Biophilia Educational Project – Listen, Learn & Create

And now for something completely different! Biophilia. This app may not appeal to everyone but it certainly offers a different approach to STEM/Arts education where music, nature and technology all merge into an extraordinary interactive multimedia smorgasbord. It’s weird, wonderful and totally unexpected comprising of a suite of original music compositions along with 9 interactive learning experiences that you discover as you zoom through a three-dimensional galaxy which you navigate via the “musical compass”. When you hear that it’s the brainchild of Icelandic musician Bjork it all makes perfect sense.

Each of “songapps” has its own theme based on a natural element paired with a key feature of music theory (e.g. chords, scales, counterpoint etc.) together with an accompanying original song and interactive game that allows students to make, record and save new music; all with the swipe of a finger on the touch screen. The emphasis here is on musical creativity let loose so that students can use technology to ”push their creative boundaries and make music in an impulsive and responsive way, inspired by the structures and phenomena of the natural world.” There’s also an animated score of each original composition for viewing together with accompanying lyric sheets.

Design wise Biophilia is a visually stunning world with a real scandi feel even down to the fonts and graphics used. Right from the get go it, the opening sequence declares its intentions to use the natural world to inspire creativity with a voiceover introduction from David Attenborough who brings the user on a tour through the Biophilia Cosmos. Everything is aimed at getting the user to go on a musical journey of their own making, inspired by the wonders of nature and without the need for knowledge of musical notation or indeed an instrument.

The app itself is part of the wider Biophilia Educational Project developed to inspire children’s creativity beyond the classroom as they learn about music, the natural world and using new technologies for creativity. Launched in 2011 the project originally comprised of the app, the accompanying Bjork Biophilia album, live performances and school workshops across 60 schools in Iceland under the supervision of Reykjavík school teachers and scientists from the University of Iceland. Since then it’s been used across the whole Nordic region and across the world. For more infomation on the Biophilia Educational Project in the Nordic region watch this introductory video.

Anyone can use the Biophilia resources and in fact there’s an excellent pdf with suggestions for cross curricular teaching activities with the focus on individual and group exploration of each of the songapps’ themes including links to other music resources and STEM websites. The app itself is now quite old by mobile development standards but definitely worth looking at although it may be a little marmite. I can see how some students would love it. In an article in the Observer Bjork herself said the project was “really popular with kids who have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or dyslexia”.  You can download free for Android but it’s currently charged at $12.99 in iTunes. It works well enough on my android phone but I’ve also downloaded a free version of the Solstice app for ipad which works beautifully.

Songapps in Biophilia & Associated Themes

SONGAPPHOLLOW
MUSIC: Rhythm and speed
NATURE, KEYWORDS: DNA, evolution
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Biology
HUMAN: Ancestry, inheritance

SONGAPPSOLSTICE
MUSIC: Baseline, counterpoint
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Orbit of the Earth, tilt of the Earth
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Astronomy
HUMAN: Lightbearers

SONGAPPTHUNDERBOLT
MUSIC: Arpeggios
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Lightning, fractals
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Physics
HUMAN: Miracles

SONGAPP: MUTUAL CORE
MUSIC: Chords
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Tectonic plates
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Geology
HUMAN: Relationships, love

SONGAPPMOOD
MUSIC: Sequencers
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Lunar phases, tides, cycles in the body
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Astronomy
HUMAN: Cyclical nature of life, failure and success

SONGAPP: CRYSTALLINE
MUSIC: Crystalline
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Formation of crystals
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Chemistry, geology

SONGAPP: COSMOGONY
MUSIC: Lyrics, equillibrium
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Big bang
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Cosmology
HUMAN: Creation myths

SONGAPP: DARK MATTER
MUSIC: Scales
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Dark matter
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Physics, astrophysics
HUMAN: Western domination

SONGAPP: SACRIFICE
MUSIC: Notation
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Evolution, role of sexes
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Biology
HUMAN: Equality of the sexes

SONGAPP: VIRUS
MUSIC: Generative music
NATURE, KEYWORDS: Viruses, symbiotic relationships
RELEVANT SCIENCES: Biology
HUMAN: Relationships, love

 

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