Rolling Stone FEBRUARY 2001 - by Brad Kava


Ambient master has sonic exhibit at SF MOMA.

Innovative producer Brian Eno helped launch David Bowie and Roxy Music into their space phases and pushed U2 into its ambient computer experiments on The Unforgettable Fire and Achtung Baby.

But his sonic exhibit that runs at San Francisco's Museum Of Modern Art from March 3rd to July 8th may be his most avant garde: It has no lyrics, no melody, no beat and it's never played the same way twice.

As part of a show celebrating digital technology and art called, appropriately enough, 101010, Eno's Compact Forest Proposal is his attempt to create a musical environment, similar in spirit to his groundbreaking 1979 album Music For Airports. You enter a darkened room, lit dimly by lights strung like trees. Overhead, like a rainbow, are eleven CD players, each playing a different instrument, in harmony, but on random rotations.

You hear voices, stretched out like the soundtrack to a haunted-house movie (it's actually the voice of a waitress at a sushi joint near his London recording studio run through synthesizers); long, low gongs (actually bells, again slowed through the magic of computers) and stringed instruments, all which seem to crawl around the room. I wanted to create music as an architectural condition, Eno told a press gathering at the museum. I always wanted to make music that sat in one place as long as it can, until you get sick of it and shuffle off.

Eno is currently talking to officials at London's Heathrow Airport about creating a room there, a place travelers can mellow out to his music and get away from the over-stimulation of the rest of the hectic terminals - actual music for an actual airport.

When I started doing what I called 'ambient music' in the '70s, people thought it was ludicrous to make music that didn't have a beat, melody, a story, a voice, a beginning, an end, he said. It just seemed like music without anything. Hearing it today, after so many others have followed his path, he said, it just sounds like normal music.

So what about Eno's return to pop? His old band Roxy Music, with Bryan Ferry, is planning to reform and tour this summer, but he will not be joining them for shows or a record.

It's history. I'm not interested anymore. I mean, it's obvious why it's being done. Why does anyone have a reunion? he said laughing. They've suddenly been fired up with a whole bunch of incredible new ideas that have been lying dormant for the last twenty-five years? I just don't like the idea. It leaves a bad taste.

As for Eno's take on more current popsters? The Britney Spears way of making music is exactly like Hollywood, he said. You have script writers, the rewriters, the remixers. There's forty separate departments. I don't particularly mind the music, but I hate the feeling that it's all processed.