It’s not every day you hear a song inspired by infection. But, then again, not many musical artists are like Iceland’s Björk. Last week, the singer and multi-instrumentalist released the song “Virus” off of her forthcoming album, Biophilia, due out on 27 September. But she didn’t release the tune as a standard digital download; instead, the song takes the form of an interactive app.
The app — available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch — is a game, wherein the player navigates a viral attack on human cells. Small green viruses march toward cells with jangling nuclei to penetrate the cellular membranes. Once the viruses inject their DNA inside, the strings of nucleic acids attack the host cell’s nucleus, replicating and spreading.
But the app, demonstrated in the video below, is more than an educational game about viruses: the act of playing the game also influences the song itself. Each time the game is played, the song is a little bit different. As the viruses “take over and destroy the cell,” they also “take over the song,” Björk told the BBC World Service.
The player’s goal, on the surface, is to protect the cells from viral attack, drawing out the song’s buildup and complexity. “But it’s a kind of anti-game, because if you win, you don’t get to hear the whole song,” said the app’s designer Scott Snibbe in an interview with Evolver.fm. “You have to let the cell get killed in order to hear it.”
Preview the app below or listen to an iteration of “Virus” on Björk’s Brazilian YouTube channel.