let’s build a constellation: a pirated (yeah!) copy of the bbc4’s documentary on brian eno, watching oddsac at sundance and the grammy awards.
you’ve probably heard (of) brian eno without even realizing it. after leaving roxy music in the early 70s, eno went on to make a handful of exceptional solo records, collaborated with david bowie on his berlin-trilogy (low, “heroes” and lodger, in other words, all his best records), pioneered electronic music, revolutionized ambient music for airports, helped the talking heads move from no-wave to all-world (remain in light), wrote several books and so on and so on and so on. oh yeah, he also produced nearly every u2 record (but we shouldn’t hold that against him).
in the bbc4’s exceptional documentary, brain eno: another green world, eno notes that his earliest exposure to music was in church. the musicians — the organists, conductor, choir and congregation — were all people from town — the baker, shopkeeper, teacher or neighbor. in other words, there were no professional musicians (i’m using professional musician in a very strict sense: professional => getting paid to produce/perform music). extending this thought, it’s a safe bet that nearly all the music produced/performed in the history of the world was done so by amateurs.
in other news, i went to a movie at the sundance film festival for the first time in like 10 years (which may be surprising since i’ve lived in or near salt lake for 9 of the last 10 winters). but they were screening oddsac, the visual album by danny perez and animal collective, so there i was at sundance. i was excited for this movie because, for some reason, i always associate animal collective with david lynch (probably because i first heard panda bear’s person pitch the same week i saw inland empire). it turned out oddsac wasn’t like inland empire. what oddsac is: a collection of new (or maybe just unreleased) animal collective songs set to different images. the songs were great, the videos just ok. except for this one video in the middle. the screen goes white as random loops of noise start building up, syncing up momentarily then breaking apart. colors, shapes and lines, mimicking the loops, break through the white, began to overlap, creating new patterns that then break apart into randomness. it’s almost like the song is fed into some sort of program where the different noises in the song are converted into emergent moving-images. like the song is the input into a system of feedback loops whose output is the video (which is also how eno describes his work — he doesn’t create songs, but rather creates systems that produce new songs when fed different inputs).
but i want to go back to before the movie started. the pre-movie screen flashed some sundance-sponsored nonsense about a cinematic revolution. then some sundance suit (except, at sundance, the suits dont wear suits) walks on stage to urge us to disable our cellphones warning us that any cellphone use, including receiving texts, will get you kicked out of the screening. not because it’s annoying when people use electronic devices in a movie theater; you’ll get kicked out because sundance is super-paranoid of piracy. not much of a cinematic revolution.
which brings me to the grammys. sunday night i flipped over to the grammy’s looking to see lil wayne’s performance, but instead watched another suit (this time wearing a suit) going on and on about how current and future artists and musicians need to get paid in order to create quality music so we better pay for our music for the future of music. but as eno already suggested, only the slightest portion of music is produced by professionals. you can go online right now and find weeks, months and years of free music — not only because the music has been pirated, but often because the artists themselves make the music free. and, if, as the suit suggested, the grammy’s are an indicator of quality music, i’d suggest we stop paying for music right now if only so the professional artists and musicians who need to get paid to make music are forced to find other jobs.
the future of music won’t suffer one bit.