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Brian Eno: Visual Music

Nenad Georgievski By

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Brian Eno: Visual Music
Christopher Scoates
416 pages
ISBN: 1452108498
Chronicle Books

To say that polymath Brian Eno is one of the most influential figures of our time would be a severe understatement. Eno has been one of the pivotal figures of the 20th century music as he introduced a popular voice to a century of musical change, and he has continued to do so in the next one he has helped to envision. Innovative, exuberant and controversial, Eno has, during any point of his illustrious career, found both popular appeal and intellectual appreciation for his ideas, emotional intensity and musical sophistication. Over the last 40 years he has been largely responsible for rendering conventional music categories obsolete and inventing or inspiring many others along the way.

A maverick producer, theoretician and erudite he showed that ideas can have far reaching consequences, and his interviews, which are somewhat public lectures or thinking in public, indicate someone that enjoys theorizing about the creative process, especially when he can offer a new perspective on established ideas and working practices. A towering figure and an eccentric artist, he has shown interest in various areas: design, painting, video installations, production, collaboration, composing, fragrances, and in each sphere he has found success. More important is that Eno has found a way to connect and combine all these seemingly disparate and somewhat detached areas as ingredients in a collage. And as a result this has inspired and fed his work as he combined all of these elements into different processes that would spark new meanings and stories.

Eno's life and works so far have been dissected and analyzed in several books, such as the Eric Tamm's Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound, a musicological study of his output, or David Sheppard's comprehensive On Some Faraway Beach. But those books gave more emphasis, normally, on his life and work within the domain of music. Eno's artistic education, background and interests beyond music were never neglected by his biographers or journalists throughout the years, but those activities outside of music were overshadowed by the successes of his musical endeavors during different times either by producing mega popular stars or by the success of his own music.

Visual Music is a substantial attempt to give a view on the entire body of work in the world of visual art that has spanned more than 40 years. Scoates is a director of the CLUBS' University Art Museum , curator and writer, with an extensive background in arts and whose interests encompass works that blend technology, design, interactivity and experimental sound. This book is bound in several chapters or essays, each divided by photographs of Eno's sketches, photo stills from his video and gallery installations and various other photographs. This stunning monograph besides Scoates' contributions also features contributions by Steve Dietz, Brian Dillon, Roy Ascott (who provided the foreword), and William R. Wright and this magnificent work of art was designed by Andrew Blauvelt and Matthew Rezac. All these chapters map different biographical and artistic details that have shaped his artistic sensibilities as a young and aspiring artist or have inspired him to experiment further and simultaneously straddle the boundaries between different areas such as visual and aural arts.

As the story goes, the Ipswich art school that Eno attended from 1964 to 1966 had been considered to be a hotbed of experimentalism. Eno was particularly affected by the school's head, Roy Ascott, a teacher interested in cybernetics, who purposefully "disoriented" his students into new ways of thinking. His "Groundcourse" was as influential as it was unorthodox in its approach to teaching art. Another teacher, Tom Philips, also influenced Eno to experiment with tape recorders. It was there that Eno began to see the process of making something to be more interesting than the end result. Also at this school he became interested in the Dada and Surrealist movement of the early 20th century as well as becoming interested in sound generation and automatic writing. With alumni that include Townshend, Eno and Stephen Willats there is no doubt that the courses at Ipswich (and Ealing) have made their mark. Moving to Winchester Art School in 1966 developed his ideas further, even though it was a more conventional school than Ipswitch. He created performances of both paintings and scores, and formed a music group, Merchant Taylor's Simultaneous Cabinet. Then, in 1969, Eno graduated with a Diploma in Fine Art.


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