Brian Eno Talks Sound Art, New Album, And Hating Twitter

The man whose behind-the-scenes involvement with some of the most popular pop albums, bands, and artists in music history, Brian Eno, has released a new album of ambient art through the Warp Records label called The Ship.

Brian Eno’s association with many artists over the years has provided the composer with the freedom to pursue various projects which have allowed him to think outside the box, often through social experiments with installations and sound.

The New York Times recently interviewed Brian Eno in his London studio about his new album and his artwork, which includes work that’s designed to help soothe patients for a London hospital.

In another interview with Entertainment Weekly, he talks about The Ship, where Eno explains how the music was originally played during one of his installations and a friend of his asked if he could get a mixtape of the work to play while he painted.

In the process of creating the mix, he put the sounds through stereo which began the process of what he suddenly realized would be his next album.

Brian Eno speaker flowers at Marlborough House 2010

The process of creating ambient music will certainly vary from artist to artist. But as Brian Eno reveals through his interviews, he’s always working on various projects — sometimes as a more unconventional experiment, intentionally never finishing — and building them in one way or another, before he knows what they will be.

He makes the comparison to betting on race horses, where he backs the horse that’s ahead in some cases.

But Brian Eno has been known to be influential in his experiments, especially largely influencing the late David Bowie with how to write music during his Berlin trilogy starting with the Low album.

It was around that time that Brian and Peter Schmidt created a process using cards which would help stimulate creative flow called Oblique Strategies, which is often and incorrectly credited to Bowie as the creator, such as in this clip from an episode of Luther with Idris Elba.

But Brian Eno went through a similar creative process with The Ship where he uses a Markov Chain generator to randomize the lyrics, which were either taken from writings in the public domain or some of his older material, helping to form songs out of the ambient sound pool.

“I’ve been working with Markov chain generators which are statistical randomizers. I was using them to generate text and, in some cases, music as well. Like all varieties of randomizers, what matters crucially is A) what you put in the front end and B) how much you select what comes out of the backend. It’s not magic — they’re tools.”

While Brian Eno has been very open about using various tools, he’s explained that he’s not a fan of social media tools like Twitter.

Especially because of how it’s been used to eulogize the deaths of people he’s known such as Bowie and Lou Reed, who died in October of 2013.

Eno acknowledge that he too would be dying soon and how he would like to be remembered.

Brian Eno installation in Italy 2009 British musician Brian Eno unveils his exhibition “PRESENTISM: Time and Space In The Long Now” in Rome, Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. [Image by Paolo Cito | AP Photo]But The Ship also includes a cover of a song by Lou Reed’s original band Velvet Underground, which he says were inspirational to him during their release.

Mr. Eno certainly has a history of being engaged enough with the people, stories, and influences in his work to come up with some ideas that are interesting enough for him to try out, whether they’re in installations with music, paintings, or albums.

And regarding his final correspondence with Bowie via email before he died, or even with his hatred towards Twitter, listeners — and even Brian Eno himself — would have to wait and see if those things will become projects within themselves.

[Image by Cosciansky via Flickr | CC BY 2.0]