Brian Eno

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Brian Eno in 1977

Brian Peter George St. Jean le Baptiste de la Salle Eno (born May 15, 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England), is an electronic musician, visual artist and music theorist. He is known as a pioneer of electronic art rock in the 1970s (he was a founding member of the band Roxy Music), the inventor of the "ambient" genre of music, and is the co-author (with Peter Schmidt) of Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards printed with aphorisms designed to enhance the process of art making. He is also highly regarded for his collaborative work as a record producer with performers including David Bowie, Talking Heads, and U2. He has pursued a parallel career producing visual art installations in galleries and museums internationally.


Education and early musical career

Eno was educated at Ipswich Art School and the Winchester School of Art, graduating from the latter in 1969. While at art school, he developed an interest in using tape recorders as musical instruments, and he experimented with his first (sometimes improvisational) bands.

Roxy Music

Eno started his professional musical career in London, with the highly-successful glam/art-rock band Roxy Music, from 1971 to '73. As a self-professed "non-musician", at the band's early live shows Eno was to be found not on stage, but behind the mixing desk, where his efforts went way beyond the usual balancing of the volume levels: he would process the instrument sounds through his VCS3 synthesizer, tape recorders and other electronic devices, frequently singing backing vocals as well. Eno soon graduated to join the rest of Roxy on stage however, where his bizarre costumes contributed to a large part of the band's visual appeal. Public interest in Eno fuelled a rivalry between him and Roxy's leader, Bryan Ferry, who sacked him from the band on completion of the tour for their second album, albeit generously allowing Eno to keep his share of the band's considerable debts.

Solo work

Eno embarked on a solo career almost immediately. Between 1973 and 1978 created four influential solo albums of electronically inflected pop songs – Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before and After Science. He played with Phil Manzanera in the band 801. He continued his career by producing a larger number of highly eclectic and increasingly ambient electronic and acoustic albums. He is widely cited as coining the term "ambient music," low-volume music designed to modify one's perception of a surrounding environment, producing his Ambient series (Music for Airports, The Plateaux of Mirror, Day of Radiance and On Land). Eno describes himself as a "non-musician" and coined the term "treatments" to describe his modification of the sound of musical instruments, and to separate his role from that of the traditional instrumentalist. 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 unique, so much so on (Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway) he is credited with "Enossification."

Eno started the Obscure label in Britain in 1975 to release works by less-known composers. The first group of three releases included his own composition, Discreet Music, and the now-famous The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars. The second side of Discreet Music consisted of several versions of Pachelbel's canon to which various algorithmic transformations have been applied, rendering it almost unrecognizable. 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 of King Crimson, and the methodology (not entirely original with Eno) was later used by Fripp (on his Frippertronics albums) and others. Only ten Obscure albums were released, including works by John Adams, Michael Nyman, and John Cage. At this time he was also affiliating with artists in the Fluxus movement and worked with the Portsmouth Sinfonia.

In 1981 he collaborated with David Byrne, of Talking Heads, on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which was built around sampling recordings and radio broadcasts from around the world. 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 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 1992, Eno released his take on 'club electronica' titled Nerve Net.

Eno returned in June of 2005 with Another Day on Earth. It was the first major album of his to primarily feature vocals since his collaboration "Wrong Way Up" with John Cale. The album is unsurprisingly different sonically than his 70's solo work considering the changes in musical production since then, as evident in Another Day on Earth's semi-electronic production.

Producing records and other projects

From the very beginning of his solo career in 1973, Eno has been much in demand as a producer. His lengthly string of producer credits includes albums for Talking Heads, U2, Devo, Ultravox! and James. He won the best producer award at the 1994 and 1996 BRIT awards.

Despite being a self-professed "non-musician", Eno has contributed to recordings by a huge number artists as varied as Nico, Robert Calvert, Genesis, Edikanfo, and Zvuki Mu, in various capacities such as use of his studio/synthesizer/electronic treatments, vocals, guitar, bass guitar, and even just as being 'Eno'.

He collaborated on the development of the Koan algorithmic music generator.

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.

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.

Eno is a columnist for the British newspaper, The Observer.

In 1994 Eno was approached by Mark Malamud and Erik Gavriluk, senior designers on the Microsoft Cairo project. The result was the start-up sound for the Windows 95 operating system (which Eno created on his Apple Macintosh). From an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I'd been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, "Here's a specific problem – solve it." The thing from the agency said, "We want 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 1/4 seconds long." I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I'd finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.


See also



  • Bracewell, Michael Roxy Music: Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, Art, Ideas, and Fashion (Da Capo Press, 2005) ISBN 0306814005
  • Tamm, Eric Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound (Da Capo Press, 1995) ISBN 0306806495

External links

de:Brian Eno es:Brian Eno fr:Brian Eno nl:Brian Eno pl:Brian Eno


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