Learn and Teach Guide

“Welcome to Biophilia: A love for nature in all her manifestations. From the tiniest organism, to the greatest red giant floating in the farthest realm of the universe. With Biophilia comes a restless curiosity, an urge to investigate and discover the illusive places where we meet nature. Where she plays on our senses with colours and forms; perfumes and smells.”

Biophilia is much more than a collection of songs, linked by a common idea or concept. Each song is accompanied by an app, and furthermore the whole album can be viewed as, and referred to as an app or appsuite. In the face of novelty, sometimes language fails us. Referring to each item as a ‘song’ seems to me to draw too much attention to one aspect of the work. Therefore, I propose the term ‘songapp’, which I will henceforth use.

To teach is to learn twice, and when it comes to Biophilia this is doubly true; all the songapps teach about (one or more) aspect of music and (one or more) aspect of nature. This explains the title for these guidelines: ‘learnteach’; the experience of learning and teaching are inextricably interwoven. Learnteach contains proposals, speculations, ideas, links and connections to help bring Biophilia into a classroom or other learning contexts.

Originally conceived as a work of art, the wider educational potential of Biophilia soon became apparent. Workshops for local children featured on the original Biophilia tour, and Primary schools in Reykjavík have participated in experimental teaching using Biophilia with great success. The ideas, activities and methods presented here are results of this work, thought of, tried and tested by a number of creative, resourceful and dedicated teachers and experts in a variety of settings.

The human psyche, music and nature are systems that hang in a balance; a balance between order and chaos, they are borne out of the creation and release of tension. This dynamic view is powerfully presented in songapps like Virus and Mutual Core; and there is always more than meets the eye, what may appear to be harmful and bad may turn out to be a vital part of the system. Some natural systems last longer and are more regular, such as the movements of the stars, and there are also such reliable aspects to music. A piece of music, no matter how weird, will have some kind of pattern and some kind of rhythm, this is can be seen in different ways in Solstice, Moon and Crystalline.

One of the serious problems we have when we face science is the question of scale, scale in space and scale in time. A normal popsong will appeal to us on our familiar human scale. Biophilia slows us down, speeds us up, takes us down to the molecular level, up to the galactic one and beyond; the microscopic is explored in Virus, the fast in Thunderbolt, the slow in Mutual Core, the planetary in Moon and Solstice and the infinity of space and time in Cosmogony

The human mind operates in a variety of ways, verbal communication being one, visual presentation and music being others. Biophilia has a strong multisensory aspect, where visual, aural, i.e. non-verbal, communication comes to the forefront. This provides a welcome change from the heavily verbal focus of traditional education. It also provides a deeper level of abstraction than can often be achieved with words, and people who prefer non-verbal methods respond powerfully to the world of Biophilia.

Biophilia, restless and curious, seeks inspiration in many different places. These include the tradition of Western art music in the 20th century, and other musical traditions from all over the world. An example of this is the generative music in Virus, scales in Dark Matter and rhythm in Hollow. Furthermore the instruments: harps, hang drums and various electronic devices do not carry the meaning and power implicit in grand pianos, violins and guitars, in a sense this music is more democratic than what we are used to.

Education, like art, music and love is a contested field. Opposed forces collide and infectious ideas invade the core of the operation, while a huge number of people seem to enter and leave without notice like the dark matter of the universe. Biophilia forms part of one such force; or possibly maybe more an infection; a seed that may be planted; find its kin and possibly spread out through large parts of the system; meeting resistance, adapting and maybe finally metamorphosing into something unrecognisable. We’ll see.