INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Hit Parader SEPTEMBER 1979 - by Stephen Demorest
CREATIVE PLAYTIME WITH BRIAN ENO
"It's often the initially unpromising things that turn out interesting. Following just the attractive propositions is doom. My survival strategy is to keep fresh."
When Brian Eno liberated himself from Roxy Music in 1973 to pursue individual projects, he made one of his most fortunate mistakes. First he released a pair of odd instrumental tracks he'd recorded with Robert Fripp under the title No Pussyfooting. Subsequently, the more melodic Here Come The Warm Jets appeared as his first truly solo venture. The difference between the two albums created a kind of confusion regarding his image that his managers bewailed, but which Eno has since called the best move I could have made. Quite by accident, it put me in a position where I don't have to be consistent. You really can start each record anew, without having a trademark.
A monstrously powerful dinosaur lumbers through a primeval landscape.
Overhead, shrill pterodactyls are dive-bombing. The whole landscape is alive with chewing. Brontosaurus slowly trudges Into a flaming bloody-orange sunset.
Eno's world comfortably accommodates collaborations with Fripp, David Bowie, and Germany's Cluster: direction of England's Obscure label of experimental music: producing challenges with Talking Heads, Devo, and various new wavers (No New York); as well as his own Taking Tiger Mountain, Another Green World, and last year's Before And After Science. His latest album is Music For Films, a collection of 18 atmospheric instrumental snippets released on Island's uncommon Antilles label.
A young nymph sits at the bottom of a forest pool, calm but totally alert. Looking up, it sees rain dripping on the surface, sending concentric circles flowing out overhead like haloes. The nymph is spellbound.
Brian frankly admits to having choked while struggling through what eventually became Before And After Science. Pressured by the expectations aroused by 1975's acclaimed Another Green World, he made two albums which he scrapped, began another which he abandoned half-way through, and finally completed the 1977 release. I can't bear it, he says of the attention he's drawn recently. The best thing for me would be to release each album under a different name.
From The Same Hill
She stands, melancholy, on a castle parapet at twilight, watching him move slowly away down the road on horseback. A huge silver moon is rising in front of them. He never looks back. (In the spring of the next year / it came sad and cold / a courier of the Baron of Pirovano rode slowly into Langenau. Rilke)
The release of Music For Films is a safety valve which Brian says will siphon off some of the pressure that's been mounting on his career. The Antilles designation signifies that this collection is merely an unofficial sampler of some of his favorite exercises. It's tangential to the development of his Island solo line, and is not to be scrutinised as one of them. Film music will get me off the hook because nobody listens to it, Brian says almost hopefully. It's not that important.
In the grey fight after sunset on a deserted beach, gulls glide and hover in the evening breeze along the water's edge. That's all.
Two Rapid Formations
Pan up to the porch of a nearby beach house. Two are lying together, contentedly tired, after making love. Neither is paying attention to the other as their thoughts drift separately. Day is cooling, the wind begins to rustle, and they know they should move, but they don't want to get up quite yet.
Eno has tons of tape. He had as many as 120 tracks available for Before And After Science, and because he's never absolutely sure of his judgement, he keeps all his unused material. Occasionally he'll pull out some old tapes (not knowing what they are), set up a mix and alter the speeds just to see what comes out. Much of Music For Films evolved from scraps of other protects that were revitalised. About a third of it was done at home.
A space-walking astronaut sights a space-mermaid and falls madly in love-at-first-sight. Floating, totally numb with rapture, he becomes space-happy and cuts his own lifeline so he can follow her. He drifts off... a heavenly way to go.
Whereas the public thinks artists work from a set of intentions, typically I do something and then I find it reveals itself. Your best things are not defensible at inception, just exciting. If you always follow your enthusiasm you end up saying something interesting. If you do it by rote, you end up with nothing new, just the expected.
Churchly, muffled heavy bells gong slowly. Quasimodo is stretched out on the floor of Notre Dame, watching his life's-blood seep out onto the cold marble. He's smiling. Eno's music is consistently unique because no unifying personality characterises his work. Instead, he encourages each swatch of sound to develop its own nature, with the synthesizer weaving its own patterns like an automatic loom. Brian simply sets up a program that seems unusual, and then stands back to watch what happens, making only occasional supervisory adjustments. 1975's Discreet Music, for instance, developed while a variety of interruptions (phone calls, visitors) successfully distracted Eno's attention.
A silent, regal wedding procession is winding up a hill outside medieval Florence in the long, golden sunlight of late afternoon. The faces of the bride and groom are flushed and proud and speechless.
The same couple, years later, leads a procession down the same hill, only now they are dressed in black, and their faces are bereft and hopeless. They are returning from the funeral of his best friend (her true Platonic lover) who was slain defending them.
I'm interested in setting up a little temporary value system that hopefully will draw the listener in and present him with possibilities of what happens next; and then I try to choose one of the less obvious. Leading someone along an unfamiliar path strikes me as an interesting thing to do.
An ocean ghost-ship drifts out of the fog with its swirling corona of spirits dancing decoratively. It transfixes us: then we realise it's just an illusion caused by snow starting to fall at sea - probably. (Retitle this: Theme From The Flying Dutchman.)
Some tracks were written for specific scenes, since timing constraints provide a skeleton to work on. Scoring certain events at certain times, your framework is modulated by the film. Like Discreet Music, Brian's film exercises are unengaging; the music has texture but no real focus, because the hypothetical film image is itself the focus.
Events In Dense Fog
Two lovers awaken at dawn across a still Alpine valley from each other. They prepare for the day serenely, as echoes of intuitive harmony rebound across the gulf, nullifying the distance. As it gets lighter, they dress, bake, gather belongings. Then they shut their doors behind them and walk down the peaceful dirt road toward the meadow where they'll meet.
Eno has been approached by Hollywood people interested in his music but remains wary of big-deal hysteria. Fortunately I've worked with several semi-underground film-makers (Including a contribution to last year's noteworthy Jubilee). I'll do music for virtually anyone who asks me as an excuse to make the music. It's often the initially unpromising things that turn out interesting. Following just the attractive propositions is doom. My survival strategy is to keep fresh.
There Is Nobody
Buzz, zap, male tom-toms. Inside, the slave ship 19 packed with muscled oarsmen, but from a distance it glides along so effortlessly.
A Measured Room
A quick, ugly, dangerous wild boar is rooting in the bushes nearby. We are lying injured and hope he doesn't come across our place of concealment.
I don't have a set of rules about what can't be done, sometimes I get some horrid noises but the most interesting things develop from the most unpromising beginnings. For example, a fault developed in my small synthesizer, and most musicians would have had it fixed, but I found the fault interesting. It's the best thing that's happened to it, and it's literally irreplaceable because I don't know how it developed.
Jaunty robots are bopping at a 21st century Butler's Ball. (C'mon, baby, do the Matmos!) Laser flirtations are zinging between the hot 'n' heavy androids.
Eno says: The more you provide, the less you demand of a listener. Basically, Eno is inviting you into the creative process by keeping these tracks so spare; his music provides a mood outline, but you color in the scene yourself. After I free-associated my interpretations of these aural vignettes, I noticed that some of them don't match Eno's titles at all - evidently even a seemingly innocent one-word title could have tyrannised my imagination if I'd seen it before listening. So don't swallow any of my fantasies; if they sound interesting, pick up a copy of the album and make up your own versions. (Gee, sounds like a swell party game.)
Conan stands high on a crag in a land-that-time-forgot. In the pre-dawn light he surveys the epic vista of the flat salt-wastes below, where he'll soon fight the final battle of the film. Meditative, completely calm and alone, he is probably communing with Death.
A slender, blooming, naked, faun-like girl wades into a stream deep in a forest glade with spindly, coltish grace. Completely absorbed with balancing on the rocks, she feels serenely private. We don't want to startle her concentration or unaffected movements, and will not intrude for the time being.
Further works: Before long you should see another systemic Antilles release, Music For Airports. Eno has also reportedly completed the third album in his collaborative triptych with Bowie. Brian Eno was last seen in a Paris airport heading for Bangkok.
A high, drifting hawk hovers but it never does dive. He's very old, going blind, and can't see scurrying movements down on earth anymore. Waiting, waiting with age-old patience for signs he can no longer see. As the sun sets, he drifts West following its light. Gliding out over the ocean without realising it, he vanishes deep into the twilight, still waiting.