Eno Anthology

A collection of writing by and about Brian Eno

One of the things that art is doing for us all the time—again I’m using that very broad definition of art—it’s giving us a chance to have feelings about things that are not dangerous.

When you go into a gallery, you might see a most shocking picture. But actually you can leave the gallery. When you listen to a terrifying radio play you can switch the radio off. So one of the things about art is, it offers a safe place for you to have quite extreme and rather dangerous feelings. And the reason you can do that is because you know you can switch it off. So art has a kind of role there as a simulator. It offers you these simulated worlds—a little bit like a plane simulator, you know—the reason you have simulators for learning to fly a 747 is so that you don’t crash too many 747s – you can have a crash and get out and laugh. Well it’s true of art as well.

BBC John Peel Lecture 2015

Recording Another Day On Earth

Eno’s aversion to what he calls “the obsession with personality” might be thought contradictory from a man who was partly responsible for propelling Bono and co to world superstar status, but is deeply held. “This obsession has really held popular music back, in my opinion. Of course, I realise that it’s the nature of what some people do. But I’m absolutely uninterested in the idea of using music as a vehicle for presenting the performer’s personality. I don’t want to say anything. I have a lot to say when you’re asking me questions, but I don’t want to use music as way of saying things. What I want to use music for is a way of making things happen to me. I want to make things that create emotional or mental conditions for me, and one of the most important conditions is surrender. My yardstick for what constitutes good music is that it changes me. Do I think ‘Wow, that’s a new conception of how things could be,’ or ‘That’s a new set of feelings that I have never experienced before’?

Paul Tingen, Sound on Sound, 2005

We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localized stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.

I think this is good news.

Prospect Magazine, 2009

I think there’s a lot of similarity between what people try to do with religion with what they want from art. In fact, I very specifically think that they are same thing. Not that religion and art are the same, but that they both tap into the same need we have for surrender. That’s what happens when we take drugs. That’s what happens when we have sex. We stop being ‘just me’ and we become part of something else.

Time, 2013

I think when you make something you are always offering some choices and denying others. That’s in the nature of anything that you make as an artist—you’re trying to make a thing, not everything.

Wired UK, 2012

People often ask me what role technology plays in music, and whether I think there is too much technology in music. Recently, I have started answering by saying that technology in music is a little bit like numbers to mathematics. You can’t really imagine music without technology. Now, as my friend Danny Hillis the inventor said, technology is the name we give to things that don’t work yet. When it works we don’t call it technology anymore. But you have to remember that once upon a time a violin was technology, once upon a time an organ was technology. Those things were all built and created by people who were working at the cutting edge of the technologies of their time.

The Telegraph, 2011

I quickly realized that for me this was the future for computers. Computers seen not as ways of crunching huge quantities of data or storing enormous ready-made forests of material, but computers are the way of growing little seeds.

1996

I suppose that probably three-quarters of my working life has been in collaboration. I spend time in the evenings in this room on my own, and really what I am doing then is building up sets of tools for sometimes my own work but actually very often for working with other people. So I have a huge backlist of things that might come in handy at some time, instruments that do particular things or noises. For instance, I came up with one this afternoon that sounded like bass pit staccato you know on an upright bass where just that sound I thought, ah, that’s bass pit staccato. I don’t have any use for that at the moment but I now know that I have a very interesting version of that sound. So sometime in the next few years I’ll think, what I need now is bass pit staccato, and I’ll know I have it.

I keep a lot of things like that in the toolkit and when I am working with people I tend to pull them out. Very often a situation can be set on fire, set to light by an ingredient being thrown into the mix. Something that nobody has ever heard before, and suddenly everyone is excited about it and suddenly it comes to life. Because I work with producing quiet a lot I am often working with musicians who have been months in the studio and who are getting bored rigid with everything. Sometimes it really helps to throw something that changes the perspective on everything.

Collaboration I like for myself as well because it means that I do things that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Because when you are working with somebody else they are pulling you in another direction and you sort of reluctantly have to change your habits to follow them and that’s very useful. I must have made 50 collaborative albums, far more than solo.

2011

Brian Eno: Success Ruins Artists

DM: If you could email your 20-year-old self about what was ahead, what would you tell him? Or would you tell him nothing and just let him get on with it?

BE: I think I’d say, “Put out as much as you can. It doesn’t do anything sitting on a shelf.” My feeling is that a work has little value until you “release” it, until you liberate it from yourself and your excuses for it — “It’s not quite finished yet,” ”The mix will make all the difference,” etc. Until you see it out there in the world along with everything else, you don’t really know what it is or what to think of it, so it’s of no use to you.

David Mitchell, Salon, 2011

Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls eye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead centre.

Paul Morley, The Guardian, 2010

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