Brian Eno On Musical Innovation

In a recent Guardian interview, musical pioneer Brian Eno shares some insightful thoughts on music.

In a recent interview by The Observer, music pioneer Brian Eno shares some insightful thoughts on his craft.

The Role of Instruments in a Digital Context

For Eno, the synthesizer is an instrument that marks a break from the history of music and has little to no cultural conventions that determine how we use it. He refers to it as an “unfinished instrument” due to the infinite ways it can be used to sculpt sound.

He also asserts that:

“Instruments sound interesting not because of their sound but because of the relationship a player has with them”.

The Significance of Rejection and Exclusion

With ambient music, he strived to create sounds which did not yet exist. He’s attracted to the idea of a work that is free of references to the real world, a departure from the usage of melodies, lyrics, and even rhythm.

He explains:

“so in a way that was music designed by leaving things out – that can be a form of innovation, knowing what to leave out”.

Another twist in Eno’s thinking is that he embraces the music he rejects and dislikes:

“The rejection side is as important as the endorsement part. You define who you are and where you are by the things that you know you are not… You don’t quite know where you are but you find yourself in the space left behind by the things you’ve rejected.”

To Sell or Not to Sell

Balancing music between the experimental (process over results), and the popular (results over process),  is a dilemma facing many artists. Eno clarifies his position on this topic in saying that:

“as a listener who grew up listening to pop music I am interested in results. Pop is totally results-oriented and there is a very strong feedback loop… I liked the processes and systems in the experimental world and the attitude to effect that there was in the pop, I wanted the ideas to be seductive but also the results.”

The Observer: “On gospel, Abba and the death of the record: an audience with Brian Eno”

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