We want our daughter to grow up to be a strong feminist. So far, it looks like we don't have much to worry about. At eighteen months, this child has no problem exerting her will upon the world. She shoves larger children out of her way, grabs whatever she wants out of people’s hands, bites me hard when she thinks I'm paying insufficient attention to her, and generally behaves like she was raised by wolves. Still, the world is a disgustingly sexist and patriarchal place, especially the music world, and we want her to keep her Xena Warrior Princess attitude intact as she grows up. Introducing her to Björk early is a no-brainer.

When I think of a Björk song, I expect an intricate electronic soundscape with orchestral strings and a choir. However, on this tune, Björk is accompanied only by a few tracks of Oliver Lake’s saxophone. Like most of her compositions, “The Anchor Song” is strange and angular. When I sat down to learn the song on guitar, then, I was extremely surprised to discover that the whole thing is comprised of a single major scale. The only music-theoretic thing you need to understand here is that the major scale is the most tame and boring scale there is. Think “do re mi fa so la ti do,” think “Happy Birthday,” think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Anyone can take a bunch of random notes and get them to sound weird and off-kilter, but it takes real skill to get the major scale to sound that way. Björk studied classical music formally, and she knows the melodic cliches well enough to defy them when she wants to. By carefully avoiding all the “restful” notes and intervals, she gets a sound that’s both comforting and uncomfortable, lulling and surprising. Let her be a role model to us all.

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About the Curator - Ethan Hein

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab (https://www.musedlab.org), Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza (https://musedlab.org/groovepizza). In collaboration with Soundfly, he has developed a series of online music theory courses (https://soundfly.com/courses/unlocking-the-emotional-power-of-chords). He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog (http://www.ethanhein.com), and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.

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