Q&A | Brian Eno: Oblique Music
You previously collaborated on a book of essays about the German electronic group Kraftwerk. What made you decide to put together a book about Eno?
Sean Albiez: In the final stages of the editing and writing process of Kraftwerk: Music Non Stop we started to discuss further book projects as, though we had never met before starting the book, we found that we enjoyed our collaborative process and had many similar musical interests. It think it was David who initially suggested looking at Brian Eno. Eno has been a major figure in music since the 1970s and yet little academic attention had been paid to his work. Any attention that had been given seemed to repeat and replay the same ideas and stories. So we felt that undertaking detailed research on Eno’s diverse activities over several decades from a range of academic perspectives would produce new ways of thinking about his work.
“As Eno says, he’s very interested in the idea of music as landscape; and it’s a landscape that I’m quite happy to inhabit.”
David: As Sean said, we’d enjoyed working together on the Kraftwerk book; and when we were discussing other projects Eno seemed to be the obvious next option. He’s amassed quite a reputation as popular music’s resident intellectual, but, aside from one book in the 1990s, his work hadn’t been given the kind of in-depth analysis it deserves. On a more personal level, I’ve been listening to Eno’s solo work for over three decades, and I find it endlessly fascinating. As Eno says, he’s very interested in the idea of music as landscape; and it’s a landscape that I’m quite happy to inhabit. (more…)
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In The Case for Books you wrote that ‘the explosion of electronic modes of communication is as revolutionary as the invention of printing with moveable type’. How do you feel this revolution is changing the way knowledge or information is spread?
Well, first I should say that the word ‘revolution’ is used very loosely, in general, so I said that after some hesitation. I mean, I’ve read about revolutions in menswear and revolutions in football styles of defence and so on. So, I don’t want to weaken the term. And, it’s a term that can be used in lots of different ways. But let’s say that the assertion is that the means of communication are changing as rapidly, as dramatically, today as they did in Gutenberg’s day. And, in fact, we’ve learned a lot about Gutenberg’s day: the change, perhaps, was not quite as rapid as people had thought when they refer to it as a revolution. We know, for example, that manuscript publishing continued for three centuries after Gutenberg, and really flourished. So, that’s by way of preface to what I was saying. But your question is how does this change, whether revolutionary or not, affect the way communication penetrates into society.
Well, you know, you have to just sit on a bus, or in a subway if you’re in New York, or London, or Paris and watch people with their smartphones or their various handheld devices. The phrase is sometimes used: ‘people are always “on”’. That is, they are always online, they’re always communicating. There has, I think, been a restriction of a kind of blank space in life: a time when people, so to speak, did nothing. Of course, they were never doing nothing. But it meant that there was a time in which they weren’t consciously communicating, but letting the world go by. Now, there’s a lot to be said for letting the world go by. You could sit and observe things, and maybe be exposed to surprises. But now I think there is this sense of constantly exchanging messages. Doing it all the time. That’s different, I think, qualitatively, from anything that ever existed before, even though people were exchanging gossip at the village pump. So, I think it is a very profound change in the way we live our lives, and it’s made communication and information more central than they ever were. (more…)