Eno’s still the main man for for a healthy mu­si­cal en­vi­ron­ment

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

DON’T TALK TO Brian Eno about air­ports. He was never a great flyer and found him­self on tour with Roxy Mu­sic a lot. On one oc­ca­sion he was driven de­mented by the Muzak at JFK air­port and noted that what was de­signed to be a calm­ing sound was so trite and ba­nal, it had the ex­act op­po­site ef­fect.

A few months later, Eno found him­self in the rather ex­cel­lent Cologne-Bonn air­port. Un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, he felt him­self very calmed and chilled, which he later put this down to how the ar­chi­tect, Paul Schneider, de­signed the space as a mod­ern cathe­dral – all big spa­ces and soft echoes.

With his al­ready con­sum­ing in­ter­est in “prag­matic, en­vi­ron­men­tal mu­sic” en­hanced by his air­port ex­pe­ri­ences, Eno set about record­ing the genre-es­tab­lish­ing Mu­sic for Air­ports (1978). This was purely func­tional mu­sic that dou­bled up as a supreme sonic ex­pe­ri­ence, and it’s the one “am­bi­ent” al­bum you re­ally need to own. Eno wanted mu­sic that would evoke the same re­sponse that he got from the ar­chi­tec­ture at Cologne-Bonn air­port.

Not to get too egg-heady about it, but what Eno ac­com­plished on that piv­otal re­lease was to re­move the fore­ground from mu­sic and high­light the back­ground – a beat-less mood back­ing that is only sup­posed to “tint” the sur­round­ing at­mos­phere. Mu­sic for a spe­cific time and place.

“Func­tional mu­sic” has been Eno’s trade­mark ever since. In 1995, an ad ap­peared in the trade press look­ing for “a piece of mu­sic that was in­spir­ing, univer­sal, fu­tur­is­tic, sen­ti­men­tal and emo­tional” – all in just three-and-a-quar­ter sec­onds. Eno pro­vided the win­ning en­try and his start-up sound mu­sic for Mi­crosoft Win­dows is now the most lis­tened to piece of mu­sic ever com­posed. (Irony alert, but don’t tell Bill Gates: the Mi­crosoft theme was com­posed on Eno’s Mac.)

In ad­di­tion to shap­ing and scor­ing U2 and Cold­play al­bums (never mind his work with Talk­ing Heads, Devo and on Bowie’s Ber­lin tril­ogy), Eno’s own out­put means he re­mains ar­guably the most in­ter­est­ing man in mu­sic to­day. All of which makes any new Eno re­lease an event and, on the newly re­leased Lux he has cre­ated, in all but name, Mu­sic for Air­ports 2.

Al­though com­mis­sioned for a show at the Great Gallery in Turin’s Palace of Ve­naria – the mu­sic was to be used in a cor­ri­dor that con­nects two palaces and at­tracts mil­lions of vis­i­tors a year – it was found that Lux worked per­fectly for air­port ter­mi­nals and to this end was pre­viewed (be­fore re­lease) in Tokyo’s Haneda air­port.

Al­though pick­ing up a bunch of early su­perla­tive re­views, Lux suf­fers from the dreaded “am­bi­ent” la­bel, a term that has been dis­torted out of all mean­ing since Eno de­fined the genre in the 1970s. This is not “chill out” mu­sic; there are no rain­for­est sounds, no harps and no Enya-style wit­ter­ings.

As Eno him­self put it re­cently: “Peo­ple do dis­miss am­bi­ent mu­sic. They call it ‘easy lis­ten­ing’. That’s a very 20th cen­tury art-work kind of idea: that art is only re­ally valid if it takes you by the lapels and at­tempts to wake you up from your use­less bour­geois ex­is­tence. I find it ques­tion­able that art has to some­how be dis­rup­tive.”

Lis­ten to Lux. It’s the most el­e­gant mu­sic you’ll hear all year. bboyd@irish­times.com To ar­tic­i­pate in an au­dio­vi­sual ex­pe­ri­ence with Lux to­mor­row, see http://brian-eno.net

Up and away with Eno

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.