“Ambient Music has arrived at middle age. 2018 marks 40 years since the release of Brian Eno’s Music For Airports, which effectively introduced the term. As a musical form it has endured, even though its sense of self as a genre has become arguably obfuscated at best and ineffectual at worst. Genres, like human beings, can undergo periods where direction and clarity are lacking. When such periods take hold in the middle years, a mid-life crisis can often occur. With that in mind, I am reconsidering ambient music and its place looking into the 21st century. What might ambient music’s next decade (let alone 40 years) be concerned with?”
To celebrate his 80th birthday, Anastasia Tsioulcas (NPR) offers an overview of the life and career of Steve Reich, enriched by conversations with the composer himself. She begins by acknowledging the profound influence Reich has held on fellow musicians and composers, from Brian Eno to David Bowie to Radiohead, and as a result the contemporary musical landscape. The legacy of his work can be traced through pop, ambient, and avant-garde music.
In 2011, Tsioulcas talked to Reich about his experimental work “WTC 9/11”, a commemorative piece that “intersperse[s] emergency calls from first responders and air traffic controllers with the recollections of his friends and neighbors”. “WTC 9/11” also records and documents “the recollections of Jewish women who sat with victims’ remains and chanted psalms and other Biblical texts”. Tsioulcas draws attention to Reich’s use of recorded voice in other projects, such as Different Trains, and the complex role that religious faith, specifically Judaism, plays in Reich’s life and work. (more…)
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…)
“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. (more…)
Few artists have excited me like David Bowie. As a teenager, the punk electronica of Low, the bombast of “Heroes”, and the angular anthems of Lodger helped me acclimatise to living alone in the city.
There was also the glacial paranoid chic of Station to Station, the throbs and screeches of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), a panorama of the 1980s New York, to say nothing of the postmodern murder mystery, 1. Outside. (I can still remember the thrill of hearing songs from the latter album opening David Lynch’s Lost Highway and closing David Fincher’s Seven.)
All of these records, alongside those by Bowie collaborators Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, became the soundtrack to my undergraduate years. Neurotic, pulsing, existential pop.
I found in David Bowie a fantastic empty signifier, a blank canvas ready and waiting for me to impose and inscribe my obsessions. During these years he became my idol. Not simply someone to identify with, but an idea or an image that I aspired toward: a striking embodiment of the power of art to transform ourselves and the world around us.