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Category Archives: Guðmundsdóttir-Björk

Yes, the Björk of the title is THE Björk, the famous Icelandic singer who is known as much for her flair with costumes (Swan Dress, anyone?) as for her catchily eccentric music.  Born in 1965, she fronted the band The Sugarcubes in the 1980’s before branching out on her own in the early 1990’s.  It turns out she writes most of her own stuff, including the instrumental Overture from Dancer in the Dark.  Grammy-winning arranger and jazz artist Vince Mendoza orchestrated the Overture for brass and timpani for the film Dancer in the Dark, and it was included on Björk’s album, Selmasongs, which is essentially a soundtrack to the film.  Sadly, the original arrangement is unavailable in print.

Dancer in the Dark tells the story of Selma Jezkova (played by Björk), a Czech immigrant to the United States in 1964.  She has a congenital disease that is making her go blind, so she is working as hard as she can (at the local factory) with the limited sight she has left to provide for her 12-year-old son, who will eventually develop the same condition unless she can raise the money for an expensive medical procedure for him.  Her only diversion is her love for musicals: she lapses into daydreams involving musical numbers at several points throughout the film, often to her detriment. Nothing goes as Selma plans, yet she does her utmost to protect her son as her vision fades. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that Dancer in the Dark is a profoundly moving and deeply troubling movie.  I saw it in college and loved it, but I don’t think I ever need to see it again.  If you decide to watch it, don’t do it alone, and don’t do it right before bed!  Read more about it on IMDB and Wikipedia.

Here is how the Overture looks and sounds in the film:

And here it is played live by the Iceland Wonderbrass at a Björk concert in Athens.  The orchestration is a bit different from the film version.

Finally, just for fun, here’s another Björk video that involves Broadway-like music: “It’s Oh So Quiet”.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point you to the websites of both Björk and Vince Mendoza.  Enjoy!