Subject: Eno interviewed again
From: Tom Boon <100334.657@CompuServe.COM> 
Date: 8 Jan 1995 19:26:02 GMT 

Paul Merton's Hour of Silence

Mere days after his uncannily accurate impression of DJ Alan "Fluff" Freeman, Brian Eno was back on Fabulous 1 FM, this time contributing to "Paul Merton's Hour of Silence" on 1st January 1995, in which comedian Paul Merton investigated silence. The programme has just given a brief outline of John Cage's work, including "4'3".

Eno: "It's almost like a slogan, that piece. It's one of those pieces of music that you don't really need to hear. What you need to know is that somebody thought of it. It defines a boundary condition in music."

Merton: "Brian Eno, producer of U2 and James, and one of the world's foremost composers of ambient music."

[2/1 from Music for Airports plays in background]

Eno: "The interesting thing about boundary conditions is that they're extremely useful as thinking tools, but not as experiences. As thinking tools, they say to you, This is as far as you could go in that direction - and suddenly you think, gracious me, I never realised you could go that far.

I had a conversation with Cage once, and I said, 'Well, you're a polar explorer', and that's what he is really, he's someone who's staked out the, some very remote poles of modern music. I'm not a polar explorer actually, I would rather live in the South of France [laughs].

I explored the use of silence in reaction to something that was happening in contemporary music in the Seventies. There was a technological development, namely the development of multi-track machines, which led people to think that the act of making music consisted of the act of making more and more sound, and filling up more and more space with sound. That made for a kind of music that got on my nerves more and more as I heard it, and I started to find myself listening to things that actually had very long spaces in them.

I found I liked film soundtrack music for the same reason, because, um, film music is really music with its centre missing, because the film is actually the centre of the music, so if you just listen to the music alone, without seeing the film, you have something that has a tremendous amount of open space in it - and that space is important, because it's the space that invites you as the listener into the music. It sucks me in, that kind of space. So I started making things that, um, just allowed much more room in them.

I'm always trying to subtract as much as add. There's a technological momentum towards adding: everything encourages you to do that. I take the message of raggae and dub, I suppose, which is to say that sculpting is just as important - cutting things away and leaving peculiar spaces.

In fact, I've just had an experience working with Laurie Anderson which has been interesting like that. There's a song called Tightrope, where we've done something quite interesting. There's a quite dense landscape of sound, and we suddenly collapse it, so that it almost disappears and just leaves her voice, and this really is quite chilling, I think - it's as though the bottom drops out of the world."

[Excerpt from Tightrope plays but fades out before getting to the part Eno was talking about]

"One of the musical areas that people have hardly ever looked at is what happens between tracks on a record. The normal thing is to say, Okay, here's this song, now let's, oh yeah, put a couple of seconds in between, then there's the next song. I've made a few experiments where I tried to play with this space a little bit between tracks, for instance on Music for Airports there're very long gaps between pieces, thirty seconds or a minute long. I suppose the point of that was to try to almost let people forget that they were listening to a record. So, very much the message of ambient music for me was that this is a music that should be located in life, not in opposition to life. It shouldn't be something for blanking things out, or for covering things up."