Björk - "Isobel"

As I mentioned in an earlier post, "Isobel" was the first song I heard by Björk, which started a lifelong appreciation for her music.

While I'd argue the subtlety of the song is in the layers of sounds, the textures and rhythms, there are still some interesting things to note in the harmony and melody. Since I was still in high school when I first figured out the chords to this song, it was a revelation that the main chord progression was a variant of the Rodgers & Hart staple "My Funny Valentine". Both tunes rely on a minor chord with all the harmonic motion in the upper voice. In "Valentine" it descends chromatically from the root, wheras in "Isobel" it forms more of a circle.



Maybe not an earth shattering revelation now, but at the time I don't even think my speakers were capable of playing that ultra-low B in the sub-bass.

More recently I learned the rest of the song and found a few other interesting things, like this one-off string line between the first two verses.



This happens over the first two chords, which both fall under the scope of the B-minor melodic scale. So why does the C sound good? This makes me think of the kind of super-extensions that Lennie Tristano used to use in his melodies, going past the 13th.



Jerry Bergonzi calls this a #15-chord. Because the line leaps up in thirds, the B#/C seems totally in line.  Brazilian jazz pianist Eumir Deodato co-wrote the string arrangements.  I wasn't familiar with his work, but shortly after hearing this song my high school music teacher introduced me to his hilarious funk version of Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra (better known as the music from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Here's a short solo piano version of "Isobel" I recorded recently.



2 comments

  • Sara

    Sara Amsterdam

    Hi there, Do you happen to have a transcription of "Isobel" by Bjork? Would like to attempt to learn it on the piano! Warm wishes, Sara Tompkins

    Hi there,

    Do you happen to have a transcription of "Isobel" by Bjork? Would like to attempt to learn it on the piano!

    Warm wishes,

    Sara Tompkins

  • Steve Boudreau

    Steve Boudreau

    Hi Sara - I worked from a lead sheet that I made myself for this. It was just scratched out in pencil but I might be able to dig something up - send me a message at steve@steveboudreaumusic.com or using the contact link.

    Hi Sara - I worked from a lead sheet that I made myself for this. It was just scratched out in pencil but I might be able to dig something up - send me a message at steve@steveboudreaumusic.com or using the contact link.

Add comment