would want to possess as one grows up.

And here comes her core message:

We mimic the openness
Of the ones we love
Doth til’ our generosity equalize(s) the flow
With our hearts
We kiss the quartz
To reach love

Ironically, the growth of this much-coveted inner quality is counteracted by the very act of mimicking “the ‘openness’ of the ones we love” — until we reach a breaking point, at which this virtue of ours depletes to a level that equals the rest of the world’s.

What exactly is this inner quality then?

Quoting Bjork herself (from Wikipedia):

“I’ve sat a lot of my life in buses and taxis from 20 years of touring and somehow all these different types of intersections have gone on file in my brain … Seems like each one of them has a different mood, different spatial tension or release. Part of my obsessive nature wants to map out each intersection in the world and match it with a song… To me crystal structures seem to grow in a similar way.”

While she isn’t being very specific with her answer, there’s definitely more than what meets the eye.

Taken together with the way the music develops, it is “crystal clear” to me (hopefully, to you as well) that the process of crystallization in minerals and rocks is symbolic of the growth of a progressive structure of relationships, self-worth, thoughts, life goals — or, to sum everything up, individuality in our hearts.

The triangle chimes sound so pure and crystal clear at the beginning. As the music (or we as members of the human race) grow(s), adversities and challenges come one after another in an increasingly aggressive manner. While there may be occasional moments of peace and tranquility (starting at 1:27), this may well be a prelude to something as violent and atrocious as the raucous drum’n bass section towards the end of the song.

Sounds gloomy to you? Well, to me at least, the fact that Bjork has the courage to acknowledge all these hardships in life in a song — and even sings about it literally every night in her current Biophilia Live Tour — already tells us loud and clear what her attitude towards life is.

6 Responses

  1. Adrienne Lew says:

    Just tried my luck with these questions I have for Bjork herself at Bjork.com:

    “I am intrigued by your song Crystalline from Biophilia. What inspired you to use crystalline as a metaphor for the inner qualities that grow within our hearts but which are also brutally crushed or at least neutralized by the “flow” of “those we love” (quoted from the lyrics)? How well do you think you have held on to your own crystalline so far?”

    • amy says:

      @Adrienne Lew, I’m ever too scared to actually direct any questions at her, but it’d be interesting to see if she addresses this in a short blog post or something…

      In the case of Bjork, I’d rather not get any answers and keep that mystery that I’ve always identified with her xD

      • Adrienne Lew says:

        @amy, this more or less sheds light on the answer — but “not quite there yet” …

        answered questions
        how the crystal and stones theme came to you? 5it’s very inspiring, as your all work)
        – aliam

        bjork’s answer
        i guess i was thinking of the elemental table and then we had just written a program that could go fast on gamelan sounds , kinda doing gamelan techno and it sounded like pickaxes breaking into crystals …

        From Bjork.com

  2. Jerome M says:

    My guess is she was simply drinking Crystal Light at the time, and then put her own spin on it. A very Bjork spin.

    • Adrienne Lew says:

      @Jerome M, that’s a good thought. Only those truly perceptive could put such an effortless spin on something that does not look even remotely related to the core message on the surface.

      “I guess i was thinking of the elemental table …” caught my eye, though. My guess is that Bjork must be really good at chemistry and/or geology — coz according to http://www.m-w.com:

      Crystalline —
      having the internal structure though not necessarily the external form of a crystal

      Which is why we have this:

      We mimic the openness
      Of the ones we love
      Doth til’ our generosity equalize(s) the flow
      With our hearts
      We kiss the quartz
      To reach love

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