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In diesem Jahr wird das spoken word-album zehn Jahre alt, das Brian Eno und Rick Holland gemeinsam entwickelten. Es hat nichts von seiner Anziehungskraft verloren. Brian hatte stets ein Faible für spoken-word-music, ein frühes Beispiel kann man auf seinem ersten Songalbum „Here Come The Warm Jets“ finden. Er war vollends fasziniert von jenem Album von The Books (das mit dem grünen Cover), das ich ihm 2005 mitbrachte zu unserem Berliner Interview im Adlon anlässlich „Another Day On Earth“. Und auch bei dem im April erscheinenden spoken word-Album von Marianne Faithfull ist er mit zwei, drei Arrangements und einigen „treatments“ dabei.

Das Interview mit Rick Holland war ein Highlight meiner Interviews jenes Jahres, und es zeigt, dass solch vielfältige Poeme einen immerneuen Ansatz der musikalischen Darbietung einfordern. Genau das ist Eno gelungen, und deshalb ist DRUMS BETWEEN THE BELLS so schillernd geworden, Füllhorn, Klangrausch, „food for thought“, und, wie es ein Kritiker nannte, „electronic soul music for the mind“.

Damals habe ich mit Freunden alle englischen Gedichte ins Deutsche übertragen. Sie finden sich, unter „Ältere Beiträge“, in den Sommermonaten 2011. All meine Texte von jenem ersten Jahr der Manafonisten, die es m.E. wert sind, erhalten zu bleiben (ungefähr 10 Prozent, schätze ich), werden sich, anlässlich des zehnjährigen Bestehens dieses Blogs, also hier wiederfinden, anno 2021, im Laufe der Zeit. Der Rest wird vermüllt. Die Übersetzungen der Gedichte, oft direkt neben die Originale platziert, werden allerdings wie Ruinen in jenem Jahr verharren. Wenn uns nichts Besseres einfällt. Viel Freude bei der Entdeckung oder Wiederentdeckung eines ganz besonderen Albums.








Michael Engelbrecht:   On a lot of his albums, Brian only rarely works with clearly defined lyrics when entering a studio. This time, he had your poems – and, as I imagine, letting their impact on him work, he was inspired to approach every track with new ideas, new sounds. You have only a rare apparition as one of the nine voices on the album; how have you been involved in the studio work? Did you offer him any musical ideas, from the point of view of a “real” non-musician?


Rick Holland: You are right that each track was approached as a unique organism, and there were nearly fifty pieces when we first sat down to finish the record. I do offer musical ideas and also extremely vague and over-reaching requests, Can you make this part sound more like primordial sludge Brian?’, that kind of thing. Of course his answers tend to be, ‘Yes, yes I can.’.

We worked together in his studio throughout the intensive final weeks and also at most of the sessions that spawned the initial ‘skeletons’ of the tracks over the years. I think we both took some steps away from our comfort zones over these sessions, which is what collaborating relies on, and there was certainly never a sense that he ‘did’ music and I ‘did’ words. Poems and Music were equally likely to change in the process of making, and the making process was an open forum of ideas.

‘The Real’ is perhaps the most recent example of a ‘school’ of song formation whereby  Brian would have several pieces on the go and I would provide or write words for the ones that most spoke to me. The first stage in these tracks was to superimpose a vocal over the existing music. Sometimes, a vocal just steers the piece towards its final shape and many musical ideas were provided by the vocalists, not directly, but in the nuances of their readings and more specifically their own ways of forming spoken words.

The components of this one just fell into place with a combination of reshaping an existing ‘poem’ I had been working on, and the beautiful chance arrival at the studio of Elisha Mudley, who really did appear like an angel that day, unannounced, and just in time for us to record. Not all days ran that smoothly!


Michael:   Your poems allow the listener to drift freely between the impressions the single words and pictures are offering. As a material that is not fixed to transport a certain message, and more open to free associations, one can experience the words in a very relaxed way. Can you explain this a bit, with a look at the opening track, this London poem “Bless This Space”. And what was the first idea that brought this poem on its way? The albums starts,  almost programmatic, with the words “Bless this space / in rhyme and sound”…”




Rick: This is a very good question. The great interest for me in the whole of this process has been the giving up of control of meaning. Many poets would really not like this idea. By allowing the idiosyncrasies of accent and word formation in foreign English speakers the centre stage, and then enjoying and exploiting the accidents of meaning those sounds can create, the poetic process is often greatly enhanced, and often in surprising ways. I was already a poet who enjoyed leaving ‘image lines’ and indeed sounds to trigger a journey into personal meaning before I met Brian, but over the years of working with him, I have developed a clearer idea of the middle ground between pure audio material and carriers of meaning and how the two can play off each other.

The example you cite ‘Bless this Space’ is an interesting one, as it is not typical of how we worked. The poem was inspired by a production job of sorts I had for the Map making project in 2003 (the event I met Brian at actually). It was a very ambitious collaboration between artists of all kinds, from ballet dancers to painters to orchestras; I was unofficially tasked with pulling the show together with some kind of thread. It was set in St Luke’s, in what used to be a church near Old Street in London but is now the home of LSO and a beautiful music venue. I was asked to write something to accompany the dance piece that opened the show, and so I decided to play on the idea of the art venue being a place for people to come and ‘unfold’ the daily pretences of life. The rhythm and feel of it was ritualistic in keeping with the motions of the dance and for me it made a good opening ‘blessing’ for the performance to come, like a call to the audience for an open mind, or a mock invocation of the spirits.

I included it in a bundle of words I once printed out for Brian and forgot all about it, until one day I received an email from Brian with his reading over a pulse track. I liked it, but again we forgot it for a long time, and then it re-emerged in this form after Leo Abrahams and Seb Rochford had worked their magic; Leo’s guitar part and Seb’s drums knock it off kilter and add even more a sense of the intoxicating freedom after the ritual, as though you are marched to the precipice and have no choice but to jump into the unknown. Now it is a piece of music which as you say can be linked into lyrically, or just grooved to, or both. Hopefully, lines jump out differently for different people. And it keeps the half life of that original poem but adds a new life, or several new lives at once to it. For me, ‘step through mediums/outside of the race/to look in’ works on many levels for individuals and society. I love this track.




Michael:  On Glitch, as on many other poems,  you´re working with the freedoms of “Konkrete Poesie” (Gomringer, Arp, Jandl a.o.) by using the whole space, letting go traditional forms of arranging words. The graphic space between the words (white canvas) produces an airy climate for the words, sometimes even a kind of rhythmical pattern. Can you describe the story behind the writing of “Glitch”, and how Brian´s music did  surprise you?


Rick: Before meeting Brian I had set out on writing directly to music, and in ways that were inspired directly by music; in fact I had been experimenting with writing as a direct translation of  other forms of expression, of which music is for me the most direct and enjoyable. ‘Glitch’ was written a long time ago, but I think it was written only in relation to a very sparse drum pattern that I had asked a friend to make for me and without much editing for meaning. This perhaps explains the context you give it and why it worked so well in relation to the graphic space you mention. The space was perhaps already there, a la Konkrete Poesie  but it was certainly consciously manipulated in Brian’s transformation to music. Brian is forever asking readers to ‘go slow’ for precisely this reason. I don’t have much knowledge about “Konkrete Poesie” so I will investigate, thankyou.

So, ‘glitch’ started from the words, and Grazna Goworek (who looked after Brian’s studio some years ago) was invited to read. She didn’t even bat an eyelid when he asked her to go and sit in the toilet to read the poem, which is where the rasping atmosphere of the reading comes from, along with Brian’s processing of her voice. Then the music was built from these starting points, the words and the voice became a pulse and an atmosphere, so actually the music did not surprise me in this case.

However, we returned to ‘glitch’ several times over the years, and the greatest surprise came in the very last week of working on the record. In response to one of my more outlandish requests (something like ‘Could you make a section that sounds like the sub atomic code of the universe?’) Brian constructed the ‘freak out’ section that I think now takes the track to the next level. That part is the real language of the piece for me, condensed and magnified like a real poem should be. It speaks in greater volumes than all of the words!




Michael:  One of the beautiful moments  in “Dreambirds” is when the words say “invent new colors”, and the music sounds like a perfect example for synasthesia, the transformation of colors into music. In the lyrics there are two interesting elements that produce a kind of tension: the dreamy skyscape with the birds, and then, the  political allusions…  a kind of “utopian poem”, so to speak?


Rick: Yes absolutely in the synaesthesia sense. We experimented with various ways of representing words with sound, and in this case I agree, the elements hang together like a visual trace across the sky. The politics are also there, and they are a strange mixture. Having worked as a teacher in various guises, in London and further afield in Central Africa and India, the untrammeled potential of youthful imagination is always inspiring to me. It is also violated by the ‘facts’ of life so often, when the young person’s perspective is very often the right one but is denied.

The financial crisis most recently points to this fact so I’ll use it as a slightly cumbersome example; while I was growing up in a country of people doing jobs that I couldn’t really understand I always sensed very strongly that our economic foundations were built on make believe, but I would dampen these impressions and assume there was someone who was far more intelligent than me in control. In the Blair years, the promises of equal opportunities for all youngsters to learn and aspire made me feel equally uneasy. We were ‘rich’ as a nation, but no-one really understood or even bothered to understand why this was, and we had a government rolling out initiatives that always sounded as flimsy as the new labour theme tune to me.

What was clear is that back in the real world we needed truly ‘brilliant’ young rather than political spin versions of brilliant young who weren’t really prepared for anything useful by this aspirational lie of an education. So ‘Dreambirds’ was a poem about the tussle between the true potential of imagination, and the mirage that was being sold that let everyone ‘express themselves’ and have the impression that they were on the ladder to somewhere better when perhaps they weren’t at all (a blank dioxide perhaps).

Thankfully, the beautiful musical accompaniment allows the imagination to roam and doesn’t focus instead on that satirical edge, and ultimately in  the poem and in the music, it is the imagination that wins! We do need brilliant young inventing new colours that fly, and they are out there working very hard at it, right now. When I listen to this one now, I imagine wonderfully odd semi-robotic species of bird full of character and colour. This piece makes me smile, as though we live in a very complex world that is still full of charm.


Michael: “Seepods” is a good example for your preference (sometimes) to use very sensual, miscroscopic details of everyday life and then build up a kind of impressionistic picture… does this poem in some way reflect your interest in a free, unconditioned way of perceiving things that can produce magic without being linked to a certain message?


Rick: ‘Yes’ is the best answer to this question. I can’t express this better than you have! I will add that I have a belief that the internal world and the external world can both be understood far better by just looking; looking carefully at them both in the context of the other. ‘Looking’ itself needs examining and re-evaluating too. Relationship (like that of the very large to the very small) is everywhere in this album, and in my work in general. I also recognise lately that so much of  what we experience as ‘feeling’ is just projected, and from the top of the 344 bus in London (where I wrote this one) it is possible to see ‘seven different feelings’ responding in their ‘seven’ different ways to the same trigger at any given moment. Only a conditioned mind fails to see this every day in London.




Michael:  One of my favourite poems and tracks (in fact, they are nearly all favourite pieces)  is “the real”, a fine  example of producing mistrust  about so-called “reality”.  By repeating some of the words and changing them subtely, the listener´s security is more and more feeling like a fake. Could be a Buddhist poem for the Western world, couldn´t it? And Brian enhances this by heavily treating the voice in the last part of the long track…


Rick: This is one of my favourite tracks too. An undressing of the myths of language, and because of Brian’s wonderful idea of stretching and elongating the ‘repeat’, an undressing of the very myth of speaking (and telling ‘facts’) too, it is an opportunity to meditate on your own understandings.

Living in Mumbai for a while really opened my eyes to the fact that these ideas are not new or strange, and are also not ‘hippy’ (or any other similarly Western kind of identifying word to discredit anything ‘other’). In India I found a society that was able to talk about things not from a self conscious position of quasi-scientific authority but from an open position of questioning and critical thinking built into the fabric of daily life by an ancient tradition of such thinking. Exact ‘classification’ was not the stated end of this thinking, unlike the West, rather an acknowledgement that giant forces of the world and universe were in flux, and that human beings played only a small and equal part to all other forms of life.

I am not Buddhist, or a Hindu, nor have I studied either way exhaustively, but I do see the frontiers of science shifting all the time and making fools of experts, and the fact that people have also long agreed on one simple truth, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. At the ends of our formalized intelligence lives imagination. Ultimately, we are all looking for the same thing and anyone who tells you ‘no, you are wrong, life is rigidly this way, full stop’ is almost certainly selling you something.




Michael:  Who is “The Airman”… Where does this title hint to? A space traveler?  Quite often in your poems you´re writing  about stuff from a kind of “outsider perspective”. A kind of “alien perspective”… Another good example is the poem “A title” that offers some excursion to evolution theory…


Rick: The airman is a representation of my own attempts at thinking logically through smaller and smaller building blocks of life in an attempt to understand it. Like deep sea divers and space explorers, we are still searching our own consciousness and wondering where it can take us; often it is our ability to travel further away from ourselves that allows us to better understand ourselves. The actual idea of ‘airman’ I am almost certain was taken from Auden or the ‘pylon poets’ of the 1930s, and really is just about jumping on the back of technological advance to steal a clear view of its secrets like a magpie (Auden’s airman I think was a first world war pilot scanning the earth to make maps). “a title” is similar, as we get closer  to understanding ourselves through a meditation through a microscope, or appreciating our true nature beneath all the constructs.


Michael:  “Sounds alien” has, from the lyrics,  clear musical references, like  “sounds are alien and dense…”.  Did you write this or other poems with the idea in the back of your mind that Brian will make the music?


Rick:  ‘sounds alien’ came from a collection of consciously shorter work that I was writing at the time it was made (I think around 2006) and almost certainly these shorter poems were influenced by the fact I was working with Brian and other musicians and with music in mind. The rhythm of these words certainly lend themselves to manipulation or repetition (very much in the vein of what Tagore said to Einstein about ‘Eastern’ music with its words that were not necessarily anything other than structural stepping stones in a greater and more vivid picture.

These words also relate to a long term love of ‘drum and bass’ music, with the ability it had to take me out of my own thoughts through its broken beat repetitions and alterations. It is worth mentioning here that I think it was listening to music with live MCs and rappers that first made me interested in ‘poetry’, I have always loved hearing a voice adding its layers to music, and in the rare instances that the images are vivid too, that is my musical heaven.

I do draw a great deal of fuel from music and drums, as a writer but also just as a stress reliever in day to day life. If I remember correctly Brian picked these words from the group of short poems I brought to one of our sessions and read them with Aylie over an existing piece. We made this track in the same session as ‘multimedia’ and ‘the airman’ (which were written with the words as starting points).




Michael:  And then there is this wonderful poem – and the wonderful song „Cloud 4“. For someone who likes Brian singing it´s  a bit sad that  it is so short, but the form is perfect. Do you have a relationship to his song albums… have you been a fan of Brian´s music before you met him personally. I mean he had written great  song lyrics in his song albums, and then there is the ambient work full of strange moods that might inspire the writing of  poems with the music running in the background, So what´s your story with Brian´s music?


Rick: I grew up with Brian’s music forming part of the background of my life without realising it. A lot of people of my generation can say that. I didn’t have a direct experience of or knowledge of Brian’s music until I met him. It is lucky really, because I had no preconception of working with him, and so no reference to either influence me or intimidate me. I have learned so much from him and have been really interested to discover his work after meeting the man, rather than the other way round. I have to admit that it was a good few years even after working with him that I really grasped his attitude to lyrics. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone that first day if I had known what I was letting myself in for! I did actually have a crack at writing words for a lot of the songs that came out very differently in his previous two ‘song’ albums, including the lovely ‘Strange Overtones’.

I love his song ‘This’ incidentally and I think that is a good example of his approach to lyric writing as I can imagine the words came in streams and in servitude to the music. I’ve also heard some unreleased songs that are just stunning and perhaps lyrically incomplete. Perhaps my story with Brian’s music is that of the covert secret operative who has had access to the vaults. My relationship to all of his work, across art forms, is one of ongoing illumination. Most recently I’ve read about Stafford Beer and loved those parts of his work I could understand, and while I still perhaps know less of Brian’s ‘song albums’ than some do, I have certainly heard him sing a lot.

A quick aside, regarding the length of ‘Cloud 4’. The option of continuing with it and building it did come up, but we both thought it delivered its message. As an aside to an aside, I remember also Brian saying that one of his favourite songs ever, Maurice Williams’ ‘Stay’ was the perfect song encapsulated in 1 minute and 39 seconds. I certainly know what that song is saying!




Michael:  Starting  reading a poem with the title “multimedia”  I didn´t expect some strange archaic rituals? What triggered this fantasy of caves and elemental sounds…?


Rick: Aboriginal spot paintings, Australia, Fire, Music, ‘Click Sticks’ and also the ‘archaic’ rituals that are carried out in techno parties all over the world or anywhere where people dance to drums. A lot of us find release in dancing to loud beats (expertly so in Germany). I wrote this at a time where a lot of self conscious multimedia art was around and it made me think that mixing art, dancing, music and ecstatic energy was nearly as old as the most ancient human practices and not perhaps as clever as smug artists were implying (in the ‘Dreambirds’ years!). I had also seen an Aboriginal man on ‘walkabout’ in central Sydney which was a contrast that had a great impact on me in a country whose real history fascinated me, with it’s stories of totemic beings singing the world into existence and naming the land. The very common need for release is the thing that triggered the fantasy, projected onto an outback scene from the other side of the world. It is a poem that is proudly from my youth, when the political climate and behaviour of a lot of my peers seemed a million miles removed from what I thought was real.


Michael:   Did Brian tell you why he decided to sing the last track of the album with an utterly deep voice. The “silence” before it is well-chosen after the poem that ended with pure optimism and the words  “things will be good”.   The change of mood makes the silent period nearly necessary, and,  what  seemed to be a happy ending of the album turns into something dark. Can you give some suggestions about your perception of this last track?


Rick:  I am going to take some credit here for pushing Brian to do something he wasn’t necessarily comfortable doing. We were in a new part of his studio, he had moved all of his equipment into what had previously been an office, with large glass skylight windows. The rain was hammering down in heavy drops, the daylight had disappeared behind the clouds, and he had this dark and thrilling sound on the go. In short, the stage was set to try ‘Breath of Crows’, a slow meditation that is both dark and uplifting in my opinion. His choice of singing voice fitted the whole atmosphere, and I pushed him to carry on with this sung approach. I think he enjoyed confounding his own doubts, and I love this track. The silence was completely necessary, yes, and the atmosphere too different from the rest of the album to place anywhere else.

As for my perception it is completely bound up in where the poem was written, which was under a Mumbai monsoon, in my small room over there, which was at tree level and meant I lived in close proximity to the city’s crow population. It was the culmination of a lot of reading, thinking, working as a teacher at Utpal Shanghvi School, and living closely with these very intelligent animals in a culture that revered and took notice of all living things. The song is perhaps like a non religious hymn.


Michael:  Anything you like to add? At the end…


Rick:  I would just like to add that working with Brian enabled me for the first time to watch a full time artist at work; someone as committed to his work as a research scientist and constantly pushing himself and his ideas and modes of thinking. While the working process necessitated give and take I never once felt anything other than his complete equal and this is down to his total commitment to remaining open and curious to the world. I am proud of the album and the journey we have taken to realise it, but most of all I am just very grateful to have been given the opportunity to meet him and work with him. I hope you enjoy the record, and give it some good quality time to listen to (perhaps on shuffle mode for best effect).

2020 28 Aug

Ein nie wahrgenommener Satz

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Als ich den Text fertigstellte zur Wiederveröffentlichung von „Wrong Way Up“ (s. „From the archives“), las ich auch quer über andere Texte zum Album, und staunte nicht schlecht, als ich über eine Songzeile stolperte, die ich nie bewusst wahrgenommen hatte, obwohl ich das Album unzählige Male gehört habe und dachte, mittlerweile in jeden seiner Winkel gekrochen zu sein. „If It all fades away, let it all fade dancing away.“ Das ist so eine Zeile, die sich mir unter normalen Umständen so tief eingeprägt hätte, wie der eine oder andere Vers von Cohen oder Lennon/McCartney. Aber ist es nicht genau das, was wir an Alben lieben, die uns durchs Leben begleiten: sie überraschen uns nach wie vor, und ihre Tiefenwirkung lässt einfach nicht nach.

Also, ist ja bekannt, dass wir in der DDR große Probleme hatten, an Schallplatten aus dem Westen ran zu kommen. Wobei, was Popmusik betraf, besserte sich ab den frühen Achtzigern die Lage, da es von manchen Künstlern und Bands Lizenzplatten gab. Natürlich nicht in Massen, aber mit Beziehungen war einiges möglich.

Ich hatte seit den frühen 70ern, neben der Musik, auch noch bei der Post als Zusteller gearbeitet, damals war das ein absoluter Knochenjob, im alten Prenzlauer Berg etwa gab es noch Häuser mit drei Hinterhöfen, sechs Seitenflügen und Quergebäuden – das alles bei Wind und Wetter, voll bepackt treppauf, treppab! Geld umd Rente wurden noch an der Wohnungstür ausgezahlt. Das hatte ich fast 25 Jahre gemacht, für Musiker war das fast ideal, von den Arbeitszeiten betrachet.

Dann hatte ich mich dort, um etwas Kraft zu schöpfen, drei Jahre als Pförtner betätigt, allerdings im Drei-Schicht-System; das hiess, ich konnte viele Bücher lesen, für die Musik arbeiten usw. Ich hatte in meiner Pförtnerbude ein Radio, und hörte nachts oft Rias (Walter Bachauer) DLF, SFB, oder auch Radio DDR 2, was unser Kultursender war, und da gab es durchaus viel Jazz und Zeitgenössische Musik.

Jedenfalls wurde in einer Nacht Brian Enos „Music for Airports“ im Westradio vorgestellt – die Platte war gerade erschienen, und ich glaube, eine Woche später gab es die Rückseite zu hören. Ich war absolut begeistert von Enos erster Ambient-Platte, völlig hin und weg!

Im gleichen Zeitraum sah ich bei einem Bekannten das auch gerade erschienene Buch von Joachim Ernst Berendt, „Nada Brahma“, was mich sehr verblüffte! Vieles, was ich dort nur kurz sah und las, das wusste und fühlte ich schon immer, doch hier wurde es mir nochmals dargeboten, schwarz auf weiss. Beides wollte ich mir besorgen (übrigens auch die LP, die du neulich erwähntest, mit dem „Gesang der Buckelwale“).

Damals war ich noch verheiratet und hatte zwei Kinder, und die Oma meiner Ex-Frau lebte in Westberlin in Schöneberg. Wenn sie uns besuchte, schenkte sie mir stets ein 5 DM-Münze, und genau so sparte ich mir Enos Platte und Berendts Buch zusammen.

Nun hatte ich als Pförtner eine Kollegin, die schon Rentnerin war und oft nach Westberlin fuhr zu ihrer Schwester. Also fragte ich sie, ob sie mir beides mitbringen könnte – beides stand in der DDR damals nicht auf dem Index. Sie hatte auch beides mitgebracht! Und als ich ihr dann mein gespartes Westgeld geben wollte,war es verschwunden! Da konnte nur ein Mensch dran kommen, aber lassen wir das…

Naja, Micha, du kannst dir ja denken, wie peinlich mir das war, dass ich die Sachen nun nicht bezahlen konnte, also habe ich Enos LP und das Buch dann 1:5 in Ostwährung hinblättern müssen. Das waren dann so 150 Ostmark, bei einem monatl. Verdienst von ca. 350 Mark haut das schon ins Kontor.

Und das blöde war auch noch, diese „Music for Airports“ war eine Fehlpressung, auf einem Stück ist ein richtiger Vinyl-Huckel, nun heißt die Platte ja auch „Musik for Airports“, und an der Stelle hebt die Nadel voll ab!

Aber dennoch, die Musik und Buch waren es mir letztlich wert, und ich liebe beides heute noch! Und auch sehr begeistert bin ich bis heute von der Ambient 2-Aufnahme, „Plataux of Mirror“! Ich liebe alle Ambient-Sachen von Eno, es ist stets aufs neue eine Überraschung, seine Musik zu hören, zu erleben – neulich war es die „Lux“ und dann „Plateaux“, es war, als wehte ein leichter Windhauch durch mein Studio.


Herzliche Grüße

Fred M

2013 27 Apr

Talking about Forst, Harmonia, Cluster etc.

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The daughter of Roedelius has made a fine interview (three parts on vimeo) about Brian Eno’s early years and his collaboration with the german artists. More information you find on the Eno Web (news, see blogroll) …


„part one“


aus meinem Interview (2005)
– In deiner Musik klingen oft Räume der Natur an. Als du mit Harmonia Musik gemacht hast, damals, in der Zeit, als mit zusammen mit Moebius und Roedelius die Alben „Cluster & Eno“ bzw. „After The Heat“ entstanden, Mitte der Siebziger Jahre, da hast du auch eine kurze Zeit im Weserbergland gelebt …

– Es war eine sehr angenehme Zeit, dort zu arbeiten. Es war eine Art Luftblase in meiner Geschichte. Teilweise, weil es eine so entlegene Gegend war. Wir arbeiteten nicht weit entfernt von diesem mächtigen Flußlauf. Der Song „By The River“ aus meinem Album „Before And After Science“ ist an diesen Ort gebunden. Wir lebten in diesem sehr stillen ruhigen alten Bauernhaus. Die Weser war dort ein schneller, fast rasender Fluß. Mir kam er vor wie ein Bild für die ungeheuer schnell verrinnende Zeit. Demgegenüber wirkte das Leben in dem alten Haus noch ruhiger! Die Musik, die dort entstand, besaß etwas Magisches. Wie können wir aus Nichts Etwas machen? Das war die Kernfrage. Wie bei einem Zaubertrick. Wir hatten nur einfache Instrumente, ein einfaches Studio. Ich weiß nicht mal, ob ich irgendwas mitgebracht hatte. Wir benutzten einfach, was in dem Raum vorhanden war, und das war nicht viel.

„Enoesque“ doesn’t necessarily mean, that the artists do know Eno’s music very well, some do, some don’t. The word means that a certain record contains, consciously, unconsciously, or even by pure chance, elements that can be perceived as, well, Eno-related, in an obvious or hidden way. Strangeness is a rare thing. And, for sure, sometimes critics use the term for music they don’t understand at all :)

The word has become another word for „weird“, „exotic“, „melodic with a strange twist“, „minimal, but with emotional impact“, „uncommon“. And, yes, quite often, the word is linked to compositions of artists who may even have no idea who Eno really is, maybe, because they are too young, or too old, or simply not interested. So, read this with a smile, but be sure, some of these artists know his Ambient Music rather well, believe me! And that leaves traces. Moments. Ideas. Sounds. Sometimes sounds on the verge of falling apart. And sometimes, yeah, sometimes, nothing at all.


1) Eivind Aarset w/ Jan Bang: Dream Logic

Eclecticism can be so inventive. Music to get lost in. Brian’s defintion of „Where am I-music“ fully realized. And a brilliant extension of a lost classic of Ambient Music, Michael Brook’s „Infinite guitar“-playing on „Hybrid“. That milestone once was created in the famous Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton, Ontario. The producers: Brian and Daniel. The golden years. And now this: „Dream Logic“ is the kind of album critics will attest an „almost hallucinatoric“ quality – and they are right! One of the best albums of 2012 recurring on traditions where many others only offer cheap pastiche!


2) Jon Hassell: Power Spot

The only ECM opus with the direct involvement of Brian Eno, Eno/Lanois create another masterpiece! Dreamscapes made of electronica, minimalism, Asian and African influences.


3) David Darling: Cello

I knew Brian would love this solo-cello work, when I send it to him in the  early Nineties. Slow Music with cellos overlapping and delayed sounds. Drifting  in circles – and moving skywards!


4) Steve Tibbetts – Marc Anderson: Northern Song

Produced by ECM – mastermind Manfred Eicher within two days in Oslo. Guitar and percussion and a lot of silences that never sound sacred  – but always arresting! Tibbetts‘ fear: not enough notes. But then he remembered the  passion with which he has listened to Eno’s „Music for  Airports“ – and knew everything was okay!


5) Eleni Karainrou: Music for Films

Manfred Eicher chose the title as hommage to Eno’s „Music For Films“. When hearing the record, Eno fell in love with the textures, the melodies, the recurrimg themes.


6) Jon Hassell: Last Night The Moon Came …

Okay, Eno’s old friend again, this  time without Brian. But with Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang among others. See: number one! Amazing and endlessly subtle. Will not be continued, the Norwegian connection. Sad ending. Pasttime paradise. 


7) Arvo Pärt: Alina

Pärt at his most minimal, and that is to say something. Compare the spacious piano notes of these pieces that can easily be linked to his „tintinnabuli“ style, with those piano and keyboard figures Robert Wyatt plays on „Music for Airports“, or Roger Eno plays on „Thursday Afternoon“. „Alina“ is sparse, and some would even say simple, but it’s personal and human and at times nearly devastating.


8) Hans Otte: Buch der Klänge

The German composer of new classical piano music was tired of the loss of deep feeling in his scene. He changed that by creating this simple and profound music. Beautiful in a never-ending way!


9) Bill Connors: Swimming With A Hole In My Body

Lost gem of the late Seventies, solo guitar album with lots of space, and sounds floating; even the title and the cover are enoesque; Bill Connors was obviously tired of further following scientologist Chick Corea to the Seventh Galaxy!


10) Terje Rypdal: After The Rain

Very quiet solo work by Terje Rypdal. The guitarist even plays instruments he can not play very well – sounds like he used some „oblique strategies“ from  Brian’s game: „Honour thy errors as hidden intentions“.


P.S.: It may not be fair to call Heiner Goebbels‘ album „SHADOW / Landscape With Argonauts“ enoesque in the first place (for that you should listen to „Stifter’s Dinge“), but it was probably the ECM album that had the biggest influence on Brian Eno himself, concerning the way Goebbels uses 100 voices from the streets of Boston to make the reading of the dark prose of E. A. Poe a new and thrilling experience. So there are, without doubt, connections between „SHADOW“ and Eno’s exquisite work „Drums Between The Bells“ (2011)

Eno’s third collection for Warp, and his second collaboration with the poet Rick Holland following Drums Between the Bells, is an EP on which the duo again explores an inverted, shifted relationship between words and music in song. Eno’s backdrops, on In the Future for example, are spare, darkly turquoise, semi-ambient, yet insinuate themselves into the foreground, like a servant overshadowing the master. Holland’s words, meanwhile, are placed discreetly but tellingly in the mix, as if somehow ‘soundtracking’ the music. The collaborative effect is most telling on West Bay in which the words „alone on this island with only the stones“ somehow underwrite the isolated, carefully placed and plotted piano notes dropped by Eno. In a tradition that goes back to St Elmo’s Fire on Another Green World and Julie With… on Before and After Science, there’s a faintly nautical air to some of these tracks, a hint of salt and faded shanty on the wind as these tracks lilt and breeze. That said, If These Footsteps has a distinctly urban, bustling, strobe-lit feel, an abrupt and vivid shift in mood, while Watch a Single Swallow in a Thermal Sky, and Try to Fit Its Motion, or Figure Why It Flies, an instrumental ironically, lives up practically syllable by syllable to its title. As a concept, Panic of Looking is open to interpretation – but in a ‘post-everything’ era in which the desensitising blur of the sheer flow of data from all sides is greater than ever before, this album acts as a corrective. It attempts to create a context of isolation from all that, an aquarium-like zone of contemplation, in which audiovisual detail can be savoured, in stillness and without fear of missing out for a few seconds on the relentless info-stream of modern life.

(source: BBC Music)

Well, David,  „in a ‘post-everything’ era in which the desensitising blur of the sheer flow of data from all sides is greater than ever before“, this review should not vanish into the blue nowhere!  

2011 17 Okt

VCS3 (you remember?)

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Also in the Science Museum show is the very first synthesizer that I ever owned, another beast in its own right, and that’s the VCS3. The VCS3 was quite a difficult instrument to use, though at the time it was a fantastic thing to have for someone like me, who couldn’t actually play any conventional instruments. There were no rules for playing synthesizers, so nobody could tell me I couldn’t play one. Nobody else could play one either. It was an instrument you made up yourself… its role was waiting to be invented.
The VCS3 was a particularly good instrument for that, because unlike nearly all the synthesizers that followed, it didn’t dictate a particular path for the signal. Nearly all the synthesizers that followed went: oscillator into filter into envelope-shaper into effects. Everything was in that straight line. With the VCS3 you could feed things back into themselves, so you could take the output of a filter and feed it back into itself and this gave me some very unusual and quite unpalatable noises, which of course I liked. They sounded a lot better than me trying to play music anyway.
The VCS3 preceded, or maybe was even simultaneous with, the Moog. But what was interesting about it was that it wasn’t really a keyboard instrument. There was a keyboard with it, but it was impossible to get it in tune, so most of the people who used it abandoned the keyboard. That was a big step, because prior to that synthesizers had been thought of as electronic organs with a few stranger sounds.
Abandoning the keyboard took you into a new musical territory. I’m sure Peter Zinovieff, who invented the VCS3, would have been very pleased if he could have made a good keyboard. But the fact that he failed to was what made that instrument special, and what started the different forms of electronic music you hear everywhere now. It came out of an inadequacy of that particular instrument.

In den 70er Jahren verhieß dieser rein technologische Begriff – VCS3 – manch aufregendes Hörerlebnis, speziell, wenn Eno mit ihm hantierte. In diesem Ausschnitt eines Essays erinnert Eno an die Synthesizer-Ära, und wie Defizite und gravierende Mängel zu einem neuen Musikverständnis führten, das mehr mit Erfindung als mit Nachspiel zu tun hatte. Interessant: manche der tollen Kompositionen mit VCS3-Signatur wirken gleichermaßen wie aus alter Zeit und zeitlos.

It was made right in the middle of the punk thing when everyone was trying to get more aggressive, and Brian Eno went away (…). If I had to just listen to one song for the rest of my life it would be ‚1/1‘. It’s not just a mellow thing, I’ve listened to it in the morning and it’s beautiful, I’ve listened to it last thing at night. I’ve listened to it as a stimulant and a calming thing, it does something very physical, very chemical to me. I’m always fascinated by how he made that track. Did he sit there and play it live for 17 minutes? Smoked some dope? I’ve always meant to ask him, I’m always bumping into him and I always forget. I see him having coffee in a café near me and we always have a nice little chat. He’s a lovely chap. I never let onto him how much of a fan I am because that would be weird and a bit distasteful. If I ran up to him saying ‚how did you do that track?!‘ he’d probably start backing off slowly

2011 24 Jul

Rick Holland / Brian Eno

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Mythological Images

„These two rooms gather together iconographic motifs that appear heterogenerous, but which constitute important thematic nuclei in the organisation of Renaissance collections of antiquities.“

„The sculptures found here evoke a variety of thematic elements, but lack a precise definition because their specific subjects have not been identified.“

Two extracts from explanatory wall-notes at the Archaelogical Museum in Naples. I wondered how deeply entrenched these ideas of organisation and classification were when considering art of any kind, and whether it was important to precisely identify thematic elements at all. What will people make of our contemporary music in 2,000 years, what will be the elements that are identifiable? And what aspects of our artistic expressions now might be grouped together as a ‚collection of antiquities‘?  (posted by Rick Holland)

Brian Eno responded:

I find it increasingly annoying that museums feel impelled to tell you what you’re looking at while you’re looking at it. I think displays should be arranged differently: so that you can just look and draw your own conclusions and then, if you choose to, see what the Museum has to say about it. I imagine beside each exhibit a little cupboard door which you can open and which contains supplementary material.
I went to the Royal Academy yesterday to see the extraordinary show of early 20th century Hungarian photography. I found myself deliberately not reading the titles of the pictures before I looked at them – taking a good long look and deciding what I thought I was seeing before reading the card below. That was hard to do – I had to sort of shield my eyes – but it was worth it. Contrast it with The Summer Show in the same building: nearly a thousand paintings, each with only a number beside it (and a booklet if you really want to know who did what). It’s a MUCH better way of looking at things, free of text and interpretation.

In July 2011 Brian Eno finished the album ‚Drums Between the Bells‘ with the poet Rick Holland. Re-view is an ongoing dialogue between the two about the project, drawing on material from interviews, reviews, features and listener comments

(Quelle: Eno Web; s. blog roll)


Lyrik und Musik, geht das überhaupt noch? Ist das nicht ein alter,  verstaubter Hut? Akademisches Kopfkino für Literaturfreaks?  DRUMS BETWEEN THE BELLS wird kontrovers besprochen werden. Manche Kritiker werden ihre Vorurteile gegenüber Brian Eno abarbeiten, ihn mal wieder verniedlichend Professor Pop, wahlweise auch  Godfather of Ambient Music nennen. Manche werden die fantastischen Gedichte von Rick Holland in eine griffige Schublade packen, ohne selbst tiefer in die Texte eingedrungen zu sein. Manche werden sich aber auch Zeit nehmen, und dann eines der aufregendsten Alben dieses Jahrgangs für sich entdecken. Aber der Reihe nach.  

Brian Eno hatte von früh an ein zwiespältiges Verhältnis zu Wörtern, ihren Bedeutungen, ihrer Fähigkeit, die Aufmerksamkeit vom Klang abzuziehen. Und so stellte sich dem Pionier der Ambient Music mit diesen Vertonungen moderner Gedichte von Rick Holland  ein interessantes Problem: Gedichte als hochgradig verdichtete Sprache ziehen ja eigentlich  die Aufmerksamkeit auf sich, jede Silbe, jeder Zwischenton, jede Atempause.

Der englische Klangkünstler löst das Problem, indem er die Texte als akustisch spannendes Material darbietet.  Neun Stimmen kommen zum Einsatz – in einem  weitreichenden Klangfeld zwischen Neo-Exotica, beinhartem Funk, Trash Jazz, Post-Kraut-Elektronik, ambienter Kammermusik, Stammesrhythmen –  und gelegentlich auch richtigen Songs.

Zwar ist unter den Sprechstimmen auch Eno zu hören, aber zumeist setzt er auf originelle, wenig englisch klingende Stimmen, die  einen speziellen Akzent, eine eigene Melodie haben (eine Buchhalterin, eine Raumpflegerin, Zufallsbekanntschaften aus der Nachbarschaft in Notting Hill).   Und gesprochene Sprache hat es – Eno weist in einem Essay darauf hin – in Songs immer schon gegeben (etwa bei den Shangri-Las (Leaders of the Pack) –  mir fällt das lange Intro von Donovans Atlantis ein).  Eno nennt  diese Stücke speech songs. Und er nutzt alle Nuancierungen zwischen dem gesprochenen und dem gesungenen Wort…


Einst tummelte sich Eno mit David Byrne im „Busch der Geister“ (auf dem Klassiker MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS); da arbeitete er mit gefundenen Stimmen, von fanatischen Predigern, Nachrichtensprechern, libanesischen Bergsängerinnen; geniales Sampling im analogen Zeitalter! Jetzt eröffnet er ein Theater der Stimmen, das alle Lügen straft, die moderner Lyrik nur ein bescheidenes Dasein im Kellerloch des Elfenbeinturms zuweisen. Beispiel gefällig?

„leben beginnt nicht mit einem titel / der einmannschau / wir sind wasser / und kehren dorthin zurück / wir gehen an den ort des schlicks/ von beere und ballen / der geruch und das rümpfen / der puls und das erblassen / dünnknochenmann / langarmmann / knorpel und kalter wind / mach werkzeug mann / flip aus mann / tanz wie die bären / folge den sternen mann / mit nassem öl auf daunen / ein behaartes elementares / aufgerissene augen festgenadelt um / eine zweimondige kurzsichtigkeit / zu der wir uns im kreise drehen“ (die Übersetzung des Gedichts „a title“)

Man muss und braucht das nicht alles beim ersten Lesen/Hören verstehen – mit der Zeit zünden einzelne Bilder, produzieren Aha-Erlebnisse und locken noch tiefer in die Klangräume hinein. Was mag Brian Eno gereizt haben an den Gedichten von Rick Holland? Ich nahm sein Bändchen STORY THE FLOWERS  zur Hand und stiess auf feine Mischungen aus Alltagsbeobachtungen, Großstadtpanoramen, Philosophie, Humor, moderner Physik, plötzlichen Perspektivwechseln und meditativen Umkreisungen einzelner Motive. Den Texten bleibt stets mindestens ein Rätsel erhalten, unsere Phantasie wird nicht in eine bestimmte Richtung gedrängt. Die Gedichte lassen genügend Bedeutungsspielraum.

Und die  Musik von DRUMS BETWEEN THE BELLS untermalt nicht einfach, sie bestreitet, verwandelt, treibt an, setzt durch, fordert, skizziert, schwingt aus, dringt ein.  Und noch einiges mehr. „Niemals gab es so ein Empfinden“, erzählt Rick Holland, „dass Brian die Musik machte und ich die Gedichte. Gedichte und Musik konnten sich zu gleichen Teilen verändern im Lauf der Produktion, und der Schaffensprozess war ein ofenes Forum der Ideen.“ 

Zu dem ersten Track des Albums, Bless This Space, erzählt Rick Holland u.a. folgendes: – Ich hatte das Gedicht schon vergessen, da rief mich Brian an und las es mit einem pulsierenden beat im Hintergund. Das gefiel mir schon , aber seine finale Gestalt nahm das Stück erst viel später an, als Leo Abrahams und Seb Rochford ihre Magie verströmten. Leos Gitarre und Sebs Schlagzeug reissen die Musik weit auf und verstärken dieses Gespür einer ansteckenden Freiheit nach einem gemeinsamem Ritual, als ob man bis zu einem Abgrund marschiert wäre und nun keine andere Wahl hätte, als ins Unbekannte zu springen.

Soweit Rick Holland. Bless This Space ist also die ideale Eröffnung, für ein Album, das immer wieder unbekannte Areale erkundet. Textlich wie musikalisch. “the greatest joy there is / is onward search through the darkness”, heisst es in einem andern Gedicht. Gerne verfremdet Eno auch Stimmen, rückt sie ins Surreale, wie in “the real”, einer Attacke auf jeden eindimensionalen Realismus, mit lauter ungebändigten,  schwebenden Tönen.    Eno, der Expressionist, Eno, der Impressionist. Und Rick Holland ist ein so  kongenialer Partner, wie es einst Jon Hassell, David Byrne, oder Harold Budd waren.


Der Clou: zum Ende hin singt Eno  – und alle, die seit dem Ausklang der Siebziger Jahre, nach den Klassealben HERE COME THE WARM JETS, TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN (BY STRATEGY), ANOTHER GREEN WORLD und BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE, immer viel zu lange warten mussten auf neue Song-Alben des Herrn Eno, sind kurzfristig versöhnt, mit dem  Vortrag von „Cloud 4“. Wolken haben es leider an sich, mitunter rasch zu verschwinden, und es ist fast schon  englischer Humor, dass dieser tolle Song deutlich unter der 2-Minuten-Grenze bleibt. Ein Song, so herrlich aus der Welt gefallen wie einst Julie With…, aus BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE.  

In deutscher Übersetzung liest sich „Wolke 4“ so:  „die tollheiten des gemütszustands / bekannte wetterfronten hemmen uns / oder befreien uns wie kinder / nur einen tag auseinander / ein leben lang im himmel / sonne, taste den himmel ab wie im flug / suche nach irgendeinem zeichen / (dinge) werden gut.“

Alles scheint vorbei zu sein, Stille macht sich breit, man schüttelt noch immer den Kopf ob dieses einen Traumliedes, dem man am liebsten hinterher springen möchte – und dann gibt  es noch einen Song, kaum glaubliche, gute  sechs Minuten lang;  den Gesang zelebriert Eno in BREATH OF CROWS mit einer bei ihm selten vernommenen tiefen Stimme,  mit einer Langsamkeit und  Intensität, die nicht so weit vom Spätwerk eines Scott Walker entfernt ist.  Das große Erschauern, der Showdown am Ende eines überragenden Werkes.

Noch einmal Rick Holland: „Wir waren in einem neuen Teil seines Studios, er hatte sein ganzes Equipment in den Raum geschafft, der vorher ein reiner Geschäftsraum war, mit großen, zum Himmel gerichteten Fenstern. Der Regen hämmerte mit schweren Tropfen herunter, das Tageslicht verschwand hinter den Wolken, und da strömte aus den Boxen ein dunkler, fesselnder Sound. Die Bühne war gerichtet für Brians Breath of Crows, eine schleichende Meditation, die dunkel und erhebend zugleich ist. Seine Art zu singen fügte sich in die Atmosphäre ein. Ich hatte das Stück in Mumbai geschrieben,  während des Monsuns. Ich hatte ein kleines Zimmer auf Baumhöhe und lebte in enger Nachbarschaft mit der Krähenpopulation der Stadt. Es war der Endpunkt meiner Zeit dort als Lehrer, ich lebte eng mit diesen Tieren zusammen, in einer Kultur, die allem Lebendigen viel Aufmerksamkeit schenkt. Der Song ist vielleicht eine Art nicht-religöse Hymne“:

„mein gott ist im atem der krähen / er wächst und schrumpft mit dem wunsch der natur  / ein feuer ohne verbindung mit dem menschenwunsch / aber er muss absolut sein, dieser gott/ denn wenn der verstand still steht bewegt er sich. / mein gott ist im atem von krähen / darf ich mir nicht vormachen / mein ich denken zu lassen / er wächst meinen wunsch zu erfüllen / oder meine sünde zu waschen / aber lass mich mit verwundernung zuschauen / während er seine arbeit macht. / die klänge der heiligen nacht im überfluss / turmfalkenrufe und glocken trinken die luft / und das sinnrennen quillt (lass es herein) / oder die rufe klingen wie hohles blech / oder grammophonkreise und hintergrundstaub / ich muss mich / ersetzt durch most / durch witterung und wahrnehmung / darüber wundern“


Für jedes Gedicht entsteht ein ganz anders gearteter Track, es gibt kein  Formular, keine Strophenmuster, keine Gebrauchsanweisungen. Das ist bestimmt etwas, das Eno im Umgang mit diesen Gedichten gereizt hat. Immer wieder bei Punkt Null beginnen. Jeder Masche aus dem Weg gehen. Das Resultat: wir begegnen, klanglich gesehen, der scharfen Klinge – und dem fliessenden Pastell (ein genauer Blick auf die Musik jedes einzelnen Stückes, und diese Besprechung wäre leicht doppelt so lang).  DRUMS BETWEEN THE BELLS ist der provokante Gegenentwurf  für hochtrabende, angestrengt intellektuelle Kunst – das Album zelebriert pure Sinnlichkeit, ist Seelen- und Geistesnahrung in einem. Die Musik ist archaisch. Die Worte tanzen. Lyrik und Musik: ja, das geht noch. Und wie!

P.S. Das Artwork hat  auch Klasse. In der special edition gibt es alle Stücke noch mal, rein instrumental. In einer anderen Reihenfolge, und ganz merkwürdig anderen Hörwirkungen.

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