Math Qualities of Music Interest Eno

By Roman Kozak, from an unknown publication, sometime in 1978, from the Jeffrey Morgan Archive.

NEW YORK – “I am interested in the stiff mathematical qualities of music,” says Brian Eno, composer, musician, producer, founding member of Roxy Music and serious student of cybernetics.

“There is a quality of music which the Velvet Underground and the early Who had, which was a kind of stiff totalitarian thing, that was not at all like the fluid, sensual quality of black music,” he continues.

“And what I am interested in is what happens when those two are married. I think it would make an interesting combination if Kraftwerk employed Parliament, or the other way around, it would be interesting if you had the Parliament group playing bass and Kraftwerk playing the drums.

“There would be a cross cultural hybrid, especially if everybody stuck to their guns.”

Eno is just back from Nassau where he produced the upcoming Talking Heads LP. He is taking back home to London with him tracks recorded by Jamaican musicians which he intends to dub, add to, subtract and electronically distort.

Though Eno’s individual albums have both climbed high on the U.S. charts, he is an influential figure in contemporary music both for his own work and for his collaborations with Robert Fripp and David Bowie. Dressed in makeup and satins he was the most colorful figure with the early Roxy Music. Most recently he has kept more in the background, rarely if ever appearing live.

“I suppose it would help the record company increase sales if I toured, but I make a good living from my records. There have been so many of them (about 10) that though they individually don’t sell that much, they sell for a long time. Even on my early albums, the sales are still trickling in,” he says. His most recent LP, Before And After Science, was recently released in the U.S. on Island Records.

As for Eno’s technique in the studio, he says his interest is in innovation, in finding new ideas and exploiting them, rather than polishing the work of the person being produced.

“What I am interested in is watching a group of people work and then noticing some tings they might not even know they are doing. When people are working they are involved in their own concept, their system is generating. But they are generating a lot more than that. There is a lot of other information coming out as well.

“What a producer can say is, ‘I realize you are doing this and that, but do you also realize you are doing this? Make use of it. There is this interaction going on between these two instruments, which you haven’t considered properly.’

“The other thing is,” he continues, “as a producer I regard my role as trying to construct a situation where people are forced to work creatively, not repetitively. It’s trying to set up a situation where people feel positively encouraged to experiment, where they will want to try things out to see how they will work, even if it turns out absurd.

“The control room is really my instrument. For The Talking Heads, for instance, they would go out and play. At the same time I would have my synthesizer linked up to the control desk so I could feed any or all of the instruments through the synthesizer (though I never did feed all), and change their sounds, alter them, sometimes drastically.

“I would use echoes and delays to create new kinds of rhythm. But the band could never hear this while it was playing. I would never monitor it, because sometimes it would sound so horrible, it would throw the band off.

“Later the group would come in and listen to my addition and that would spark a whole new idea about the way it could approach what it was doing. There was a real interchange going on, and in a way I played with the band,” he says. He adds that on the two Bowie albums he worked on he did pretty much the same thing.

Eno says he envisions a time when there will be special mood music records, designed for various functions, that will be marketed as such in the record stores. He is contributing to this by writing music designed especially for specific locations, beginning with airports.

“The problem is that people don’t realise music actually does things to them, not just entertain. The stuff that is presently played at airports changes your consciousness in quite the wrong way. It has this kind of nervous tingly quality to it. And it is not relaxing at all, which just makes the whole operating seem terribly cheap, and unreassuring somehow. So I try to make something elegant, beautiful and grand, that makes you think how wonderful it is to be up in the air floating on clouds.”