some people associated with brian eno

Updated 1st February 1998

This is a page that dates from the very earliest days of the EnoWeb (01993), when web pages on many topics and people did not exist. It lists some information and pointers on some folks with whom Eno has worked, or in some cases folks whom Eno has cited as a source of information, inspiration or somesuch. Several years on, you can find information about practically anything and anyone on the Web, and so this page is no longer being updated -- because sites dedicated to those people do a much better job than we can with our pencil-portraits of the Stars. We do get messages from people saying "Why can I not discover information about U2 on your pages? You are dissing my favourite supergroup, and my posse and I intend to come down to your hood forthwith and give you one of my famous knuckle sandwiches." Or messages along those lines, anyway. Please remember that this is not intended as an exhaustive list of people or their careers, and you can definitely do better elsewhere.

Cornelius Cardew

Eno's first recorded appearance is on a recording of Cardew's and it appears that Cardew was probably a strong influence on Eno, especially with regard to Eno's work with the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Cardew has been described as one of the most influential figures in the post-war British avant-garde. Some posts to the Eno mailing list about Cornelius Cardew have been collected into a separate page. There is also an interesting page from B&L records with a bio and other info and a page on the Scratch Orchestra.

John Cage

John Cage is considered by many to be one of the fathers or grandfathers of twentieth century contemporary avant-garde music. Eno has only some tangential connections to Cage; he's produced a record of Cage's music on his Obscure Music label, and he's spoken about Cage on occasion. I've started a page of information on the internet about John Cage to offer some starting points for further exploration. Cage's exploration of silence and chance operations in music are just a few of the connections one might find to Eno's music and philosophical approaches to creativity.

John Cale

Cale was one of the founding members of the Velvet Underground, an influential and chaotic rock group formed in the mid 60's which gained international fame and became a "pet" band around Andy Warhol's Factory. Cale studied with La Monte Young and thus was heavily involved and influenced by the early minimalist movement growing in New York at that time.

Eno has cited being interested in the early Velvet Underground recordings, particularly in a track titled 'Murder Mystery' on their 3rd lp, though I believe this track was recorded after Cale departed the band. At any rate, Eno hooked up with Cale and had some involvement in some Cale recordings, I think also with Nico, another ex-Velvet.

A recent (as in late 1994-early1995) issue of "Goldmine" magazine had a big retrospective on John Cale, complete with a most exhaustive discography.

These releases by John Cale had some Eno involvement:

John Cale : The man who couldn't afford to orgy/Sylvia

        said (single)                                        1974

John Cale : Fear                                             1974

Various Artists: June 1, 1974                                1974

John Cale : Slow Dazzle                                      1974

John Cale : Helen Of Troy                                    1975

John Cale : Guts                                          1974/75

John Cale : Caribbean Sunset                                 1983

John Cale : Words For The Dying                              1989

Brian Eno / John Cale : Wrong Way Up                         1990

Brian Eno / John Cale : Spinning away (5" CD EP)             1990

Brian Eno / John Cale : One word (5" CD EP)                  1990

Brian Eno / John Cale : Soil samples records (promotional    1990

Brian Eno : Words and Music from 'Wrong Way Up'              1991


There is an ancient page on the EnoWeb regarding Cluster.

Kevin Ayers

Kevin Ayers was a founding member of Soft Machine, a wonderful Canterbury band that shared house band duties at the UFO Club with Pink Floyd and Arthur Brown circa 1967. Around 1974 Ayers and Eno hooked up somehow, collaborating on an lp with Lady June on her "Linguistic Leprosy" lp and doing at least one radio appearance together wherein they improvised a noisy piano duet. I believe it was through Ayers that the "June 1, 1974" lp and concert came together, uniting ex-Softs Robert Wyatt, Eno, John Cale, Nico and Ayers for a one shot live show. This was a fertile and productive time for all of the above, with various combinations of the musicians appearing on or producing works with each other. See the Canterbury discogrphy linked in above for more info on Ayers and his projects.

Robert Fripp

Fripp and Eno met circa summer of 1972, I think during or around the recording sessions of Matching Mole's Little Red Record, a Robert Wyatt project that Fripp produced. Shortly thereafter Fripp dropped by Eno's home and Eno demonstrated the tape-looping system that would later be adopted by Fripp as "Frippertronics", a term since retired in favor of "Soundscapes". Fripp was known for his work with the band King Crimson, but the droney ambient sounds that Fripp and Eno produced were to yeild two lps and many collaborations over the years, including Eno introducing Fripp to David Bowie for some collaborations on what many feel is some of Bowie's best recorded works. See the Fripp/King Crimson Web pages for more info on Mr. Fripp and on subscribing to the Elephant Talk mailing list. An article by Fripp in the ET archives has some interesting overlap on the subject of Stafford Beer (see below), as Fripp discusses a book of Beer's, _The Brain of the Firm_, in an article noted as a diary of Fripp's, originally published as an article in Musician Magazine in 1982. Fripp's record company Discipline Global Mobile has a web-site here.

David Bowie

David (Jones) Bowie was active in the UK music scene for a number of years before Eno started recording with Bowie. One might find some parallels in Bowie and Eno both exploring androgonous or slightly feminine personas in their early 70's careers, with Eno's reputation for being outrageous in some eyes likely being drawn from his odd costuming, use of make-up and mascara, while Bowie appearing in drag on lp covers and in early rock videos ("I am DJ", from Lodger) was fuel for similar media hype a few years later (1979). I think the Stones pre-dated both of them in rockstar cross-dressing photos.

From what I gather, the three albums that Bowie, Eno and Robert Fripp recorded together stand to many Bowie fans as a pinnacle of Bowie's career. The "Low" lp explored some early ambient/instrumental Eno territories, at a time when Bowie's label must have shuddered at the prospect of releasing a new lp without words and songs on every track, leaving the lp unlikely to receive broad commercial airplay. I've heard that the instrumental tracks owed some inspiration to Philip Glass (probably more from early Glass works than to his more known works these days), which is amusing since the music in turn inspired Glass to write a work based on the Bowie/Eno tracks.

Though Eno and Bowie hadn't worked together for many years after their mid 70's collaborations there are supposedly some new works pending from Fripp & Eno which Bowie may contribute, and another possible project of Bowie and Eno working together on a CD-ROM or maybe yet another musical release. A 90's Bowie release, "The Buddha of Suburbia", credited Eno as inspiration in the liner notes (and pretty noticably in the music) but at the same time Bowie pokes good natured fun at Eno for double-tracking vocals and singing like a little girl.

Since then Bowie and Eno talked about a CD-ROM projected and recorded some material together. Some of this was released as David Bowie's "1. Outside" in fall 1995 and featured a bizarre "art crimes" theme on outsider art expressed as murders and mutilations. There was rumored to be more avant-garde material recorded at the Outside sessions, at one time slated for another CD release (called "Inside") but this has yet to see the light of day. Interviewed by Raygun in late 1996 or early 1997, Bowie described "Inside" as "fabulous... quite bizarre" and said it could possibly be released after the other 3 or 4 albums in the Outside "hypercycle", possibly on the World Wide Internet as Algeria Touchshriek terms it. Bowie and Eno were due to work on the second part of the hypercycle, entitled "2.Contamination", in summer 1997, but with David's extensive Earthling tour and Brian's sabbatical in St Petersburg this proved impossible. According to David, at the time, he envisaged "2.Contamination" as having some bearing on "1.Outside", yet going "backwards and forwards between Indonesian pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries and today."

In late 1994 Eno raved about a Bowie/Eno CD-ROM project entitled "Leon" in Opal Information, which would have tied into the "Outside" theme, as Leon Blank is one of "1.Outside"'s characters. Like "Headcandy" and "Jump", "Leon" was to have been produced by ION. At one point there was a prototype CD-ROM made by Eno/Bowie and ION, who spent 4 days with Eno chopping up raw tracks from the early tapes used for "1.Outside" into the guts of a mix-it-yourself CD-ROM. Various comments made by Eno regarding CD-ROMs shifting large amounts of information around suggest that he was not wholly enthusiastic about the result. We assume that Eno's interests were diverted into the viable SSEYO Koan product, which generates new, unexpected music rather than just shuffling different musical elements in a different order. We believe that the funding may not have been forthcoming to proceed with the "Leon" project.

David Bowie's official web-site and home of BowieNet is here.

Harold Budd

"Sat in the corner of a west London pub, surrounded by empty pint glasses and laughing like a drain, Harold Budd is nothing like you'd anticipate," wrote Matt Smith in The Independent, 4th October 1996.

Born in 1936, Budd spent his childhood on the edge of the Mojave desert, California - he talks in the same article of "the unspeakable gorgeous loneliness of the desert", an atmosphere he evokes very strongly in By The Dawn's Early Light and the track 'Gypsy Violin' on Lovely Thunder.

He went to college in 1957, was thrown out for fighting and was drafted into the army. A fan of be-bop, he used to play drums with Albert Ayler (also a conscript). Budd wanted to be Art Blakey or Kenny Clark but knew he wasn't good enough. Having returned to college, in 1961 or thereabouts he went to a lecture by John Cage & David Tutor(?) called "Where are we going and what are we doing?" On the BBC Radio 3 programme Mixing It in 1996, he described this as

"like an epiphany for me. It just opened up a whole world that I knew was lurking out there but I didn't know how to touch it. Because all my professors in the university were completely antagonistic to the entire thing. In fact the gentleman who brought John and David there was fired - can you imagine that? No sexual indiscretion, no showing up drunk, no, no, he brought an artist to school and was fired for it. It was so outrageous that I decided not to just participate in the musical life of the university at all."

Budd gained an interest in the visual arts, especially Rothko and Klein. His 1996 album Luxa has several tracks named after contemporary artists. For one of Budd's 1960's pieces, he stated that it should be played in total darkness at a very low volume. Another was a 24-hour piece for solo gong. In a reaction against Cage and the Avant-Garde, in 1972 he wrote 'Madrigals of the Rose Angel' - music in Budd's words that was "as offensively pretty as possible". Back in the '60s "this was warfare"!

"Anyway, a tape of that piece circulated - all over Creation as far as I could tell - not by me, I wasn't a careerist, but Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars got a copy of it, and they took it to Eno, and Eno at the time was starting a record company for strange music... I don't know how else to put it... but he called me at my home in Los Angeles to ask me, basically, 'Is this the sort of thing you do?'"

Several months later Budd recorded it in London and realised for the first time that recording is a process of creativity, not just of documentation.

"He [Eno] is the one that really showed me how to use the studio as your palette. Just the philosophical 'splash' that you use the studio in a way that everyone else doesn't, and you use it as one of your primary tools. That was revelatory to me."

Budd carries titles around in his head and waits for the music to come along and fit, according to an interview in Future Music Issue 48, October 1996. In the same interview, he explains that he has very few musical instruments - "I no longer even have a piano in my flat! It took up too much room and I'm not an orthodox musician who sits down and plays, so I just got rid of the thing ... I hire a studio when it's really serious." Budd enjoys collaborating - projects have included work with with the Cocteau Twins, Andy Partridge and Hector Zazou. In 1996 he was planning a collaboration with John Foxx (former front-man for Ultravox and creator of that classic of isolationist electropop, Metamatic, which boasted lyrics such as "In those viscose clothes / his watch-hand glows / he's a liquid". And we thought Eno had an odd take on the world...) Albums with Eno are The Plateaux of Mirror and The Pearl.

Jon Hassell

Jon Hassell's musical roots are diverse - he's a bit older than Eno, studied tape and electronic music under Karlheinz Stockhausen and Henri Posseur. He also worked with La Monte Young and Terry Riley in some of the founding roots of the New York minimalists of the 60's. He studied indian classical music under Pandit Pran Nath, learning to mimic indian vocals with his trumpet.

Around 1980 when Eno was producing the Talking Heads, Jon Hassell was involved in some studio sessions for the Heads' Remain in Light sessions. Hassell, Eno and Byrne got to hashing out some ideas for a collaboration of ethnic influenced music and got so far as doing a press junket for some French magazine that featured then all on the cover, describing the planned project. As Jon has described it to me they originally talked about going out to some shack in the desert for a few weeks, locked up with some recording equipment and instruments, to make something perhaps along the lines of the Residents 'Eskimo' (a fake ethnic lp of pseudo "Eskimo" music).

For whatever reasons the sessions apparently commenced in NY without Hassell and the result was "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts", a groundbreaking techno/funk/ ethnic work that was one of the first releases to use "samples" of ethnic musics dropped into the mix, before samplers were even invented or common place.

Eno and Hassell collaborated on some other releases, including the wonderful "Fourth World Possible Musics" release, and I believe that Eno mixed some live perfomances of Hassell over the following years, with Michael Brook playing a heavy role in some of those releases. Hassell adopted a heavily processed haromized trumpet sound during his work with Eno, which he continued to use for some years but recently abandoned as he seeks a more urban sound and acknowledges the influence of Miles Davis and Gil Evans in his music.

Daniel Lanois and Michael Brook

Lanois and Eno apparently hooked up through some recording work; the first I became aware of Lanois was via his production work, I think assisting Eno in producing a U2 release. I don't really have much info on him, but it appears that Lanois and Eno work well together - Lanois has manged to bring in Eno on a few projects he's produced, such as the Neville Brothers "Yellow Moon", and both Lanois and Eno have worked with Michael Brook, a guitarist who I think first appeared in a band with Lanois' sister, in Martha and the Muffins. Brook went on to work with Jon Hassell on about 5 releases, some of which were produced by Eno, and Lanois and the Eno brothers have appeared on Michael Brook's solo releases. More recently Brook has recorded and toured with John Cale and toured with David Sylvian and Robert Fripp.

Chris Hanis ( is working on some further info on Daniel Lanois.

Who is Richard Rorty?

Richard Rorty and Brian Eno by Gregory Taylor

(Updated 9th October 02004! Hah!)

In addition to his activities as a composer, producer, and performer, Brian Eno reads. Anyone who is at all familiar with either his interviews and/or writing will occasionally catch a name dropped here and there: Stafford Beer, Morse Peckham, and the American philosopher Richard Rorty. I think that much of Brian's recent thinking and writing on the relationship between kinds of decision-making and the language with which we make judgements of value in a world where all kinds of views are represented owes a lot to the Rorty that Brian's read. In fact, I don't think Eno's antiessentialism would be as articulate without Richard Rorty's writings. The following is a very brief description of Rorty's philosophical writings. Although Eno most often refers to the book "Contingency, Irony and Solidarity," I'll try here to provide a little background to the whole of Rorty's writings; I think that to do otherwise would be a little like describing Eno's output only in terms of "Music for Airports/Thursday Afternoon/Neroli."

Richard Rorty's career bears some superficial resemblances to Eno's, in that he begins his career in a position in which he's essentially located somewhere in the "mainstream" (as Eno's first exposure occurs in the context of British "pop" music with Roxy Music), at some point heads off in what seems to be a radically different sort of territory (which leaves some of his philosophical colleagues longing out loud for his "early stuff"), and in the process finds himself drawn into quite another set of alignments. And - this is more of a stretch-both Rorty and Eno are in some respects interested in looking at the work of "non-practitioners"-the notion that one occasionally finds novel solutions to a given dilemma by consulting people who are "nonmusicians" or "nonphilosophers."

When asked about his work, many philosophers (those in the Anglo-American tradition, anyway) will generally say something supportive about his earlier work as one of the major American analytic philosophers. They're referring to his work in the philosophy of mind, language, and truth, and will usually mention his 1979 book "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature."

But his interest for folks like Eno and people interested in cultural studies and literary theory begins when he pretty much completely repudiated his earlier analytic work for a kind of pragmatism which is a lot more in sync with the philosophical positions of continental European philosophers and theorists such as Heidegger, Derrida, Lyotard, Habermas, and Foucault.

By now, your little PostModern Theory detectors should be clicking away (should that surprise any serious Eno fan?); but I think it's helpful to pause for a moment and provide a brief outline of Rorty's earlier work: it's easier to see where he wound up if you know where he started.

"Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" was an important work for analytic philosophers in its radical critique of the traditional ideal of knowledge as a faithful representation of reality. In this traditional view, the mind is a kind of mirror which reflects the real, and Philosophy has the job of testing and repairing this mirror so that our propositions will do a better job of "reflecting" reality. Rorty is critical in his book of this idea that Philosophy can somehow "fix" the conditions of knowledge in a way which is unaffected by social practices, or the games and vagaries of language itself. In short, he argues that this notion that Philosophy's ability to fix these things in a way that's ahistorical or independent of any and all "frames of reason" (to quote from the Eno/Cale song) is a hollow pretension.

Proceeding from this, he comes up with three basic ideas which are pretty far outside of the traditions of the analytical tradition from which he comes, but a lot more like the kind of Phenomenology that one finds in European philosophers.

So, I think we can now begin to see where Brian Eno might start quoting him a bit: Since we create both language and truth about the world, we ought to be interested in the reconstruction of language to make it more useful and rewarding and to make the world more "satisfying" to our desires.

Since Rorty views creation/construction as more important goals (or more useful ends) than discovery/objective description, you can imagine how Rorty's thinking took a kind of radically relativistic and aesthetic turn. This means, for example, that one could claim that Philosophy (as practiced) may not be as useful for answering the questions of ordinary people as writers or poets or artists, whose work is explicitly concerned wrestling with questions of contingency and the construction of meaning from objects at hand.

This brings us to the book that Eno says all those nice things about, "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity". Whenever you hear the Eno talking about things like "final vocabularies" and what he calls "ISMism", he's pretty much repeating Rorty. "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity" is an attempt at combining what you'd think of as traditional philosophical Liberalism (in a social/public/political context) with a more personal or private ethic of personal self-enrichment. Liberalism in the philosophical sense is a great place to start for this project, since one would seek to harmonize the personal and political by creating a society that avoids causing pain to others so that individuals (yourself included, of course) is free to pursue a personal/private path toward perfection.

In "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity," language is still a big part of the story, but is doesn't function in the same way. Instead of language serving as some kind of instantiation of reason, its primary use involves fashioning one's self-in a way that's primarily aesthetic. We become a world of storytellers in the midst of a shifting set of audiences; not having to resort to "final" or "objective" vocabularies, we remake or reconstitute society and ourselves by retelling our stories in different contexts and different vocabularies.

In the years following the publication of "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity," Rorty has come, increasingly, to focus on the "public" side of the equation-writing on the traditions of American political liberalism, and appearing as an author in such "popular" political periodicals as The Nation. If you want to continue beyond the ideas of "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity" and investigate the "public" side of Rorty's thinking, I'd recommend his book, "Philosophy and Social Hope." I think you'll find echoes of Eno's own comments on how social and political systems are organized and function (or do not) in this work in the same manner as you might recognize Eno's aesthetics in "Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity".

For a sense of Rorty's more recent thinking and writing, you can find a Nation essay on fighting democracy with terror here, or this interesting piece about philosophical convictions, whose opening paragraph is too good not to quote in full:

"Philosophers get attention only when they appear to be doing something sinister - corrupting the youth, undermining the foundations of civilization, sneering at all we hold dear. The rest of the time everybody assumes that they are hard at work somewhere down in the sub-basement, keeping those foundations in good repair. Nobody much cares what brand of intellectual duct tape is being usedů."

Could we say this of our artists, too?

Who is Christopher Alexander, and what's the Eno connection?

Christopher Alexander is a designer/architect involved with The Berkeley Design Group, which came up with some innovative approaches to design and funtion of space. The book _A Pattern Language_ details a language of 253 patterns it considers essential elements of a community or home. It is sort of the design equivalent of Eno's Oblique Strategy cards. In an interview in 1988 Eno said that he had goven away 28 copies of this book; that he kept buying it again and finding someone else he wanted to share it with so he'd give it away and buy it again. It's a fascinating book even for folks not interested in design and architecture - Eno described is as being about "designing your life."

A Christopher Alexander page is being drafted to include more info, so far mostly just some posts from the Eno list citing some of Alexander's work and my reading into that some relationships to hypertext design issues.

There is a "patterns" mailing list that is a group of folks applying Alexander's ideas to C++ Object Oriented programming, sharing objects as a group project of some sort. It seems that some folks known as the "gang of four" applied _A Pattern Language_ as a building block for an OOP philosophical approach to patterns. List info and archives can be accessed through the Patterns Home Page.

What about Stafford Beer, Morse Peckham, Stewart Brand, Edward de Bono and Christopher Alexander?

Richard Joly offered some comments on the Eno list tying these threads together in relation to Brian Eno.

Kurt Schwitters

Schwitters played a role in the Dada art movement in the early 20th century, partly known for his poems of nonsense words. I had thought that a recording of Schwitters was used on the Talking Heads 'Fear of Music' track "I Zimbra" but someone informed me that I Zimbra was actually based on a piece by Hugo Ball. I'll buy that, Ball was actually a much more major player in the Dada scene too.

There's still another Schwitters connection listed below.

From Joe Zitt)

Fri Nov 18 20:55:44 1994

Subject:       Ursonate

I just listened to a section of the new CD of Kurt Schwitters's "Ursonate". It's from a performance of the piece many years ago by Schwitters. The sound isn't great, since it's made from a copy of an old acetate that was kept under less than archival conditions. The CD is on the Wergo label.

Eno connection? This piece is the source of the vocal samples on "Kurt's Rejoiner" from "Before and After Science".

Jah Wobble

Jah Wobble worked with John Lydon for Public Image Limited. He gained his name when a drunken Lydon was introducing him to somebody and failed to pronounce the words "John Wardell" correctly. For a time he worked for London Underground, then re-surfaced with The Invaders Of The Heart and a number of albums including Spinner.

Interviewed on the BBC Radio 3 programme Mixing It in January 1998, he explained how he had become involved in Spinner:

I was thinking it was going to be a big trouble, to be honest, you know: 'Brian Eno wants you to produce an album,' and it's like, 'This could be good, what's the score?' and it was, 'Well, Brian's done this soundtrack for this film, but he doesn't feel the soundtrack' -- it was a Derek Jarman film -- 'he doesn't feel that the soundtrack is good enough in its own right to release as a piece of music, he'd like you to do some work on it.'

"Basically he sent over a collection of about 16/17 little noises on DAT, little squeaky noises and atmospheres and stuff, and we set it to music. And I said to everyone, 'Well, this is sounding pretty good, but actually there's gonna to be trouble. Because I heard he sometimes changes his mind and it'll suddenly get really difficult.'

"Done it, everything's fine. Got a dodgy fax from him, saying, erm, that he wanted me to 'seduce' him more -- that he was going to be a 'Moorish maiden' and I had to be a Saracen or something, so I thought, 'Oh gaw, here we go, y'know, don't need this, um, it's going to get "Luvvie"-ish...' but I met him and he said, 'Do you really like it?' and I said 'Yeah, if I didn't like it I wouldn't send it over to you,' and he said, ''Sgood enough for me'. So it was like, 'phew!' And he's a nice man."

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