Friday, September 4, 2015

40 Year Itch : All Their Thundering

Brian Eno : St. Elmo's Fire

   Brian Eno came upon the elegant ambient music sounds that make their first appearance in songs like "Zawinul/Lava" on Another Green World as the result of two accidents. The first one nearly killed him. On a cold night in January, 1975, Eno stumbled in front of an oncoming taxi. He related the quick succession of his thoughts to People Magazine in 1983:

"At that instant my mind was operating incredibly fast," he recalls. "On one channel, I thought, 'So that may be the last thing I do.' Then I thought, 'If I'm going to survive this, I've got to get up as soon as it hits me,' because I could see another car following the taxi that would surely swerve around and run over my head. The third thing I thought was, 'Who is going to get in touch with my girlfriend?' And the fourth thing was, 'Isn't the brain an incredible thing? It's like a 24-track tape with all these things going on at once.' It sounds ridiculous, but in that moment I developed a theory about how my brain worked. Then I got hit."

Recovering from the collision, Eno came upon the second accident when he played some harp music on a turntable. Once he got back in bed, he realized he had left the volume too low.

"At first I thought, 'Oh God, I wish I could turn it up, but then I started to think how beautiful it was. It was raining heavily outside and I could just hear the loudest notes of the harp coming above the level of the rain."

   The full fruition of Eno's discovery of ambient music would wind up on albums like Discreet Music and Music For Airports.  Another Green World foreshadows those albums while offering some of the bizarre glam rock pop that have made earlier albums such inventive fun.  With the help of musicians like Phil Collins, John Cale and Robert Fripp ( whose dazzling solo is the highlight of "St. Elmo's Fire"),  and a deck of cards called Oblique Strategies ( "Emphasize the flaws", "Use another color" ), Eno treated sounds to create moody and dreamlike soundscapes. 

    It certainly sounded like another world. 

1 comment:

  1. Ah yes. This is a great track, though have to admit I only came to know it via Uilab's cover. On a similar tack, how odd it is for my generation (any generation I suppose) that songs are increasingly being discovered not necessarily in original form but by their being covered. #progress