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"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Guardian JULY 8, 2009 - by Roger Highfield
BRIAN ENO: THE NIGHT SOMETHING FICTIONAL AND FANTASTICAL BECAME REAL
Former Roxy Music member Brian Eno is known as the father of ambient music. To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, he will introduce the first live performances of his 1983 composition Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks at the Science Museum, London, on July 20 and 21.
In 1983, Brian Eno released an album inspired by Apollo 11. It has now been reworked for its first live performance. Here he talks to Roger Highfield, the editor of New Scientist, about the project.
You were twenty-one when the moon landings took place. What do you recall?
I remember it very, very well. I watched it in the house of my painting tutor at art school, and I remember the very eerie sensation of watching on his little black and white television and then looking up at the moon and being absolutely shocked at the idea of what was happening there at that moment in time. It was one of those strange moments when time closes up on you and something that seems fictional and fantastic suddenly becomes real.
You are credited with inventing ambient music. How do the Apollo moon missions fit in with its development?
Around the time of Apollo I was listening to a lot of film soundtracks. What I liked was that they represented a form of incomplete music, where the missing element was the visual element. I liked making music that somehow allowed the listener to imagine a visual element themselves.
How did you feel when London's Science Museum approached you about the concert?
It was their suggestion to make a performance. Apollo was only ever made in a recording studio, and I said it would be difficult to perform. It does not exist outside of the studio and would have to be rewritten. We hit on the idea of getting a young composer [Korean Jun Lee] who would take Apollo as a starting point for a new composition. It is a remake, not a half-hearted facsimile, performed by amplified ensemble Icebreaker with BJ Cole on pedal steel guitar.
Why is there pedal steel guitar in the Apollo composition?
When director Al Reinert approached me about doing the Apollo music - which ended up in the 1989 film For All Mankind - he told me there was music on the moon shot. Every astronaut was allowed to take one cassette of their favourite music. All but one took country and western. They were cowboys exploring a new frontier, this one just happened to be in space. We worked the piece around the idea of zero-gravity country music.
Would you like to go into space?
I would love to. But not yet. I would prefer others to do the exploratory journeys [laughs]. My friend Jeff Bezos of Amazon has set up a spaceflight company, Blue Origin. I am sure that if it comes up I can get a seat for an appropriate sum.