Eno has been an enduring influence on music as well as modern art. Taking cues from John Cage, Eno created a genre called ambient music. He also produced excellent artists such as David Bowie, the Talking Heads, Devo, John Cale, U2, James as well as pursuing side and solo projects at the same time. Unfortunately, he also created The Microsoft Sound...

Before heading off into the realms of ambient noodling, Eno also created a number of straight-ahead rock albums.

Here Come The Warm Jets (1973) is quirky experimental rock; entirely written and recorded in 12 days, the 10 songs include the excellent Blank Frank and Dead Finks Don't Talk, while the largely instrumental On Some Faraway Beach and the title track hint at more considered music to come.

Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (1974) is similar, but slightly more refined. There's less noisiness, although some of the tracks are whimsical; the godawful nursery-rhyme horror of Put A Straw Under Baby is worst offender. For all that, though, the majority of the tracks are good.

Another Green World (1975) and Before And After Science (1977) begin to pick up on and develop the ambient thread: both albums have an even mix of straightforward songs and ambient instrumental miniatures. The songs are more reserved, musically, and more rewarding in the long term; the short instrumental pieces are worthy, and make decidedly more tolerable listening than the later ambient behemoths.

Brian Eno has, quite justly, a reputation for being an intellectual. But complementing his endless curiosity and experimentation is his rather bizarre sense of humour. This is very apparent in his diary, "A Year With Swollen Appendices". One of the incidents he relates in the book is almost beyond belief, although I have to say that I personally am inclined to take his word for it.

The story revolves around Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", which is basically a porcelain urinal which Ducamp chose at random and subsequently exhibited. In 1995, Eno saw it on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, being treated as if it was a holy relic rather than a randomly chosen object. He was appalled that Duchamp’s message, which Eno characterizes as, "I can call any old urinal — or anything else for that matter — a piece of art", had been so badly misunderstood. But Eno had far more pressing things on his mind. The following is quoted from his diary.

“I’ve always wanted to urinate on that piece of art, to leave my small mark on art history. I thought this might be my last chance — for each time it was shown it was more heavily defended. At MoMA it was being shown behind glass, in a large display case. There was, however, a narrow slit between the two front sheets of glass. It was about three-sixteenths of an inch wide.

I went to the plumber’s on the corner and obtained a couple of feet of clear plastic tubing of that thickness, along with a similar length of galvanized wire. Back in my hotel room, I inserted the wire down the tubing to stiffen it. Then I urinated into the sink and, using the tube as a pipette, managed to fill it with urine. I then inserted the whole apparatus down my trouser-leg and returned to the museum, keeping my thumb over the top end so as to ensure that the urine stayed in the tube.

At the museum, I positioned myself before the display case, concentrating intensely on its contents. There was a guard standing behind me and about 12 feet away. I opened my fly and slipped out the tube, feeding it carefully through the slot in the glass. It was a perfect fit, and slid in quite easily until its end was poised above the famous john. I released my thumb, and a small but distinct trickle of my urine splashed on to the work of art."

A deranged act of an obsessive mind? A childish prank by someone with too much time on their hands? An astonishingly apt and astute comment on attitudes to art? Whatever, Duchamp would have loved it.

Brian Eno's full name is Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno. He was born on May 15, 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England.

A tenure at an art school acquainted him with the work of contemporary composers John Tilbury and Cornelius Cardew and minimalists John Cage, LaMonte Young and Terry Riley. Having learned the principles of conceptual painting and sound sculpture, and after hearing Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain," Eno began fiddling around with tape recorders which he later dubbed his first musical instrument. He signed on as a singer and "signals generator" to the improv rock group Maxwell Demon (with guitarist Anthony Grafton); they recorded one song, "Ellis B. Compton Blues," captured on four-track on Christmas Day, 1968. In 1969 he joined Scratch Orchestra (led by Cardew) and later became a clarinetist in Portsmouth Sinfonia. In 1971 he played synthesizer in the glam group Roxy Music; after two LPs (self-titled, 1972; For Your Pleasure, 1973) tension between he and the group's frontman, Bryan Ferry, led Eno to leave Roxy Music to pursue other possibilities.

In 1973 he released No Pussyfooting with Robert Fripp. Working with Fripp, Eno began developing what he called "Frippertronics": a loop delay system hooked up to Fripp's guitar. Soon Eno started on solo projects; his first release, the "very experimental" Here Come the Warm Jets, was received very well and made the UK Top 30. Near the end of 1973 he had a brief gig fronting for the Winkies, but less than a week into the British tour one of his lungs collapsed and he spent the beginning of 1974 in the hospital.

A set of playing cards depicting a Chinese revolutionary opera inspired 1974's Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy). Later, after being confined to his bed for months after a car accident, Eno theorized that music could take a role similar to light or color, adding to the environment of a room without being the focus. Another Green World (1975) was the start of his experimentation with ambient music and Discreet Music was the beginning of a 10-volume set of experimental works released on his own label, Obscure.

After another pop album (Before and After Science, 1977) Eno released Music for Films: pieces written as soundtracks to imaginary movies. He also became a highly regarded producer and collaborator, working with Cluster, James, Nico, and even Luciano Pavarotti and David Bowie. He produced the no wave compilation No New York and worked with Talking Heads for two years (he was involved in the albums More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music and Remain in Light, on which he is credited as co-authoring all but one song). Tension between bandmates again forced Eno to leave, but he collaborated with TH frontman David Byrne on 1981's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a revolutionary fusion of electronic music and Third World percussion.

After working with TH, Eno continued his progress on ambient music with Music for Airports (1979). In 1980 he teamed up with minimalist composer Harold Budd, avant-trumpeter Jon Hassell and producer Daniel Lanois (Eno and Lanois would become one of the most successful production teams of the 80s, producing records for U2 that earned the group worldwide recognition). Eno did not stop his own work, releasing On Land in 1982 and Apollo Atmospheres and Soundtracks in 1983. He even created a soundtrack to a series of "video paintings" by Christine Alicino, called Thursday Afternoon (1985).

I had this long conversation with Bono, who's a brilliant talker and very smart. And I said, "Look, if I work with you, I will want to change lots of things you do. Because I'm not interested in records as a document of a rock band playing on stage. I'm more interested in painting pictures. I want to create a landscape within which this music happens." And so Bono said, "Exactly, that's what we want too."

—Brian Eno (on how he started working with U2)

Eno produced John Cale's Words for the Dying in 1989, and the next year collaborated with Cale to release the first album with vocals by Eno in a long time, Wrong Way Up. Going solo again, he released two more albums in 1992 (The Shutov Assembly and Nerve Net) and another a year later (Neroli). In 1999, Eno produced an album for the band James, and a collection of Eno's ambient tracks and a 93-page booklet was released, called Sonora Portraits.

Eno did not stick just to music, though: in 1980 he created a vertical-format video called Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhattan; he designed an installation to commemorate a Shinto shrine in 1989; with the help of Laurie Anderson he made Self Storage in 1995; he even published A Year With Swollen Appendices, a diary, in 1996. He also made a series of audio "screensavers" for computer software called "Generative Music I." One of his visions is music that changes and grows every time you press "play":

I really think it is possible that our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: "You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?"


Only neo-vegetables enjoy using computers the way they are at the moment.... You're just sitting there, and it's quite boring. You've got this stupid little mouse that requires one hand, and your eyes. That's it.... No African would stand for a computer like that.

Eno is a visiting professor at the Royal College of Art (London), an honorary professor of the Hochschüle der Künste (Berlin), and holds an honorary doctorate in technology from Plymouth University. He is also the founder of the Long Now Foundation. He has been married twice and has three children.


References:
Биография исполнителя (Biografiya ispolnitelya): http://musicbase.h1.ru/PPB/ppb0/Bio_45.htm, reproduction of a biography by Jason Ankeny
Doors of Perception: Lightness speakers: http://museum.doorsofperception.com/doors/doors6/speakerbio/eno.html
Life of Brian: http://hotwired.wired.com/popfeatures/96/23/eno.guide.html
enoweb faq1: http://music.hyperreal.org/artists/brian_eno/enofaq1.html

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