on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2023 20 Jan

„the deepness of the discreet“

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | Comments off


On that hot and sunny afternoon I met Brian Eno in Kilburn, in the year of „Neroli“, we at some point spoke about the two „ambient works“ he did with Harold Budd, and he explained how he worked on the sound of „The Plateaux Of Mirror“. All very technical, I responded, but, being a convinced agnostic by heart meeting an atheist by confession, I asked him about the deep impact this music often had, and for example, on me.

I hesitated to use the word but then dropped it: spiritual. Can agnostics attest music a spiritual, or, as I added, strangely otherworldly quality? He, the atheist, doesn‘t even think in these words. At least in that summer „Neroli“ was released, inspired by the experience of an orange garden. Already in early years, he spoke about his lust to put systems in motion and become an observer of the results. There is something about this that resembles a paradoxon. How can music go so deep when being regarded as „pure system music“ with not too much input from the creator, like „Discreet Music“? Or „Music for Airports“? Well, it can. But how?

At times, and quite often,  I have to say, Brian Eno stumbles, by chance and genius, into areas of sound that can have a variety of impacts on the listeners, and one of them being a profound, unsurpassable deepness. „The Plateaux Of Mirror“ or „Discreet Music“ or „Music For Airports“ contain and create, with all their surface shimmer and unspeakable magic, the same deepness as „A Love Supreme“ or Mahlers „6th Symphony“.

This is my experience. And Eno knows to leave (forever and a day) the landscapes he has once created. Would be much more easy to write about deepness when putting „On Land“ on the record player. No one doubts deepness when roaming through the wilderness. But when confronted with a tape loop running mistakenly half-speed!?  I can listen to „Discreet Music“ a thousand times without being bored. And I always feel it is moving as deep as deep can go.

The ungraspable, next paragraph: on another sunny afternoon, with (as I remember) Alan Bangs waiting slightly impatiently with his TV team for an interview, I came to speak with Laurie Anderson on „Music For Airports“, and how Bang On A Can delivered their version. She said something like this:


„Isn‘t it incredible that Brian‘s original, as a piece regarded „functional music“, has so much deep melancholia engraved in the four parts of the work, that a group of classical violinists and violas have to come to bring these deeply hidden emotions more to the surface – and even tears to the eyes? But this deepness was there, from the very start …“


The hushed notes on the piano, only these few notes, played by Robert Wyatt on „1/1“, the first part of „Music For Airports“ –  their return on loops, the sparse surroundings, the breath of machines in between, the hiss, the space near emptiness, and that road to silence not taken before, the hand at the machines rolling, the careful deleting of everything that has not to be, all that and much more is happening when nothing really happens.


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