Brian Eno gave a 81 minutes lecture at Red Bull Music Academy in NY.
Though I’ve been a fan of his music and his ideas for a long time, it’s the first time I saw him speak. As I expected, he’s fascinating. And very funny. Here’s a bunch of his ideas that I thought are worth sharing.
What I mean by surrender is a sort of active choice not to take control. So it’s an active choice to be part of the flow of something.
What you see when you watch someone surfing is, they take control momentarily, to situate themselves on a wave, and then they surrender, they’re carried along by it and then they take control again, and they surrender. I think that’s a very good analogy of what we do throughout our lives, actually. We’re constantly moving between the control phase and the surrender phase.
The only thing is that we tend to dignify the control side of the spectrum, the repertoire of our behaviour, more than the surrender phase. We tend to dignify people who are good at control as well, we think those are the masters of the universe. And we don’t particularly pay attention to people who are good at surrender
At the very end of the lecture, Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) who’s sitting in the audience, talks about the level of intensity and passion he finds in religious music: “”It almost makes me wish I was religious, so I could do something like that. So what should I do?”
"What it is that I’m liking about that music that I’m not hearing in other music?" People doing it are completely engaged with it. They’re not there to present themselves, they’re hear to present something. So what you like, is the sound of someone being opened up, being in a receptive, trusting and vulnerable
Not a lot of our time is spent listening to what we do. I have these ~ 2800 pieces of unreleased music, all stored in iTunes. When I’m cleaning my studio, I just have it playing on random shuffle. Sometimes, I hear something, and I can’t even remember doing it. And I think: “I didn’t even hear what I did when I did it”. We don’t even hear what were doing, we’re so in control mode, that we don’t go in listener mode, surrender mode, ‘let-it-happen-to-me’ mode. You should let that haooen to you more often, and then you’ll find the places where you;re gtting that feeling.
A scenius, term coined by Eno himself, is an extreme genius that happens when a group of people come together around something they all love. It’s the oscillation of enthusiasm and interest that creates something amazing.
Because we come from a culture that wants to create heroes and champions, we tend to do that in the expense of realizing that nobody comes out of nothing, that we’re all born out of complicated scenes, which of course in the case of music involve technology a great deal.
Whoever invented and wrote the code for Logic — which I know was a lot of people — is their musical contribution less significant than, say, Coldplay, or any other group you can mention? So much music is made out of the possibilities of that particular system. So you can’t look at what is happening in music now, without looking at the technology that gives rise to it.
Read more about scenius here.
Picasso’s primary collector was a white Russian prince that would come to Picasso’s studio in Paris and he’d look around the studio and say ” I want that one”, and Picasso would say “”That’s not finished” and he’d say “No I want it just like that”. “And I want that one”, and Picasso would say “But that’s shit”. “I want it”. He would just walk around Picasso’s studio, taking any experiment.
That was important for Picasso, because he suddenly stopped thinking of himself as the person who knew best about his own art. This what happened to Miles Davis I think. “”I don’t know how to judge it. It comes out of me, it’s probably good. It has been in the past. So why whould I ask questions about it? I’ll let history decide.”
When I’m working with other people, one of the things I spend quite a lot of time doing is banning options. For instance, one day in the studio I said “today there will be no multiplication of any kind.”
Now, if you think about that, that cuts out most of the things you do in the studio. It doesn’t only mean no double tracking, it means no echo, no repeats, it means no process by which you synthetically duplicate things. So if you want to echo, then you have to find some other way of doing it.
Another kind of option-cancelling device is to say “let’s not use anything on that side of the room.” Or, one that I particularly favour is to take away all the cymbals from the drums, for example. They’re totally redundant things most of the time anyway.
I’ve always thought that two things that really make for good records are deadlines and small budgets. The things that make for bad records are no deadlines and endless budgets, cause you can piss around forever with that.
I remember working with one famous band. I had heard something they’d done in the past and I thought they just spent too much time on it. You all know what that sounds like, when something has been sort of beaten to death, basically. Every detail has been finessed so many times that there’s no life left in it. It’s a little bit like British cooking before 1970.
I took this band to a very good Italian restaurant in London, and I had already arranged with the manager that I could take them into the kitchen. So this is a fantastic restaurant, very famous, very cool, with impeccably dressed waiters and good service. It’s all very chic. And you go into the kitchen and it’s like a scene from hell. There’s people dashing around and swearing and food flying everywhere and it’s incredible, watching something being cooked there. It’s like, great ingredients, as little as possible time spent in the pan, and then it’s on the plate. This food tastes like it’s fresh and exciting and thrilling. You can feel the speed of the preparation, actually. You can feel the life in the whole thing.
And so I said this is how we should make records. It worked for a few days.
Sometimes I get the urge to start a non-profit whose only focus is making data easily available and easy to visualize. Here we see two images. One is showing increases in spending over time per student in California, comparing it to changes over time in SAT results. It appears California spends more and more with poor results. The other graph is comparing California to the rest of the US, showing continuously spending less and less.
While both can be accurate, one or both of them is essentially being dishonest for a specific agenda. I wish I knew which one, but I need to get back to work.