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.


  1. kevin r hollo says: - reply

    funny in that even if i didnt want to hear that quote in a british accent, you saying it made it so.
    this quote (which is right on the effing money) reminds me of the “what is music” thread that was started on the SOUND AND MIND musicology blog a few weeks ago. you should peep it.

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