: your questions answered - about brian eno's music :
updated august 02001

Q. What is "Ambient" music? (The answer to this one drones on for ever, dude. You can skip to the next question if you want.)

See the liner notes to Music for Airports and the Epsilon: Ambient Music Information Archives. The On Land liner notes contain further insights, plus instructions on how to create your own ambient sound system.

These days the term "Ambient" has been widely attached to forms of industrial and techno dance music in a context that is not very related to Eno's use of the term - it tends to now get applied to anything from new age to dance or noise music with the only common element perhaps being a focus on drones or spacey synths.

The roots of ambient music are seen by some as being found in music and ideas by Eric Satie and John Cage and other 20th century composers than in Rock music and Brian Eno.

Eno's ambient experiments started earlier than his Discreet Music record -- he has referred to experiments at art college tapping the metal shade of an anglepoise light and slowing down a tape of the results. Perhaps in tribute to theat early experiment, Here Come The Warm Jets includes slowed-down wind-chimes. And before vinyl gets completely forgotten, let's spare a few moments for Taking Tiger Mountain. The bit in the middle of the record, no, not the hole, the wide-spiral track that leads the needle to the end of the record (stop us if we're getting too technical) at the end of the fifth song, The Great Pretender, was specially designed as a circular loop, so instead of the needle lifting up and returning to the side of the turntable at the end of side 1, the record could keep playing a loop of the frogs croaking for hours. Tom was a bit disappointed that this didn't happen on the CD version.

Malcolm has a few thoughts on what Ambient music in historical contexts via Eno's early ambient works before it became redefined as a genre and marketing tool in the 90's.

Q. What are Frippertronics? Did Brian Eno invent tape-looping techniques?

Eno is perhaps most known with regard to tape loops for introducing Robert Fripp to a system of looping two reel-to-reel decks which became known as Frippertronics. It's not clear if Eno devised this particular system or found it after someone else did. Eno almost certainly wasn't the first to explore the technique and probably picked it up from Steve Reich or Terry Riley. I've heard that Pauline Oliveras was using a system like this in the 60's. Eno was at least very familiar with Reich's tape pieces and cited It's Gonna Rain as an influence at his talk on Generative Music at the Imagination Conference in 1996.

Frippertronics isn't so much a tape "loop" as it is a tape delay and looped signal. Conventional tape loops are cut and spliced together at the ends to form a loop. Frippertronics uses a reel of tape on one reel-to-reel and records on that machine - the tape runs out to a take-up reel on a second reel-to-reel instead of on the first deck, and the signal is played back on the second deck and also can be looped back and mixed into the electronic inputs on the first unit. This creates a degenerative delay, which with level control on the "feedback" signal can be used to sustain a repeating "loop" or to let it decay into the tape hiss and infinity. This system was used for the Fripp & Eno releasesEvening Star and (No Pussyfooting), using guitar and some synth, recorded in Eno's living room. Fripp later started using it for solo guitar, occasionally using pre-recorded frippertronics tapes to solo over. Fripp and Eno first recorded with this system in September 1972.

More recently, Robert Fripp's experiments have evolved into Soundscapes and Radiophonics. The guitar is still the input device, but digital delay techniques are used. The guitar can sound like any instument, and sounds can go into his large boxes of tricks and not come out for ages. The Soundscapes records are highly recommended, particularly A Blessing Of Tears, whilst the Radiophonics ones are scary.

Brian Duguid notes:
I don't believe Eno's tape-delay system was original; the description of it matches the description of the system used by Pauline Oliveros to compose her piece "I of IV" in the mid-sixties, although that used oscillator tones as its source material. (I haven't heard "I of IV"; does anyone know if it's available on any recording?)

Martian Bachelor answers:

Pauline Oliveros's "I of IV" is on a vinyl LP called "New Sounds In Electronic Music" (Odyssey/Columbia/CBS #32-16-0160). The piece takes up all of Side 2 (20:03). The back cover notes say it was made in July, 1966, at the Univ of Toronto Electronic Music Studio, that it's a real time studio performance composition, and uses a combination-tone technique developed in 1965 at the San Francisco Tape Music Center (where P.O. was from 1961-67). The equipment is described, and it definitely involves two decks and a tape delay (8 seconds) feedback loop. It's an absolutely gripping and memorable piece of music, and parts will raise the hair on the back of your neck. Other parts are more "ambient". It's hard to conceive of this music having been created in the same universe and at the same time as The Monkeys, Lawrence Welk, and Green Acres... I have no idea if this LP is still available -- would suppose not, except that Steve Reich's "Come Out" is more than half of Side 1, so the LP may still have interest out there because of him and Oliveros. It may have been re-released on CD for all I know...

Eno has also used loops in other ways - for his video installations he has used "8 simultaneous tape loops of slightly different durations running out of synch with each other."

The San Francisco Exploratorium installation had a soundtrack that consisted of loops of varying lengths, on auto-repeat cassette decks playing non synchronously. So he had four cassette decks playing different length loops in 8 different channels (as far as I could tell they were not "stereo" mixes on the tapes but actually two different non-synchronous tracks), and then he localized the channels through speakers scattered through the installations so standing at any one spot you would hear a blend of loops through different speakers. These "loops" were actually fairly long, and the "soundtrack" itself was essentially one huge loop - Eno guestimated that it would take some 127 weeks for the loop to precisely repeat itself. But from a listener perspective repetetive elements were pretty recognizable. It sounds like Eno may have used the same source material at various locations, but each random configuration of the starting of the cassettes would create a fairly unique juxtaposition of the source loops.

Eno talks more about these sorts of looping systems in his liner notes on his use of Koan Pro software that he used for his Generative Music 1 software based music release and in some of the archive interviews.

Some further history of tape loops via Christopher K. Koenigsberg and with amendments by Brian Duguid:

The first ever magnetic sound recorder was patented in 1898 by Valdemar Poulsen, using steel wire rather than tape. Steel tape was substituted soon after, and in 1935, a German company invented the tape recorder using oxide-coated plastic tape that we know and love.

Pierre Schaefer, the guy who started "musique concrete" in France, used gramophone records at first; his studio in Paris got a reel to reel tape recorder in 1950. Karlheinz Stockhausen visited and met Pierre Boulez there in the early 50's, perhaps 1952? I forget. Stockhausen got to hang out and make a very short tape piece in the Musique Concrete studio. Then Herbert Eimert opened an electronic music studio in Cologne West Germany in 1953 and Stockhausen went there to work on stuff.

Stockhausen used tape loops in working on "Gesang der Junglinge" in 1956. He would record one second's worth of a sound on a loop, play it over and over onto a second machine; recording at low speed to speed up the result. Then he would bounce that back onto the first machine again, and so on, working all day, doubling the speed of the sound with each pass, until he had increased it 1,000 times. He would end up with one minute's worth of sound after a whole day's work in the studio.

Of course this is work on the micro-structure of the sound, rather than the macro-structure of the composition as Steve Reich and Terry Riley did. But tape loops were used by Stockhausen at least as early as 1956 on "Gesang der Junglinge". ( - Christopher K. Koenigsberg)

In the 1980's the advent of sampling technology (the digital equivalent of tape recording) allowed for quick and easy looping of samples, which has had a strong impact on the use of repetetive loops in music, leading to the now popluar craze of re-mixing, which deconstructs and reconstructs the elements of one piece of music into a new interpretation based on rearranging fragments of the original. In some ways this is quite similar to Burroughs and Brion Gysin's technique of tape and literary cut-ups.

John Aitken writes: "A person by the name of Joe meak or meek was using a technique with two real to real taps either at the same time or before Eno. Why was this person not included in this list. Joe meak was a froe runner for brit pop and is note rated for his talent in the world of pop. Even Jonathan King recorded with him with a song by the name of looped'ta love by shag Love from Edinburgh Scotland."

Q. What is "Sky Saw Guitar" (credited to Fripp on Another Green World)?

Paolo Valladolid explains:

Quoting Robert Fripp from a 1987 Electronic Musician interview ("Zen and the Art of the Guitar" or some such title) (this is paraphrased from memory): "Sky Saw Guitar is a specific technique of processing the guitar through a VCS-3 synthesizer with digital feedback. You hit one note and it rings forever."

R Carlberg adds:

I was a staff writer for EM at the time so I happen to still have the June 1987 issue on hand.

The interview, by John Diliberto, was titled "Zen and the Art of Fripp's Guitar." They're discussing his relationship with Eno.

EM: I believe he was the one who created Sky Saw Guitar.

RF: Yeah, Sky Saw was a name for a particular sound which had to do with feeding the guitar through a VCS Synthi synthesizer and digital feedback. It's a specific technical approach for getting the sound. You can get the sound or a very close approximation in a number of different ways, but that was the name he came up with. He came up with that particular sound. Wonderful rrrr. So gripping. Great. Yeah. My response to that is visceral. Now you don't need lots of clever notes and theories about musical organization. You just hit the G and go rrrr. And that's it. It's all over.

You know, that used to really frustrate me. There I would be practicing and working hard and all the different things one could play, and yet you turn up the amplifier and hit the one note and it would go hhhhhhmmmmmmzzzm and it would be all you needed. Wonderful appeal. Wonderful appeal."

Q. Okay then, what is "Snake Guitar"?

Lester Bangs interviewed Brian for Musician in 1979...

I decided to ask him about some of the instruments listed on the album's liner, with such exotic appellations as "snake guitar, "digital guitar," and "desert guitars." In the case of the first, for instance, I had often thought that given Eno's reputation it would not be out of the question for him to lay a guitar down in the middle of the recording studio and tape the sound of a reptile belly crawling slowly across the strings.

He laughed. "Well, I certainly wish I could live up to some of these fantasies! All those words are my descriptions of either way of playing or a sound; in that case it was because the kind of lines I was playing reminded me of the way a snake moves through the brush, a sort of speedy, forceful, liquid quality. Digital guitar is a guitar threaded through a digital delay but fed back on itself a lot so it makes this cardboard tube type sound. Wimshurst guitar: on 'St. Elmo's Fire' I had this idea and said to Fripp, 'Do you know what a Wimshurst machine is?' It's a device for generating very high voltages which then leap between the two poles, and it has a certain erratic contour, and I said, 'You have to imagine a guitar line that has that, very fast and unpredictable.' And he played that part which to me was very Wimshurst indeed."

Q. And "Enosification" as mentioned on the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway?

That's just Brian applying his sound treatments, probably using his VCS-3 as mentioned in the answer about Sky Saw guitar. He was asked with very question in a Q "Cash For Questions" article in 02001 and explained: "To be honest, I can't remember. It would have been treatments of some kind. I would take existing instruments and feed them through various devices to 'weird them up'. It wasn't something people were commonly doing then. Nobody does anything else now..."

Q. What's different in the alternate versions of Music for Films?

There were different track listings on different release versions of this. One friend of Malcolm's claimed that his original pressing had some track(s) not found on later versions. Other folks have told me the different versions just re-arranged the track ordering. Malcolm confesses himself still confused about the Directors version of MFF vs. the two different versions of MFF1. (* More info is needed here, preferably catalog numbers and track listings of the various versions, or differences only. Do you care enough to help us?)

Concerning this Music for Films I - Director's Edition, there are actually two versions of it:

a) The 'official' issue with 27 tracks. Many of those tracks were taken from Another Green World or appeared later on the official 1978 issue of MfF. Essentially all of the 'unreleased' tracks are available on the Music For Fans, Vol. 1 bootleg and - rather more officially - on the Eno Instrumental Box Set.

b) A test pressing with 25 tracks. Those tracks are not a real sub-set of the tracks of a) E.g., Slow water is obviously on a) but not b). However, some pieces of the score to 'Sebastiane' are on b) but not on a) and obviously also didn't make it onto the new box set.

Q. Was Music For Films II ever released? Can I get it on cd?

It was originally only released as part of an LP box set, Working Backwards 1984-1974. Much of the material is overlapping with Apollo, though. MFF II hasn't been released on cd intact, though many tracks do appear on the recent Instrumental Eno box set.

The track listing for Music For Films II is as follows: The Dove -- Roman Twilight -- Matta -- Dawn, Marshland -- Climate Study -- The Secret Place -- An Ending -- Always Returning I -- Signals -- Under Stars -- Drift Study -- Approaching Taidu -- Always Returning II. So only Climate Study remains un-re-released.

Q. What's different in the pre-release and released versions of My Life in The Bush of Ghosts? Why do some versions not have the track Qu'ran?

There was a version of this circulating as a bootleg tape long before the lp was released. One story explains this as delays in getting rights to use some of the material, which resulted in the track "The Jezebel Spirit" having a different radio evangelist used. Another rumor is that David Byrne's label stalled the release of a solo project by Byrne until the label released the next Talking Heads release, Remain in Light, which was actually recorded after MLitBoG using similar studio techniques but released before it. The original mixes were released as a bootleg in various forms over the years. Those include some different mixes and material not on the offical release.

The track Qu'ran was later left off the UK cd (and other euro pressings?) over concerns about its religous implications - the track includes a recording of a reading of the Koran and it may be considered insulting some followers of the Koran. It can still be found on the US releases.

On "Qu'ran" -- Qu'ran is the proper spelling of the Muslim book of scripture; "Koran" is an anglicized misspelling as is "Moslem."

"Very Very Hungry" was subsituted for Qu'ran. This was originally a b-side to a 12" EP.

Opal Information 12 (Spring 1989) explained: "A year or so after its release (1980) EG received a serious letter from the World Council of Islam in the UK stating that they considered the recording offensive. Brian Eno and David Byrne explained that no disrespect was intended and immediately agreed to remove the track." To put this in context, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was published in 1988, with the fatwah declared shortly after.

Gregory Taylor elaborates:

The Islamic Council of Great Britain had approached the record company with a complaint about the use of the "found" material [a ritual chanting of the Holy Koran. Actually, I'm surprised that anyone got permission to even tape it in the first place]; There are some expressions of Islam in which *all* music is considered "haram" [I think that's the Arabic term, anyway] - or against the teachings of the Koran. There is an argument about whether or not Mohammed (pbuh) stated that "music" for use in certain Islamic festivals or special occasions *is* allowable, but that's for folks who know the Surahs better than I.

At any rate, the Islamic Council voiced its strong disapproval of having the original source material used in the way it was used [in some ways, the objection is really quite similar to that raised by Kathryn Kuhlman's estate when they wanted her sermon on Lot and the angels removed from what finally became "The Jezebel Spirit"], and in the days of watching the Fatwahs [pronouncements of death] fly back and forth, Eno and his pals deemed it meet to exclude it. "Very Very Hungry" was added instead. However, my copy of it includes both, so some other judgements must have been made later [I think that my copy is a domestic one, so perhaps that's why]. {The track could for many years be found on the US releases of the cd.}

>From Johann Haidenbauer Sun Jan  9      
  09:20:15 1994  Subject: Eno/Byrne - Ghosts

Those of you who always wondered how the original version of 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' sounded like but never managed to obtain a copy of the rare Italian bootleg issue will be delighted to hear that it has been now re-issued on CD (though obviously unofficial again) under the title GHOSTS by Klondyke Records.

Besides different mixes of well-known titles such as 'Mea culpa' etc. there are also 3 tracks unreleased anywhere else and the original version of what became 'The Jezebel spirit' with the voice of Kathryn Kuhlman (the reason for the delay and change of the official version of 'MLitBoG'). In addition to the 13 compositions there is an about 3 min. long excerpt from an interview with Brian where he talks about the use of the studio as an instrument.

I'd like to add here for the obsessive collectors that yet again different mixes of the tracks 'Mea Culpa' and 'The carrier' can be found on the the bootleg ROBERT FRIPP/BRIAN ENO 'Music for Fans, Vol. III' and also (with inferior sound quality and too slow speed) on 'Music for Fans, Vol I'.

- - - - -

The original mixes of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts were released on LP in England by "Utopia Records" (a bootleg). It has a hot pink cover with pix of Byrne and Eno on the cover.

Q. What is/happened to My Squelchy Life? Where can I get a copy?

Apparently this was released as a promo cassette to some reviewers and possibly djs, and it was later recalled. Warner Brothers label shut down their US Opal label and all the artists on the label were apparently dropped. Eno had been planning two releases, My Squelchy Life and The Shutov Assembly - one a return to songs and the other an ambient update for the 90's. The two releases then seemed to be destined to be squeezed into a condensed MySquelchyLife release and the promo version was mailed. The Wire magazine in the UK reviewed it. But the MSL release never got released. A letter went out requesting the recipients of the tape not to distribute it or maybe to return it.

Then there was a period of silence, then Nerve Net was announced and released. Then The Shutov Assembly. And then Neroli... and the box sets. Eno seemed to be back on track but floating between a number of labels. Later releases have appeared on All Saints / Gyroscope / Thirsty Ear and music for installations has been privately published without any label other than Opal.

Some people view the withdrawal of My Squelchy Life as evidence of pique on Eno's part following the shut-down of the US Opal operation. However, other factors may have come into play. Interviewed by The Wire when Nerve Net was released, he explained:

"...To not meet a deadline for me is sort of an internal failure of the whole work: I feel I haven't done it right. And I really expect everyone I work with to meet deadlines. It's very important. What happened last year was that I made a record, to a deadline, and then when I sent it to Warners they said, 'Oh, actually, it turns out there's a lot of other records being released at this time of the year, so we want to hold it over.' A five month delay, they were talking about, right over the Christmas bulge. And I said, 'Well, you know, this record isn't made for February, it's made for September.' And we got into a big discussion about it: they said, 'Don't you believe in it?' And I said, 'Yes, well, I do now . But I'm sure I won't by February. I'll want to have made a different record by then. Even the delay that currently exists between finishing something and releasing it is too long for me - because by the time it comes out, I'm not there any longer. So I withdrew that whole album, actually. It wasn't released.

"That's also a big part of releasing things to me - it's wanting to make a contribution to whatever cultural discussion I think is going on at the time. That's in fact the most thrilling part for me. That's the part where I measure my success or failure. It isn't in sales. Of course I'd be disappointed if I released something and it suddenly didn't sell anything. And of course I'd be pleased if I suddenly sold two million records. But the fact is that those aren't ultimately what I'm making decisions on. What really thrills me is to contribute to the conversation in some nice way, some useful way, and to then get echoes of that coming back later on."

This indicates something of a turning-point for Eno - here he is identifying himself as a record-maker, not a record-listener. Surely there can't be many customers who buy a record on the day of its release and then never listen to it again because the record was only made for that time period.

Brian expanded on the point about making a record for a particular time when interviewed by Robert Sandall and Mark Russell for the BBC Radio 3 programme Mixing It in 1992:

"I was very careful with vinyl albums because I assumed that people weren't going to take the needle off - or at least, if they took it off, they weren't going to put it back on! [laughs] So you had to make a continuous listening experience. But with CDs, I mean, people use them like I do, I think, 'oh, not so keen on that track, skip to the next one'. So, because there are a lot of new formats to release on, in terms of time-length, that means you can have frequent, rather vague hybrid type releases coming out which don't carry the same aura of expectation about them. ...

I want to move away from the album as seen as a 'novel', you know, I really like what's been happening with the whole remixing movement, where several different versions of a song come out, there's the club version, 12-inch version, 7-inch version, somebody else's remix of it... and suddenly I like the idea of pieces of music not having one identity but being very negotiable, you know, there being lots of forms of them around, you never know whether you've heard them all. That's why Fractal Zoom has come out in all these different versions. I want to make the album seem like just another collection of things, not [adopts mock-reverential tone] 'this is my work as it stands at the moment' - because that isn't true anyway."

Asked "Why not release the album as a series of 12-inches then?", Eno responded:

"Well I am. I'm trying to think instead of the 'novel' that comes out every two years, I want to think of it like magazine articles, interviews, pamphlets, novellas."

Eno is a man always keen to move on to the next project. He's also increasingly unenthusiastic about talking about past projects (questions regarding earlier work, submitted to a 1996 CompuServe conference with Eno, were deftly filtered out in favour of those on his current pet interests). So it seems possible that in the final analysis, he lost faith in the "sound" of My Squelchy Life and was unwilling for it to be released late because it might be interpreted as a somewhat irrelevant contribution to the cultural conversation. The publically available tracks (see below) are very different in tone from the dirty bulk of Nerve Net, the album that followed.

In 1996, things had moved on again for Eno: he didn't meet his deadline for the record he was due to release part way through the year and withdrew from his contract, saying that he no longer felt that music was contributing to the cultural conversation. Only Generative Music, his Diary, and "novellas" and "pamphlets" in the form of newspaper articles, occasional remixes and contributions to other people's albums kept his interest alive.

You might be lucky enough to find someone with a tape copy of the review copies of My Squelchy Life that saw limited distribution. It's rumored that a few copies got pressed on CD too but I've never seen this confirmed. In 1996 there were several postings on the newsgroup from people who had heard MSL, suggesting that bootlegs were in fairly wide circulation.

Track listing for My Squelchy Life:

I Fall Up |* The Harness | My Squelchy Life | * Tutti Forgetti | Stiff | Some Words | Juju Space Jazz | Under | * Everybody's Mother / *Step Up | Little Apricot | Over

* = thought to be still unreleased.

I Fall Up was included on a cd single, Ali Click. My Squelchy Life and Ju Ju Space Jazz appear on Nerve Net, as does Little Apricot, re-named Decentre. Under is on the Cool World movie soundtrack (Oh yeah? Listen, punk, I sat through that whole "movie" - I use the word ill-advisedly - and lemme tell ya, there are only a few bars of the introduction to that track in the film).

Eno had this to say about The Harness on Mixing It: "I just didn't feel convinced about it any more. It's mainly a question of the form of it: it didn't really excite me. The only thing I wish I could release somehow are the synthesizer solos in it, with that really really piercing sound, sets your teeth on edge."

A promo CD called Various Artists: Trademark of Quality, Volume 1, (PRO-CD-5798) contains rare tracks from many Warner Bros./Reprise artists. There is a track by Eno called Tutti Forgetti on this, but it seems that the actual track on the disc is in fact be The Harness. Other artists featured include AMC, REM, Daniel Lanois, J. W. Harding and Medicine.

Stiff, Some Words, Under, I Fall Up and Over were included in the Eno One (Vocal) box set. Some of those tracks in same or altered forms were part of a 4 track tape Brian was using for a lecture series and were described as works in progress - those at the time were described as The Shutov Assembly working tapes. Track listing for those 4 tracks:

Ripples In Time | Her Enchanting Coldness | Planet Dawn | Juju Space Jazz

Q. What's the difference in the alternate versions of "I Fall Up"?

Alternate versions of this appear on the Eno vocal box and the "Ali Click" CD5 release. The "Ali Click" version is extended with additional guitar soloing by Fripp. The version on the box set was the version from My Squelchy Life. It sounds like the tempo may be slightly different too, but the recordings appear to be the same.

Also, this track may have some relationship to a track called "More Volts" which appeared on the rarities 12" included with the Eno lp box set (Working Backwards). "I Fall Up" of course has lyrics with the phrase "More Volts" but it also seems like the underlying rhythm track may be the same. So I'm curious if "I Fall Up" was built using some tracks or the skeleton of "More Volts".

It's clearly one of Brian's major faves, as the same tune also crops up on the soundtrack to the Derek Jarman film Glitterbug, although it wasn't one of the tracks to get Spinner-ised.

Q. Where can I find lyrics to Brian Eno's music?

Many lyrics are available in the book More Dark Than Shark. This is alas long out of print and even if findable a very expensive book, very tastefully illustrated by Russell Mills. But as you'd expect, the EnoWeb has lyrics a-plenty. Take a look.

Q. Is Eno's Prophecy Theme from Dune available anywhere else besides on the Dune soundtrack?

Unfortunately, no. And the Dune soundtrack is mostly music by Toto, which probably makes some folks avoid this or buying it just for one track. It is a lovely track, though, and could easily have gone on Apollo. A CD version of the Dune soundtrack is available on the Polydor label, number 823 770-2. Be careful, because there is another version of the soundtrack that consists entirely of pieces by Toto, some previously unreleased. Make sure you purchase the one that mentions the Prophecy Theme on the back.

Q. What's the significance or meaning of "801" in the True Wheel or as a band name?

This probably takes the First Prize for "most frequently asked question on the newsgroup".

Eno is quoted on the subject in More Dark Than Shark:

This track started from a dream. I was staying in the Drake Hotel in New York with a girl called Randi N--. I had a dream about her and a group of other girls (Randi and the Pyramids [who sing the chorus on the recorded track]) and guys singing the song...they were sort of astronauts, but with all the psychological aspects of sailors."

Whilst you're puzzling over sailors' psychological aspects, mathew has further quotes from Eno:

"The other strange thing about this song is its inadvertent links with the Cabala. I found out, long after I'd written the song, that the number 801 means 'Alpha and Omega' or 'The first and the last' in the Cabala and that this entity is a circular concept (i.e. the beginning and the ending being identical). It also means 'The Dove', which I like. The number 801 (which, with all the rest of the chorus refrain, was plucked unaltered from my dream) has another meaning which I find interesting. In the Cabala, the twenty-two Tarot cards are arranged such that they rest on the paths between the Tree of Life. Each of the paths has a number, and each of the numbers corresponds to one of the cards in the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The paths 801 describe a pyramid whose individual sides are STRENGTH, THE FOOL, and THE MAGICIAN.

"I offer all the above with no special interpretations - only with a certain curiosity. Make of it what you will, although I think a veiled reference to The Tree of Life would not go amiss.

"Apparently, rumour has it in America that 801 derives from Eight Nought One, the initials of which spell... very ingenious, I thought, although it had never occurred to me."

Hmmm... The EnoWeb management would like to point out that "Strength, the Fool and the Magician" comes through in the title of the Before And After Science track "Energy Fools the Magician"... and the title "The Dove" was used on Music For Films II.

There are other less convincing explanations for 801:

>>> It was the toll free area code prefix in the UK at the time much as 800 numbers in the US. If you called 801-ENOisGOD you got a message of the day or somesuch ... the artists quickly got tired of it once they realized they couldn't make any money at it. A couple of bootleg lps were released of some of this material in the late 70's but it was hardly worth it. <<<

>>You aren't not kidding. For a time I had the "Brian Eno Porn Again" bootleg of this material and it was painful. "He took the aviation world to new heights with Music For Airports. He reflected the growing mood of optimism in the cosmetics sector with The Plateaux of Mirror. Now once again Brian Eno puts his finger firmly on the Zeitgeist with On Land - his first 'environmentally friendly' release. Why not 'marsh' to your local record shop and order it today? This has been a public service announcement by The Brian Eno Corporation, surging down the wires 24 hours a day." I must correct one point - the service was withdrawn once the musicians who'd bought into it realised that the letters on UK phone dials had been phased out some years previously, thus making these phone lines effectively uncontactable. Does anybody else remember any of this material?<<

Q: What's Headcandy?

Headcandy is one of the main factors that shaped Brian's opinions on CD-ROMs. It's a fairly inoffensive CD-ROM with QuickTime movies (video feedback plus abstract and geometric patterns of colour and light) set to music by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. The package includes a pair (or two) of prismatic glasses which multiply the image displayed on the monitor - and also the monitor and case LEDs unfortunately. So, you watch the patterns and listen to the Eno music.

Ion, the creators of Headcandy and the David Bowie Jump CD-ROM, trumpeted: "Imagine being inside a kaleidoscope whose changing visual landscapes pulsate to the sounds of Brian Eno." This conjures up an image of sitting next to Eno on the last bus home whilst his stomach begins to regret the 7-course meal he had an hour before at the local Indian restaurant. There's more: "Eno's original score will launch you into a surrealistic adventure that will tease your senses and leave you hungry for more". Ion's blurb mentions "mind-bending landscapes", "the psychedelic highway" and claims "mesmerising visuals swirl across every inch of your screen."

That phrase "every inch" is pushing it a bit. Headcandy offers the option of "full screen" or a smaller display, but even "full screen" doesn't take up "every inch of the screen". Sitting at a distance from the screen in a dark room, this doesn't matter, and the prismatic glasses create a video-wall type effect and add a 3D-type effect, so that some of the multiplied screens appear to be angled behind the real one. On a fast 486, "full screen" has a slower frame rate but small screen is smooth. On both resolutions, the music track ended shortly before the visuals did.

Eno's argument with Headcandy is that it isn't interactive or creative. You have a choice of which of the five QuickTime movies to play and that's it; they're the same every time. According to Opal Information 26, "Brian asked that the CD-ROM be stickered 'the first totally non-interactive CD-ROM'". My copy certainly wasn't.

The technology couldn't really deliver what Brian expected, which we assume was a real-time combined video feedback and pattern generator, influenced by the music, which would produce different visuals every time. He explained to Garrick Webster of PC Format magazine:

"When I saw the result it was so awful and terrible and disappointing, I've never looked at it again. I looked at it for about a minute. The image is this big, [he says, measuring two inches in the air], and it looks like shit anyway. The music sounds like tin and every time the image changes the music stops. It was an absolute disaster. I really apologise to people if they bought that on the strength of my name because I tell you, I did everything to get my name off there. Oh, it was embarrassing. It's one of the only things I've ever been involved with that I feel really bad about."

We assume that Eno was using an early Mac. Since then, QuickTime has been updated, we think. Running on my fast 486*, the Windows version of Headcandy had a sufficiently large display, the music didn't stop when the image changed, and the music quality was fine. It's true, you probably won't want to watch it regularly because the video tracks are the same every time, but it's still fun every once in a while. -- Tom

* I should explain for our younger visitors that a 486 was a type of PC, predecessor to the Pentium line of processors.

Chris Juul, part of the team that developed Headcandy, wrote the following text in the alt.music.brian-eno newsgroup:

"Here's my 2 cents on this whole Eno hates Headcandy thing. When he first saw it from video, displayed on a big screen TV in the ION offices in LA, he flipped out. Both he and Bowie were there and they both really dug it. Push came to shove and HE offered up that HE would love to put his music to a prorgam like that. That's how it all came about. ION were already doing Bowie's JUMP CD-ROM, so why not do an Eno project as well?

Needless to say, I am an Eno fan... I enjoyed the music and I really enjoyed the visuals we created... Unfortunately when two artists have a third pair of hands in the proverbial concept pie (ION) mayhem can and did insue. The end result was not what either of us had hoped for. Eno wanted new images constantly being created... not just set visuals pieces. We wanted a more atmospheric soundtrack and were not at all happy with the compression and Quicktime results.

What we've wound up with is something that Eno would rather forget as a one off tragedy in his illustrious career. I, on the other hand, have peace of mind knowing his original intentions included being inpressed enough with my work to want to collaborate (as he loves doing with others).

I am sorry to hear he trashed it in the press, but to each their own. As a one off Eno piece, Headcandy is very entertaining. The music is good also...

Just my thoughts from the inside."

The Mac version only gives you the video/music tracks and can only be played in a CD-ROM drive. The Windows version, however, also includes audio versions of the tracks which can be played on an ordinary audio CD player. Its serial number is 76896 -40067-2. The track listing is:

Beast (5:55) -- Alloy Balcony & Jets Overhead (12:14) -- Spunk Worship (5:34) -- Castro Haze (6:51) -- Manila Envelope (7:23)

Ion has a web-site here which includes a short Shockwave animation of Headcandy.

In May 02000 a CD was auctioned on eBay which contained an alternate mix of Alloy Balcony & Jets Overhead and an unreleased track titled Headcandy. And copies have appeared several times since then.

Q: Why do nautical themes (oceans, boats) crop up in Eno's songs so often?

Interviewed by Michael Engelbrecht, Eno explained:

"Well, the sea image is always really interesting to me, because it has two factors, the idea of being out in a ship at sea: It's first of all the idea of being separated off from the rest of the world, so suddenly finding yourself alone. That's an important part of it. The second part is that you are not in control of the situation. You can influence the situation, you know, you have sails and you have a rudder and you can row. You can change your direction, but there's a huge current as well. So I like very much this feeling of being separated off and suddenly surrendering to a powerful force of some kind. So you might want to go in that direction, but because this force is pushing you, you moved diagonally instead of in a straight line.

That's a strong image for me, because it seems to me, it's what is happening to you all the time in your life, you know. You keep finding yourself separated off from the community that you feel you're a part of. You don't want to be, maybe, you would like to be part of everything, but you find that you don't quite fit in there. So, and then you notice that you don't have independent total control over what you are doing. You are actually subject to a lot of forces that are very strong, and you really are not even able to describe them. They are so strong that they are your environment: you don't notice them most of the time. You keep rowing in what you think is a straight line, but actually you are being moved in a circle or off into a diagonal, and you keep finding yourself in the same point again and again. And you think 'Why did that happen? I thought I was going in a straight line, yet I'm back here, where I was last year and the year before', you know.

"So, all of those images of power beyond your own conciousness, beyond your own will, and of separation, are to do with the sea image for me. The other thing that's in there ['Empty Frame'], is about a little ship that is always falling apart, that they always are trying to fix up again. It says in there 'the broken sails'. This is also a very poignant image to me of the notion of people constantly trying to repair their sails. What do you have a sail for? To catch wind, to catch the other forces that are around, the controllable forces. The wind is the force that you can do something about. The sea is not, you know. But of course, the wind also keeps breaking your sails, so you always have to sew them back together again. It's an endless struggle to try to keep going in any kind of a line. Because the other implication in this kind of song is 'Why don't you surrender? Why don't you surrender to the tide and see where you go?' And in one of my old songs 'Julie with...', that's what happened in that song, the people have surrendered. They've stopped, they've stopped rowing the boat and they suddenly have allowed themselves to become completely, not victims exactly, but to have fallen under the control of this powerful force."

Q: What is Neverwhere?

Once in a while a television series comes along that stretches the imagination and pushes fiction in exciting new directions. One such is Twin Peaks. Another is Babylon 5. To this list we can add Neverwhere, a six-part television series first broadcast in 1996. Written by Neil Gaiman, probably best known for the dreamy and nightmarish Sandman graphic novels, Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew, who discovers a strange alternative London peopled by weird and wonderful characters and places - many of them interpretations of places on the London Tube map. Gaiman's Neverwhere is a place where an Earl holds Court, where there is a real live Angel, and dangerous people. Lots of them. Richard joins a girl called Door to help her discover who slaughtered her family... but no brief description can really do it justice. The series was a production of Lenny Henry's Crucial Films company, and Eno wrote the music.

How did Eno get involved? Neil Gaiman explained: "Eno did the music for Neverwhere because Lenny and I are both fans, and we thought we'd ask him, and he'd say no, and then we'd go with a BBC person, but at least we'd get lunch with Eno out of it. And we asked him. And he said yes."

Eno's music for Neverwhere was not released on an album in its entirety, which is a pity. The music for the opening of an important door was particularly evocative. Three pieces from the soundtrack surfaced on Brian's 1997 release The Drop: "Back Clack" (aka "That bit near the start of part 1 where Door is running away from Croup and Vandemar"), "Rayonism" (aka "That bit near the end of the ordeal where it all gets a bit panicky") and "Hazard" (various places, with various overlays; "Hazard" also appears on the soundtrack of the excellent filmHeat under the title "Late Night In Jersey", although it did not make it onto the Heat soundtrack album). The only way you'll get to hear it is if the series is broadcast in your area or you purchase the double video (catalogue number BBCV 5948). There is also an audio book which contains very short snatches of a little of the music - that's a triple CD (CD1944, ISBN: 0 563 38170 1) or double cassette (ZBBC 1944, ISBN 0 563 38101 9). Inevitably, the story is abridged on the audio book and it loses something. Even if you don't get to hear Eno's music, the Neverwhere book (available in paperback) comes highly recommended. A film of the story is currently in production but is unlikely to include Eno music.

Q: Is it true that the lyrics of 'Here Come The Warm Jets' are inaudible?

More Dark Than Shark says that Russell Mills could not make out the lyrics to 'Here Come The Warm Jets' (the song, not the album). Eno couldn't remember what they were, and they're mixed rather deeply underneath the song's other components.

They're certainly inaudible on the vinyl pressing and the CD. But on the digitally remastered Eno Vocal Box Set, some words do come through, especially with the treble turned right up. See the HCTWJ lyrics file for various interpretations.

Q: What's this about Eno doing The Microsoft® Sound™?

The Microsoft® Sound™ was the boong-bliiing-tink-tink-tink™ sound-bite heard when Microsoft® Windows 95™ starts up, and often when a Microsoft® Office 97 CD™ is inserted. In an interview with Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle, Eno®©™ explained:

"The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I'd been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, 'Here's a specific problem -- solve it.' The thing from the agency said, 'We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,' this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said 'and it must be 3¼ seconds long.' I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I'd finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time. "

When Microsoft released Windows 98, it changed The Microsoft Sound. The new version is not by Brian Eno.

A note on commercialism: Eno has provided music for television commercials for companies such as BMW; Microsoft® also used the Bowie/Eno/Visconti track "Heroes" for its Office 97™ campaign. Earning money like this helps finance artistic projects and non-commercial work. Let's not forget that the Rolling Stones once did a television commercial jingle for Kellogg's Rice Krispies, which puts everything into perspective.

During an interview with Bob Geldof on the London radio station XFM (18th January 1999), the following exchange took place:

BOB: ...XFM could in fact play 24 hours of his records I think without in fact repeating anything, so if you're on the way home...
BRIAN: Why don't you?
BOB: What?
BRIAN: Why don't you? [laughs]
BOB: [laughs] Because you get paid too much, Eno, now sod off.
BRIAN: [laughs] I need it.
BOB: [laughs] The man who wrote the Microsoft thing? Do you know how much he got for that? Thirty-five grand, correct? [note to non-native English speakers: "grand" is slang for "thousand (pounds)"]
BRIAN: Dollars.
BOB: Dollars.
BRIAN: [sadly] Not even pounds.
BOB: Jeeeez.
[laughter from Bob & Brian]

What's the solution to the 1.Outside mystery?

Nathan Adler eventually realises that the Laughing Gnome did it.

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