Sunday, June 20, 2004


The early records of Brian Eno are one of the few things I listened to when I was 16 that I wouldn't be ashamed to listen to right now (don't think I'm going to be pulling down those ELP records anytime soon). His weird mix of Velvet Underground, prog-glam and twisted psychedelia was unique and had an edge that anticipated a certain strain of art punk (Wire being the most obvious example). The four "pop" records he released after leaving Roxy Music in the 70s (Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Another Green World and Before and After Science) have just been re-released(without any extra bonus tracks, alas). Pitchfork reviews them here with less snark than usual.

Via Metafilter I found this recent talk by Eno about the aims of the Long Now Foundation which starts out talking about music, but broadens out to discuss futurism and our experience of time. Here's a bit from the beginning:

By the mid 1970s I’d started to imagine a different kind of music that I wanted to hear. This music really grew out of three separate threads of interest. One of them is African music - I was listening to a lot - particularly Fela Kuti the Nigerian bandleader. The second was the Velvet Underground and the scene that constituted. The third was composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley. What I think interested me about all those sorts of music was that they flattened out the shape of the music, the hierarchical structure of the music was flatter. So the pop music I had been listening to mostly had a voice sitting at the top then some rhythm instruments, and then some drums. And the focus of the music, the shape of the music was very pyramidal. What I found I was preferring to listen to was music where that pyramid was squashed down, where no particular instrument was featured as the lead instrument and instead you had a network of interactions between lots of different sounds. In my own work this manifested in an emphasis on making what would have been called the background more interesting, and what would have been called the foreground, less and less central, thus sinking foreground elements into the background.

The other thing that I was interested in was in losing the obvious boundaries of music, I wanted to make something that didn’t sound like it had edges, sonic edges, or that it had a beginning and an end. I wanted to make something that belonged to a big space and you as the listener could hear some of that but not necessarily all of it, and I wanted to make something that felt like it had always been going on and would always be going on and you just happened to catch a part of it. I guess the first piece I made which had a feeling of being a kind of eternal present tense was a record called Discreet Music in 1975, which was a very long record for a vinyl album. It was the longest I could possibly get on to one side of a vinyl album - thirty minutes and thirty one seconds - and I wanted to give the implication that this was not a piece of music in the ordinary sense of something that had been composed with a beginning, a middle and an end, but instead was a continuous endless place in time. So I was developing this idea of place of music being not so much a sonic narrative but more a sonic landscape - again with the feeling that this was a landscape that was always in the present tense, a landscape that was an extended present tense.