Jesse Jarnow

brian eno on recordings & noise

It’s always fun to go through old issues of Wired from early in the first cyberboom. On the hyper-colorful mess of an index for the May 1995 issue, they refer to cover subject Brian Eno as “a prototypical Renaissance 2.0 artist” — funny to see the 2.0 meme/self-image already in play, even then.

I was in high school at the time, so I didn’t really grasp most of the hilarious hippie optimism of the whole affair (nor all the details). Still, I quite uncynically read interviews with a lot of heady hitters. I didn’t consciously hear Eno’s music for another few years, but this quote stuck with me right away.

Try it with a British accent. It sounds more thoughtful.

So, what happened with recording is that suddenly you could hear exactly the same piece of music a thousand times, anywhere you chose to listen to it. And this of course gave rise to a while lot of new possibilities within music. I think the growth of jazz, especially improvised jazz, was entirely due to recordings, because you can make sense of something on several hearings — even things that sounds extremely weird and random on first hearing. I did an experiment myself last year in which I recorded a short piece of traffic noise on a street. It’s about three and a half minutes long, and I just kept listening to it to see if I could come to hear it as a piece of music. So, after listening to this recording many times, I’d say, Oh yes, there’s that car to the right, and there’s that door slamming to the left, and I would hear that person whistling, and there’s that baby coming by in the pram. After several weeks, I found I loved it like a piece of music.