Brian Eno's experiments with 'functional music' really got under way in 1975 with the release of "Discreet Music 1", a thirty minute piece formed from the cyclic overlay and resulting permutations of two melodies of different duration.The result, in that case, was a tapestry of shifting harmonic clusters - a moire', simultaneously static and changing. As a listening experience, it remains distinctive: calm, still and deep, yet always slowly evolving,it gives one the sensation of witnessing the unfolding of an organic process.
It was this organic quality of movement-in- stasis the Eno was to develop in later pieces such as "Muisc For Airports" (1978) and "Thursday Afternoon" (1985). All these pieces are systems based: that is to say, their compositions are not specified in note-to-note detail, but are the results of the operation of particular patterning processes on particular materials. In this sense the works can be seen as modelling themselves on natural processes, or as John Cage put it,"imitating Nature in its manner of operation".
Like many of Eno's systems pieces, "Neroli" is modal. In this case the mode is the Phrygian, whose flattened second evokes the Moorish atmosphere alluded to in the title. In this mode the seventh is also flattened, and the combination of these unusual intervals creates a mysterious tonal ambiguity.This is further emphasised in "Neroli", because the rootnote of the mode is rarely played, whereas the fifth of the scale is prominent. Together, the blurred tonality and the lack of a distinct tonal centre give the piece a hovering, weightless character. The melodic line, with little forward momentum and no sense of pulse, disperses and coalesces into exotic new constellations. Eno says: "I wanted to make a kind of music that existed on the cusp between melody and texture, and whose musical logic was elusive enough to reward attention, but not so strict as to demand it". As with his other works in this area, this music readily recedes into pure texture, atmosphere, ambience. And it is in this space- "at the edge of music", as Eno describes it - that there exists the possibility of another kind of music, and other ways of listening.
C. S. J. Bofop, March 1993
Back to Album Liner Notes