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Brian Eno on landscape and portrait in music

August 2, 2011


Peder Balke: Månelys (Moonlight), 1870s


I guess, in my mind I have always wanted music to do something to me. Maybe I have always wanted it to do almost the same thing, but to make music do the same thing, you have to keep making different music.

When I first started making music, I was interested in the personalities I could play, the different figures I could be. I lost interest in that. I didn’t want myself to be in the center of the music any more. And so I began experimenting a lot, with trying to remove the personality in some ways, for example by making more than one voice, so that it stops being a single figure in the moddile of the picture. And I tried singing using non-sensical words, using words backwards, putting strange sounds on my voice, different ways of reducing the importance of the figure in the picture. Cause, what I started to get interested in was the landscape behind the figure, and I found the figure more and more of a problem.

It’s like with a painting: If you have a picture of a landscape, you look at that, and your eye moves freely over the landscape. If you put a figure in there, even if it’s a tiny little one, it becomes the center of your attention, it is very difficult to ignore. Humans relate to other humans.

With music that became a problem, because I felt that as long as I was in the center of the picture, it made you as the listener outside the picture. If I took myself out of that picture, it left an open field, a sound field of some kind, which invited you in. And I felt that by removing my own personality, as represented by my voice, I opened up the music in a new way. I made a space that people could come into, I made the music much more environmental.

Brian Eno