INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Melody Maker NOVEMBER 29, 1975 - by Staff Writers
ENO - CLASS OF '75
It is, perhaps, as a consequence of a certain adolescent commitment to rock music as a source of potential information about a contemporary social environment that it has become necessary to perpetuate the notion that the intrinsic strength and power of rock lies in the essentially primitive nature of its artistic expression.
A standard vocabulary has been formulated which depends, for its future, upon maintaining a particular kind of heroism.
The traditional "rock hero" is, largely, an inarticulate individual who is, however, able to force into his work, through some mysterious artistic process, images and impressions which are interpreted, eventually, as pertinent and vivid perceptions.
There is, then, a security in concentrating upon previously established impulses. The artist is inevitably more accessible, and his audience will not be disturbed since he is conforming to an image, however exciting it may initially appear, which is already stereotyped and therefore predictable.
Furthermore, there is a lack of crucial innovation.
This situation - which is obviously not exclusive to rock - is, on one level, the basis of a series of lectures by Brian Eno.
"The biological function of art," he insists, "is that it should expose you to disorientation. When you are confronted by an artist, he should present you with a situation which violates the expectancies which he arouses.
"One of the problems I've found with recent records, for instance, is that they are all intended to induce one kind of listening behaviour, or at least they give the impression that they are. There's no sense of experiment.
"The concept of the artist as someone who is paranormal, who contains within himself a special facility for DIRECTING the perceptions of his audience towards a specific goal, is now redundant. That particular role of the artist as a kind of passionate, primitive creature fighting against an oppressive system doesn't ring true for me anymore. It is really a studied stance and it's exploiting an attitude that is redundant even though it may still appear to be realistic for a lot of people.
"The point is that I can't perform the perceiver's role in front of such an artist because the discontinuity of expression he may be offering me is, probably, one that I've experienced so many times before, it no longer disorients me. It is redundant, then.
"I think the following quote illustrates the present problem and offers a tentative resolution: 'We rehearse for various roles of our lives. We rehearse our national, our local and our personal styles. These things we rehearse so that we may participate in a PREDICTABLE world of social and environmental interaction... Art is rehearsal for the orientation which makes innovation possible.'
"What I'm interested in is creating the kind of situation, or at least setting in motion procedures, which have no specific aim, and which end up in places you couldn't predict so that you have to improvise a new set of principles as you go along."
The lectures being presented by Eno at colleges this month elaborate upon the principal qualities outlined above, but a practical application of the method of working he advocates can be found on his new album, Another Green World.
Describing the nature of the experiment he was about to undertake in a conversation earlier this year, Eno described his intentions as "an attempt to suspend the security of going into a recording studio with a predetermined plan.
"What I've done is write a few songs, and I'm going into the studio with every intention of not recording them if I can possibly help it.
"I have no idea of where I'm starting from and I don't have the vaguest notion of where I'm going to end up. It will be a way of learning to cope with unpredictable situations. The major problem of coping with the world - and art is a way in which we can cope with the world - is learning to adapt to the changes that inevitably occur.
"You're not in a position to stop or prevent those changes; all you can do is accomodate them. Now, you can accomodate them in one of two ways: you can either refuse to acknowledge change and gradually you start not seeing anything or you can try to live in an experimental fashion.
"Art is an entirely practical affair. It isn't mysterious. Take Robert Wyatt: art for him is a way of surviving. It's the way in which his brain keeps working. It's an activity which has to do with mental survival."
Another Green World, says Eno, was an attempt to place together a group of disparate individuals whose only similarity was an acute musical intelligence and to provoke a response to an unfamiliar and unpredictable environment, with no previously established boundaries.
"The specific purpose of the experiment was to put together this group which would work together in a way which would be impossible to predict. I fed in enough information to get something to happen, and the chemical equation of interaction between the various styles of the musicians involved - who were intelligent enough not to retreat from a situation which was musically strange - took us somewhere that we would have been unable to design.
"We were working with no preconceived attitude other than that of conscious experimentation. And if something failed, we tried again. So many musicians are so frightened by the possibility of failure that they restrict their format to one that is almost bound to succeed in the sense that it's bound to achieve something which can be predicted in advance. That's not what I would call success.
"Roxy, initially, was the practising ground for this idea of getting together a lot of people who aren't at all compatible and seeing what may happen. Roxy was a group of six people who were moving in quite separate directions. And the most interesting thing for me about early Roxy was the tension that existed and the way that no one could be sure of the way a particular piece would develop. It was the very uncertainty which was exciting.
"If I listen to the first album now, I still find it a bold statement. But what happened is what happens to most bands: they become successful and they think that all that uncertainty must go. In fact, it's exactly that quality I want in music.
"Unfortunately, if you want to make a lot of money in rock music, you have one good idea and then you do it again and again. You don't even have to have a good, original idea if you conform to the existing pattern."