Australian Broadcasting Commission JUNE 2, 2009 - by Thea Dikeos


The 7.30 Report, ABC Channel 2, Australia

Brian Eno is one of the world's most sought after record producers, with David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay among his clients. Constantly seeking new challenges, Eno is in Australia for the first time to curate the inaugural Luminous Festival at the Sydney Opera House, a three week music, art and intellectual extravaganza.

KERRY O'BRIEN (PRESENTER): You may not know his name, but if you've been to an airport or logged onto a computer, you will have heard his music. Brian Eno is the father of what's termed "ambient music", but he's also one of the world's most sought-after record producers with David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay amongst clients.

Constantly seeking new challenges, Eno is in Australia for the first time to curate the inaugural Luminous Festival at the Sydney Opera House, a three week music, art and intellectual extravaganza. Thea Dikeos reports.

BRIAN ENO (ARTIST, PRODUCER, CURATOR): I like making things where you think, "I've never seen anything quite like this before, but I like it."

THEA DIKEOS (REPORTER): It's a unique meeting of science and art. 77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno is a video installation using a group of high definition television monitors and computer software, shuffling three hundred individual paintings like a deck of cards.

BRIAN ENO: It relies on combinatorial mathematics, so that in fact you never see the same thing twice, unless you live for many hundreds of thousands of years, you might see it twice. But the show is constantly rebuilding itself. The music does the same thing, actually. So the music is rather like the experience of watching some natural phenomenon like a river, where it's constantly changing, but it's still that river.

THEA DIKEOS: For the first time, internationally renowned musician Brian Eno has brought his art to Australia. As curator of the Luminous Festival at the Sydney Opera House, he's chosen a diverse group of local and international acts.

BRIAN ENO: I think they are all people who have inspired me and who've, in a sense made a new sort of edge to popular culture, who've pushed the envelope some way or another. So they include comedians, musicians, thinkers.

THEA DIKEOS: For the past thirty years, Brian Eno has been a groundbreaker. After studying at art school, he joined the glam rock band Roxy Music in 1971. The recording studio opened up another world of creativity, and he's collaborated with some of the world's leading musicians, including David Bowie, Talking Heads and John Cale.

For a man not trained as a musician, he's one of the world's most innovative record producers.

U2 and Coldplay, the world's biggest bands, have had the Eno touch and found huge commercial success

BRIAN ENO: I see somebody else doing something and I think, "I like what they're up to. I think I could make it better, and I think it could make me better as well." So I'm thinking of a transaction, really.

THEA DIKEOS: Brian Eno's time in the recording studio producing other musicians is often short and efficient because of his busy schedule.

BRIAN ENO: I think you know you've got something pretty quickly. So, quite a long time - for quite a long time you're pushing a big rock up a hill, sometimes, and you know it's not there yet. But at a certain point, a point where you reach the top of the hill, it starts to gather its own momentum, and then you're following it, rather than pushing it.

THEA DIKEOS: Do you and the artist know it, or do you just know it?

BRIAN ENO: Sometimes we don't know it at the same time. So sometimes I sense it sooner than they do. Or sometimes they sense it when I think, "No, it's not there yet. This isn't the place yet."

THEA DIKEOS: Is it hard to convince particular artists when it's there? Do you ever have any friction?

BRIAN ENO: No. Yes, yes, there's often friction, but it's not unpleasant friction, usually. It's more, "Go on then, show me. You think there's something there, show me. I don't get it." It's that kind of friction.

THEA DIKEOS: You don't pull a gun on them or anything like that?

BRIAN ENO: Not the gun; I use the flame thrower quite a lot.

THEA DIKEOS: These days, Brian Eno is also a Professor at the Royal College of Art, an environmental activist, futurologist, writer and a sought-after speaker. He's maintained his passion for the visual arts, particularly video, which he's been working with since 1978.

BRIAN ENO: I think what I'm good at is finding a new piece of territory, and I like the fact that there's no competition in it. So, for instance, this stuff I'm doing here, I don't think anybody else is doing anything like it. So it's my little territory, and I'm farming it right now.

THEA DIKEOS: For the next three weeks, he'll be making the centre of Sydney's cultural and artistic heart a part of his own art work. The Luminous Festival will take Brian Eno's intellectual, artistic and musical pursuits and mix them together to create a cauldron of cultural activity.

BRIAN ENO: I first of all hope that they'll enjoy the festival. That's obviously very important. It's not a didactic experience where I'm trying to teach people something important. But, the second thing I hope is that they will learn something important from it, which is that contemporary culture is capable of including a lot of very, very interesting and big ideas.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That report from Thea Dikeos.