Laurie Anderson interviews Brian Eno

Laurie Anderson in Interview:

Img-brian2_152616699090If humans were able to hear light and parse the poetry of the spectrum, then perhaps there would be no need for Brian Eno, who seems to do it effortlessly. While the rest of us are generally content to hear sound, Eno can clearly see it. How else to explain the elaborate sonic color fields and glowing soundscapes that he creates, which feel as much like floating shapes and waves of light as they do music? And how else to make sense of a body of work that has been by turns challenging and definitive and spread across an expanse of disparate worlds and genres, from his early work with Roxy Music, to his ever-evolving solo oeuvre, to the colossal swoosh of his frequent collaborations with U2, to his numerous art projects, compositional gambits, and multimedia installations—not to mention the three ambient-music-generating apps, Scape, Bloom, and Trope, that he has created with musician and software designer Peter Chilvers.

Eno, though, has always had the good taste to never confuse grandeur with bombast. From his first gig with Roxy Music in 1971, it was clear that he was not going to play the role of rock musician as anyone had before. (He often preferred to play off stage, behind the mixing board, processing the sound with a VCS3 synthesizer, even as he sang background vocals.) Eno helped paint David Bowie's late-'70s “Berlin Trilogy” of Low (1977), Heroes (1977), and Lodger (1979) with a sense of minimalist discipline and a saturated electronic whir without sacrificing Bowie's sense of playfulness or his desperately romantic croon. With Eno behind the boards, Talking Heads catapulted from quirky New Wave outfit to mind-blowing world-funk collective, and his later work with Heads leader David Byrne, the co-credited 1981 album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, successfully traversed a precarious edge of experimental music in its use of unconventional instrumentation and found and sampled sounds. But one of Eno's longest and most sustained creative partnerships has been with U2, which began when he and Daniel Lanois joined forces to produce the Irish foursome's brilliantly elliptical 1984 albumThe Unforgettable Fire, and continued as the group transformed itself from a club act into a force that could dominate football stadiums to the last great big rock group standing without ever compromising its creative ambition or sense of spirituality.

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