Brian Eno Movements Edinburgh International Festival 23 Aug 2013

Brian Eno Movements Edinburgh International Festival 23 Aug
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Friday, 2.30pm
enotix As part of the Edinburgh International Festival Movements is a series of talks and events, presented in association with National Museums Scotland, exploring how artists have kept pace with technology over the centuries and how technology in turn influences artists. “An afternoon in conversation with influential, ex-Roxy Music synth player Brian Eno, as he shares his thoughts on the future of music and music production.Music since recording is a new art form, which bears only as much resemblance to traditional, performed music as cinema does to theatre. What are the special characteristics of this new art? How did it evolve? Where might it be going? Brian Eno shares his thoughts.”
Laura and I had a pleasant train journey up to Edinburgh, arriving at Waverley station shortly after noon. The weather was fine for this, our third visit to Scotland in last couple of weeks, and our second to the Edinburgh festival. We were both looking forward to hearing Brian Eno speak. He is a hugely influential figure in popular music, and we figured that it would be interesting to hear his views. I haven’t seen him in any live context since the 70s and his days with Roxy Music, and a performance with Phil Manzanera and the 801 band at the Reading festival.
The venue for Eno’s lecture was the National Museum of Scotland, which is a grand building just off the Royal Mile and a short walk from the station. We had a sandwich lunch at a cafe on Bristol Square before taking our seats in the lecture theatre. The chance of hearing Brian Eno speak does not come vey often, and the event had been sold out or some weeks. At 2.30pm prompt Eno entered the hall to a round of applause. He stood at a desk strewn with visuals, which he displayed on an overhead projector.
He explained that his talk was to centre around the two concepts of “the composer” and “the audience”, how these have developed over time and continue to develop, and how music sits between the two and “sometimes brings them together”. eif He then took us the through the history of the composer, starting back when music was there simply to enable dance, or as a way of creating noise which would frighten away big cats who had come to prey on ancient man. This progressed to a discussion of early recording media, and how the advent of multitrack enabled music to become an entity in its own right, a piece of aural painting or sculpture, separate from the performance, and existing not in a score, but in the record itself. He used the recording techniques of Les Paul and Mary Ford, Phil Sector and George Martin as illustrations of this, showing visuals to support his point.
Eno then turned to the subject of the audience, making a distinction between the formal, regimented, and structured way in which an audience of a classical recital behaves, and that of a rock concert, where the audience and the performer come together, sometimes literally, showing a picture of Iggy Pop standing on top of his crowd. He explained how he wanted to use technology to create aural soundscapes, as he has done in his pioneering work on ambient music.
The lecture finished with a short discussion of where music lies now, being created and layered from the recordings of our past, drawing an analogy with the techniques of the animator in film. Time was short, and the lecture was strictly constrained to one hour, which soon passed, with our speaker finishing with a couple of questions from the audience, and a few visuals left unused. One guy asked “what do you think of jazz?” and Brian answered that Frank Zappa said that “jazz was the definition of how to be unemployed”.
It was a very interesting and engaging lecture, which passed all too quickly. it was fascinating to hear Eno’s thoughts on music. Well done to the Edinburgh International Festival for including this in their programme.
Laura and I caught the 4.30pm train back to Newcastle; we were home around 7pm.

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