October 08, 2004
The Eno Complex
It only took a stray reveller on the runway at last Friday's Terminal Five opening to make that event it's closing as well. Of course as these minor tragedies go, there was an upside, at least for the lazy like me. Travel time to go see Brian Eno speak was drastically reduced. Fitting the theme but not the new location was the subject matter, Mr. Eno's seminal Music for Airports. Also fitting the them was the mindnumbing take off process, Eno's take on complexity theory and evolution is about as exciting as the baggage check line at an airport.
Past those formalities however Eno lead us towards a more intriguing place. Here the real mechanics of Eno's genius and laziness (or perhaps they are the same thing?) emerged. While Eno engaged in the intellectual act of framing his music as some sort of "bottom up" evolutionary process, it became clearer and clearer just how "top down" his work is. And to his credit Eno seemed rather aware of this fact although never quite willing to surrender the intellectual facade. What Eno frames as a large reaction to the rigidity of the solitary composer view of music, is in reality a minor tactic, as small release of control within a highly controlled environment of creation. To place it into a late Faucaultian space, Eno is actually ceding discipline of a composer, but retaining the control.
What a beautiful control it is too. Eno clearly controls a music studio like very few others can and creates pure sound with a tacit sense of beauty. The unsyncing, layer and chunking of Music for Airports spewed long meters of tape loops weaving through entire studio rooms. All essentially in the name of laziness. The sounds are carefully calibrated, and then thrown in offsync loops in part to simply reduce the time it takes to compose a long piece. Like George Soros and many a computer hacker Eno's motivation for innovation appears in part to be an effort to reduce work load. And it his here that the genius it seems might come in.
Perhaps its wishful thinking from a lazy boy like me, but it seems there is a tacit laziness lying behind the drive to innovation. A realization that a bit of hard work up front, developing a better process, can save work in the end. Of all innovator's Soros is perhaps the most upfront about this drive, Eno in his polite English manner steps around the issue, letting it lie obvious but never clearly spoken. Laziness becomes "economy", but the meaning is the same. And it points us to the nasty little secret of the Protestant work ethic supposedly underlying "capitalism" (as if that even exists). It is not hard work that drives success, it is reproduction. The industrialist built machines to force the reproduction, and now its all about brands and algorithms (abstract machines if you will).
I've been wondering about the difference between artists and con artists for quite sometime and I'm beginning to think its just that artists need shiny objects to enhance their word game, while the good con artists can just get by on words alone. Read that as a compliment to con artists not a critique of art please, ok? Anyways in Eno's case he doesn't need any shiny objects, but he does need some shimmery sounds. And man do they sound good..Posted by Abe at October 8, 2004 04:58 PM