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Brian Eno (1948 - )

Related: 1948 - British music - music producer - rock music - ambient

Brian Eno in his glam period in Ciao 2001 n. 38, 23 settembre 1973
Image sourced here.


Brian Peter George St. Jean le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, usually given as Eno, (born May 15, 1948), is an electronic musician, producer, and music theorist who started his musical career with Roxy Music. He then went on to produce a number of highly eclectic and increasingly ambient electronic and acoustic albums. He is widely cited as coining the term "ambient music" in his Ambient series (Music for Airports, The Plateaux of Mirror, Day of Radiance and On Land). Eno describes himself primarily as a "non-musician" and is indeed best known for "treating" instruments rather than playing them himself. His skill at using "The Studio as a Compositional Tool" (the title of an essay by Eno) led in part to his career as a producer. His methods were recognized at the time (mid-70s) as being unique, so much so that on one album he contributed to (Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway) he is credited with "Enossification."

He collaborated with David Byrne, formerly of Talking Heads, on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which was one of the first albums not associated with hip hop to extensively feature sampling. Eno collaborated with David Bowie as a writer and musician on Bowie's influential "Berlin trilogy" of albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger, on Bowie's later album 1. Outside, and on the song "I'm Afraid of Americans". Eno has also collaborated with Robert Fripp of King Crimson, John Cale, former member of Velvet Underground, on his trilogy Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy, Robert Wyatt on his Shleep CD, with Jon Hassell, with the German duo Cluster, with composer Harold Budd and others.

In 1975, Eno released Discreet Music. The second side consisted of several versions of Pachelbel's canon to which various algorithmic transformations have been applied, rendering it almost unrecognisable. Side 1 consisted of a tape loop system for generating music from relative sparse input. These tapes were later used as backgrounds in some of his collaborations with Robert Fripp, and the methodology (not entirely original with Eno) was used by Fripp (on his Frippertronics albums) and others.

Eno has acted as a producer for a number of bands, including Talking Heads, U2, Devo, and James. He has contributed to albums by artists as varied as Nico, Robert Calvert, Genesis, Edikanfo, and Zvuki Mu. He won the best producer award at the 1994 and 1996 BRIT awards. He is an innovator across many fields of music and recently he has collaborated on the development of the Koan algorithmic music generator.

Eno started the Obscure label in Britain in the early 70s to release works by less-known composers. Only 10 albums were released. Works released included early albums by John Adams, Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars (the famous The Sinking of the Titanic), John Cage, and others. At this time he was also active in the Fluxus movement and his work with the Portsmouth Sinfonia came out of this.

In 1996 Brian Eno, and others, started the Long Now Foundation to educate the public into thinking about the very long term future of society. Brian Eno is also a columnist for the British newspaper, The Observer.

Eno has also been active in other artistic genres, producing videos for gallery display and collaborating with visual artists in other endeavors. One is the set of "Oblique Strategies" cards that he produced in the mid-70s, which was described as "100 Worthwhile Dilemmas" and intended as guides to shaking up the mind in the process of producing artistic endeavors. Another was his collaboration with artist Russell Mills on the book More Dark Than Shark. He was also the provider of music for Robert Sheckley's In the Land of Clear Colours, a narrated story with music originally published by a small art gallery in Spain.

His younger brother, Roger Eno is also a musician, who combines ambient styles with classical music instruments on some of his albums.

The band A Certain Ratio took their name from the lyrics of Eno's song "The True Wheel" (on Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)). British 1990s band The Warm Jets were named after Eno's 1973 album.

Brian is also responsible for the start-up sound to the Windows 95 operating system. Brian was given the directions to create something that was "...'a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,' this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said 'and it must be 3 seconds long.'" --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Eno [Feb 2005]

Ambient [...]

If you've done any reading or research on ambient music, you've no doubt heard this album mentioned as a classic in the genre. It was created way back in 1978, and although different artists had created ambient music before this, it was sort of a groundbreaking release in it's stark minimal-ness. It's like 50 minutes of wallpaper music and the term "ambient" music was actually coined by Eno near to the release of this disc. It's one of those releases that you can have playing in the background for hours while you're working on something else, and not be distracted. It's also one of those discs that if you sit down and listen to very closely, you'll almost certainly fall into a state of hypnosis.


Brian Eno is also one of the most significant record producers of our age. His ability to steer artists into radical new areas was first made obvious on the three albums he made with Talking Heads, culminating in Remain in Light in 1980. By this time he had also produced the seminal compilation of New York's New Wave, No New York, and Devo's Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. In the 1980s he applied his gear-changing skills to U2, helping an already great stadium rock band turn into the most original and creatively-challenging mega-band since the Beatles.

On Fela Kuti

Brian Eno, often considered one of Western music's most articulate musicians, producers and musicologists referred to Fela often in interviews dating back to the 70s, placing him in a class by himself. "In 1972, I first heard a Fela record," Eno said in 1988. "I'd heard James Brown and understood what that was about. Then I heard Fela, and he was an African who listened to James Brown. And he'd taken what James was doing, but really extrapolated it in a big way. The early 70s recordings were the best I think." In 1995, Eno told the BBC, "I listen to [Fela] over and over and over again. I have more albums by him than by any other single artist . . . I listen particularly to the way the bass is used; that's what really interests me about these records. The use of the bass as an instrument that is both percussive and melodic at the same time. " --Carter Van Pelt

No Wave

Brian Eno, who was hanging around the clubs coined the term No-Wave to differentiate it from the up beat pre-packaged New Wave musicians. -- No-Wave Cinema 1978-1987 organized by Matthew Yokobosky at the Whitney Museum


  1. Here Come the Warm Jets (1973) - Brian Eno [Amazon.com]
    In 1973, fed up with Bryan Ferry's domineering in Roxy Music, Eno leapt into a solo career that would find him championing the "art" in "artifice." This record is a who's who of the then-burgeoning English art-rock scene, featuring Robert Wyatt, Robert Fripp, and every member of Roxy Music except its leader (thus answering the musical question, "What if Eno had helmed the third Roxy record instead of Ferry?"). Warm Jets sports a lightheartedness that was a refreshing antidote to the pomposity of Yes and ELP on the dark side of art-rock's spectrum, with nonsensical, sound-based couplets such as "Oh headless chicken / How can those teeth stand so much kicking?" This debut is a milestone not just for Eno, but for all rocking music. Listen to Fripp's furious guitars on "Baby's On Fire" and "Blank Frank." It's incredible, Velvet Underground-inspired rock in a scene that had forgotten what rocking meant. --Gene Booth

  2. Brian Eno: Ambient 1: Music for Airports [Amazon.com]
    Eno's theory of the "discreet music" he called ambient was far from the modern chill-out room: the idea was that it should function at very low volumes, unobtrusively coloring the atmosphere of a room. Evolving by tiny gradations, the long pieces of Music For Airports (the first in a series of albums that followed the statement of purpose Discreet Music) defy close attention, but then they're not meant to be listened to consciously; they're meant to serve as a counterpoint to the frantic arcs of travel, or rather to be imagined in that setting. --Douglas Wolk

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