posted on November 9, 2007 at 11:48 pm

ambient music
the term first used around 75 by brian eno
brian eno is to ambient music
what the beatles were to rock
the prime mover

something just happened that you wont believe
but here it is
my skin still goosebumped
my eyes still filled with weird tears
my ipod was on shuffle
i had been listening to biosphere
it was good to write about ambience to
then pugwash came on bright and chirpy
i jumped up
my head full of thoughts of brian eno
i thought “on land”
surely enos most amazing ambient work
i will listen to that as i type type type
i picked up the pod off the i box
and fiendss
its giving me the creeps to think of it
as i touched the pod
the screen changed
it had jumped off shuffle and pugwash
and it was playing
yes you guessed
on land by brian eno
can someone please explain
what i am to understand from that?
i swear on my life this is all true

as it happens
there was no real ambient music before 1975
and before brian eno
nothing i had ever heard (of)
apparently eno was in hospital
this is during his transition from strange glam star
to intellectual experimenter
he had a collapsed lung
someone brought him a stereo to listen to
it was a rainy day
there was a busy street outside
one speaker didnt seem to work
and when enos visitor left
he realised the music was too low
and he couldnt get up to change the volume
why the music was at the same level
as the rain and the wet streets and cars
initially frustrated
it dawned on him
the beauty of this barely audible classical piece
amidst the natural sounds
soothing non intrusive
it did not demand a reaction
you could take it or leave it
the surrounding sounds inter reacted with the music
enos genius was to hear the infinite possibilities implied
i had been interested in eno ever since he first came to my attention
roxy musics 1st album
i got it in 73 it may have been released earlier
actually the synth stuff he does is quite funny
obviously and proudly a non musician
eno brings an attitude
of course he was a non musician back then
these days im sure hes quite accomplished
even though he may not care to admit it
nevertheless some of its awful
some of it brilliant
he also began treating guitars
i had never before heard of anyone “treating” an instrument
at the time i had no idea what was involved
but i began to feel a new kind of thinking
had entered rock
2nd album more of the same
+ a very silly get up with peacock feathers and make up
he was not looking like the father of ambience
guess what
bryan ferry kicked him out
i guess he was tired of eno getting all the attention
or he wasnt interested in john cage and music concrete
you can imagine their disagreements
before ferry finally asked him to leave
both very polite and well spoken
lots of subtle nastiness and intellectual kidney punches
eno made a solo album
here come the warm jets
the title presumably referring to the playing card
on the cover
in which at least a hundred years ago
a gentleman is standing behind a lady
lifting her skirts
and watching her
as she squats and pees in some bleak landscape
very odd you must admit
anyway it was a pretty good album
some ambience was hinted at
but it was mostly twisted songs
phil manzanera playing some great guitar
enos goofy voice and his sharp bizarre lyrics
mixing pop cliche daydream and jargon
but it was still a rock record in the end
taking tiger mountain by strategy
enos 2nd album was a little weirder
he had his systems going here
his systems of writing and recording
eventually mutating into a box of cards
briefly available then re released recently
in which a random principle could be introduced
into the processes of creating music
this box of cards was called oblique strategies
i have seen them though i have never used them
i never really like ttmbs that much myself
i admired the methods but didnt care for the result
enos 3rd album however
is where ambient music seems to be slowly incubating
on this album are short instrumental tracks
strongly hinting at what was to come
when eno would finally abandon the song format
in the movie
dogs in space
it is shown as the album
that people wanted to borrow
when they wanted a seductive soundtrack to their hanky panky
yet this music is rarely erotic
and perhaps it was played to lull young nervous women
into a false calm
eno here
becomes eno
becomes himself
music that floats
music that truly drifts in clouds of sad strings
music that glimmers like gold in a stream
a new music
a new aesthetic
never pompous though
naive if anything
a new feeling
the songs were still quirky and poppy
but this was a man
to whom a whole new universe was unfolding
the next record was his last with songs or vocals
for a while
now i dont correctly know the sequence of things here
but all around this time
eno did this:
* made 2 albums of treated guitar with robert fripp
consisting of long droning notes looped and fed through synths
you can hear the church with this effect on dead mans dream solo
wherein marty is playing his guitar fed into a vintage synthesiser
and the filters on the synth
attackdecaysustainrelease etc
being twiddled with
no pussyfooting
the 1st album
by these 2 shy geniuses
a rude title no doubt referring to legendary groupie fest
the 2 had once been involved in in new york
this was roxy days i guess
the bands had toured together
king crimson and roxy
its the 2nd album
evening star
another type of ambience
music not intended to be your primary source of focus
you werent sposed to play this loud
however if you listened
such metallic beauty
not heavy metallic
but thin strips of gold and silver leaf
resonating in mineral voices
chords drown and gently mutate
distant storms only just heard
its beautiful beautiful stuff
yes you could do yoga or have sex to it
or both at the same time if youre a tantric casanova
it was not atonal or slightly dissonant in places
like no pussyfooting
it was sweet
*produced ultravoxs 1st album
containing eno/foxx composition
my sex
absolutely essential stuff
the words the music
eno sculpts a futurist city
for foxx to populate
with his dis-associated characters
who wander thru life
in wonder
but serene
“pieced from the tick of time
and geared for…synchromesh”
and that is as good as it gets on pop records
*worked with german duo cluster
made 2 interesting records with them
important to note the influence eno has
on all he worked with
* made recordings with new york band
before they made marquee moon
it never worked out
and the bootleg will attest to that
i guess verlaine couldnt give eno
any room to move
and that was the end of that
*toured the uk with pub rock band the winkies backing him
* worked with portsmouth sinfonia
which are amateur classical players butchering the greats
funny idea
excruciating listening
*appeared on genesis lamb lies down on broadway
if you want to clearly something eno was involved in
listen to silent sorrow in empty boats which has the trademark
eno backgrounds; floating vanishing gently changing
eno is credited on sleeve notes
eno as eno
and that is some justification
of the truly unique sound that he alone had
*he co produced the end by nico with john cale
an amazing album not for the lover of light fizz
*he made a live album with cale, nico and kevin ayers
but soon
he was to make
the worlds
very first
ambient record
discreet music

part 2

45 Responses to “short treatise on ambient music:part 1”

  1. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 2:52 am #

    …my god steve you know your music…i do own a couple of eno albums including evening star…it is lovely…i gotta ask, how many albums do you own or have you lost count…i’d love an answer as i’m very curious…
    love always
    -The Hellbound Heart

  2. avatar
    craig1.618 | 10 November 2007 at 3:19 am #

    with regards to your ipod:

    perhaps the yoga is lining up those chakras so you’re becoming somewhat telekinetic

    i have those things happen to me on occasion

    i don’t think it’s anything to be afraid of or spooked by

    what’s really cool is when i do telepathic and telekinetic stuff in my dreams

    flying is really cool too ( in my dreams, that is)

  3. avatar
    ...being here, doing this... | 10 November 2007 at 3:40 am #

    “it dawned on him
    the beauty of this barely audible classical piece
    amidst the natural sounds
    soothing non intrusive
    it did not demand a reaction
    you could take it or leave it
    the surrounding sounds inter reacted with the music
    enos genius was to hear the infinite possibilities implied”


    “Walking home from a recording studio in West London, Eno stepped off the curb and was hit by a car, seriously cracking his skull. Being found in the curb, clasping either side of his face, with blood running down between his fingers, Eno found the presence to remark to his rescuers: “I’m just trying to keep my head together, man”

    Bedridden for weeks, he noticed a strange acoustic effect while listening to a record; the listening experience merged with his somnambulant, convalescent state: a dream like yet precise patterning of sound, musically weightless and atmospherically heavy – an effect not dissimilar to the sonic equivalent of very subtle colour.

    The result of this near hallucinatory experience would be Discreet Music (1975) – an album of eerily beautiful minimalism….

    Discreet Music – a shifting pattern of undulating tones – is arguably one of the most important records ever released, and it would establish a format and an artistic signature which Eno continued to refine throughout his career……”

    – Michael Bracewell (January 2006 GQ magazine)

  4. avatar
    timf | 10 November 2007 at 3:42 am #

    thanks for the blog entry today….I had forgotten it was him on “lamb” I love that album more than any other PG era genesis.

    oh you can so hear it on silent sorrow in empty boats and in The Ravine, The Waiting room with all those noises.

    Spooky how you elude to how he introduced the “random” into the art of making music…as he randomly comes up in your i-mix…freaking out yet?

    I recall being in a music shop at about age 14 or 15 about 25 years ago and the guy who was working had this incredible other worldly music on, I had to ask him what it was…he said it was Brian Eno…but it was a disc of his own…they didn’t have an eno disc in stock…all this time later I have still to find that piece of music…it was incredible..If I had time to go thru his catelogue I’m sure I would recognize it 25 years later…after hearing it once…it was that distinct.

    I do love Becalmed off of Another Green World and Everything Merges with the Night. ..Everything he does with Harlod Budd (its in my qigong mix) and Apollo stuff like Under Stars…there’s so much…

    Good of you to pay homage to a talent like this who has obviously been an incredible influence on the world of music in so many ways, including you and your band. Looking forward to part 2.

  5. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 3:47 am #


  6. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 5:21 am #

    I really enjoyed that sk, I always love reading about what music turns on ttb. The only times I’ve heard Brian Eno was from my older brother who had a few of his albums. But I’m looking forward to Part2 tomorrow, I really need to find some ambient music that will help me drift off to a peaceful, dreamy sleep, it’s been it a bit hard lately. Great blogging sk!
    Love Amanda
    P.S. Your friend’s band BJM is featured on tv tonight(SBS). Curious to see rikki, is he the guitarist?

  7. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 5:33 am #


  8. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 5:56 am #

    EARTH is ambient for the magical realists.AIR is the ambient for the genius,fire is the ambient for the salamanders,water is the ambient to the fluid.

  9. avatar
    Brien Comerford | 10 November 2007 at 6:08 am #

    Phaedra by Tangerine Dream was the first seminal ambient CD. It’s a sin to mention this because I am the asshole to mention that abortion is just as bad as killing animals. As I leave I wish fellow commentors the best but don’t disagree with Mr. Kilbey or he will chop you down like a logger killing a tree. Peace and Farewell!

  10. avatar
    lily was here | 10 November 2007 at 6:42 am #

    The Dogs in Space kids prob got it mixed up with the antacid of the same name. Eno’s work with U2 explains a lot, Miss Sarajevo being one of my favourite recent Eno pieces. Nice write-up SK.

    Brien, Id miss your subliminality. Dont leave.


  11. avatar
    captainmission | 10 November 2007 at 6:53 am #

    Hey i really enjoyed that trip, i’m a huge eno fan, he really is innovative. Have you ever read his diary, it’s facsinating reading, notes for a year producing, U2, Bowie, James and some other stuff, lots of travels through eastern europe and various art exhibitions.
    I’m waiting for John Foxx, Eno and Bill Nelson to get together, that would be very intresting.
    Roll on Part 2

  12. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 7:14 am #

    Eno’s book called “a year with swollen appendices’ is interesting reading. Eno is always being asked
    ‘exactly what is it that you do’. So in this diary he simply tells you. Also, Daniel Lanois has just put out a movie called “here is what is“ it follows him for a whole year, eno features a lot…at the start he tells daniel what the movie should be about – “show them how it’s all done, show them thats it’s not magic”


  13. avatar
    nickfiction | 10 November 2007 at 8:15 am #


  14. avatar
    steve kilbey | 10 November 2007 at 8:20 am #

    brien c
    youre very sensitive
    i did not chop you down
    i just dont think the abortion debate
    needs to take place on my blogge or comments
    is that too much to ask of you?
    i believe it is beyond this blogges sphere of reference
    i believe it is a very personal matter
    i do not wish any more mud slung
    which will only be the result
    but if you must go

  15. avatar
    Klink | 10 November 2007 at 8:21 am #

    My first ever CD purchased ( on a Uni students budget ) was U2’s “The Unforgettable Fire” – Produced by Eno himself…is it a coincidence that, in my humble opinion, it’s their finest album?

    The album that launched them into the mainstream stratosphere…they have a lot to thank Brian Eno for.

    Unfortunately today they are a shadow of their former selves but that’s another story.

  16. avatar
    Mary Ann | 10 November 2007 at 9:08 am #

    Love these blogs, Professor.

  17. avatar
    eek | 10 November 2007 at 9:38 am #

    I love the way you write about music Steve. Most people can’t convey the feel and sound of music — hence the all too often true “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” quote — but you do it beautifully. The passion you have about music and the joy it gives you come through your writing so clearly that it’s a delight to read.

    And often the music you recommend is right up my alley too, so that’s an extra bonus.

  18. avatar
    fantasticandy | 10 November 2007 at 10:07 am #

    steve, you and my bandmate jim could ‘shoot the breeze’ about eno all night.

    brien c,
    i adore ‘phaedra’
    but i dont think it qualifies as ambient in the same way as eno’s stuff.
    it ‘demands’ attention.
    i mean come on!
    when those mellotron chords break though at the end……wow!
    the hairs on the back of your neck stand up….it’s all-consuming.
    its fantastic electronic music..cutting edge in its day….but it’s NOT ambient.

    you DON’T listen to ambient…you co-exist with it!
    let steve finish.
    he is rather good at this kind of thing after all.

    c’mon bri….lighten up, don’t be so petulant.
    i’m with sue ‘n steve,
    we like having you around.
    a fabbo weekend to all,
    andy L.

    p.s. likewise, the brummie with the ‘big smiley face’!

  19. avatar
    fantasticandy | 10 November 2007 at 10:10 am #

    i just read that back!
    i didn’t mean YOU were petulant, great mate!!!!
    love you more.

  20. avatar
    fantasticandy | 10 November 2007 at 10:11 am #

    oh, hell!
    what a balls-up!
    too much caffine folks.

  21. avatar
    Celticat | 10 November 2007 at 10:38 am #


    Quite Happily
    An acolyte..

  22. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 10:54 am #

    beano time…well done.

    the fat lady of linburgh

  23. avatar
    ticker | 10 November 2007 at 11:59 am #

    i’m glad brian is going

    hes boring as hell and he repeats himself

  24. avatar
    Ethereal Butterfly | 10 November 2007 at 12:05 pm #

    Have not much to contribute to the Eno discussion apart from the fact that his music when used in dance & drama performances, I have been involved in, was very evocative.
    BC – you are such a kind and benevolent soul – I have always scrolled down with baited breath to read YOUR comments above all others in response to Killa’s blog, as in my view, you have a very wise and discerning voice in this community. Whilst I may not welcome any discussion on the topic of abortion either, sometimes one must agree to disagree. I wish to ‘hold out an olive branch’to you dear BC………….can you………..reach it?? Are you taking it?????

  25. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 12:19 pm #

    on the subject of weird occurences, two have happened to me recently.

    i was driving along a motorway and the guy on the radio was talking about somebody called jasper. jasper isn’t a common name round these here parts. exactly at the moment that he said the name jasper i glanced to my right and saw that the van next to me had the name jasper writen on the side. the timing was such that aurally and visually i got the same exact infomation at exactly the same time – it felt strange. i also recently got a pair of binoculars and was standing in my garden randomly looking at the stars. looking straight up (big crick in neck) i saw to my amazement a shooting star streak across my view – i thought this was rather special as i see on average about one shooting star every few weeks. to see one go across the narrow field of view i had through the binoculars struck me as unlikely. these two things happened within a couple of weeks of each other. is god trying to tell me something i wonder.

  26. avatar
    Jen Jewel Brown | 10 November 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    When I was in a nightclub in Adelaide in 1979 there was a wil and crazy DJ who did an act to Eno’s ‘Baby’s On Fire’ featuring a very far-put outfit and a plastic doll he set fire too. I will enver forget how eerie and crazy it seemed – fantastic. Als how I played my 45rpm of Roxy Music’s ‘The Strand’ and “Virginia Plain’ till it was so thing you could see through it.

    Eno wrote the Windows default start-up and shut down etc sounds. Every time I hear them I wonder if he gets a performance royalty – I bet not. He is a pervasive talent who has warped the very fabric of rock.

    As for synchronicity, one wonders if it’s that one’s mind begins to pre-read the shifting tectonic plates in time with such clarity, when one gives in to second sight. That is, one stops fighting precognition, and intuition, and begins to trust that the human mind really can know something before it happens.

  27. avatar
    Jen Jewel Brown | 10 November 2007 at 12:42 pm #

    Oh, and BC – please stay. Leave that debate, I won’t enter it, but stay.

  28. avatar
    davem | 10 November 2007 at 12:49 pm #

    Interesting stuff Steve. It is a strange old world….
    I’m not an Eno fan but will probably add a little something to my chrimbo list to check it out.
    Oh and Brien…..We’d really miss you so get your arse back here. I like to think we’re a bit of a family and give a shit about each other. So it’s ok to throw a wobbler but you have to then come back to our voluptuous bosom. Less coffee Andy, more vegan ale.
    Love to all.


  29. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    Hey Steve

    Please don’t take this the wrong way.I am very interested in your lifestyle choices and you keep writing “proof in Pudding”.
    Can you please post a recent photo to confirm proof otherwise it is a bit weird that the photo on your blog is over 10 years old.

  30. avatar
    markobears | 10 November 2007 at 1:18 pm #

    “And now the prophecy… He will come… the voice from the outer world, bringing the holy war, the Jihad, which will cleanse the Universe and bring us out of darkness.”

  31. avatar
    Don't go Brian | 10 November 2007 at 1:31 pm #

    The Killa wasn’t cuttin you down.
    He just didn’t want to take on the abortion debate.
    Who would? it’s the biggest can of worms there is.
    Give him a break he’s got five kids.

    Stay with us you oversenitive coot.

    People here like ya.

    Besides nobody else is as qualified to take on the
    Minister for Jeff Beck and Veganism portfolio.

  32. avatar
    veleska1970 | 10 November 2007 at 1:36 pm #

    wow~~this is so weird. i was actually listening to eno and ultravox just a few days ago. so great minds think alike, ay? heh heh heh…

    actually, before i discovered the chrunch waaay back in 1985, i had never heard of eno, but i read about you mentioning him and how much you appreciated him, so you inspired me to check him out. and i’ve loved him ever since. i love “fractal zoom”~~the beat is, to me, a little funky, but hypnotic. his music is definitely a sound to lose yourself in.

    that’s interesting about the solo in “dead man’s dream” (my fave track on SA, btw). i thought it was eno-ish when i first heard it.

    can’t wait for part 2.

    lotza love…..

  33. avatar
    veleska1970 | 10 November 2007 at 1:37 pm #

    to brien~~please reconsider.

  34. avatar
    Brien Comerford | 10 November 2007 at 2:42 pm #

    I profoundly and truly apologize to SK and all commentors. Seven years ago I snapped and was “cloistered” for a few days. I’ve been on heavy meds ever since. My dreams(nightmares) are always about slaughterhouses, abortions, gorillas being killed, ivory wars, tiger skins, fur farms, dogfighting, bullfighting, street gangs, wars. SK said nothing at all to offend me. He’s inclusive, great and so very Kind. Sometimes insecure people turn on those who are kindest to them instead of the people who have it in for them. In actuality, I’m my biggest enemy. I will always regret my earlier abortion remarks because they were insane (in reference to SK.) He and JB rule. I will stay on my meds. This blog is therapy and I will continue to see my shrink who thinks that my well-meaning but all-consuming obsessions with animal rights and abortion will do me in. Way too oversensitive-That’s me. Thank God I’m the end of the family line. By the way I’m a liberal Democrat in the United States. Very, very few Pro-Life Democrats in the USA. A Pro-Life Democrat can’t get elected President or even run for President. I have been perpetually pummelled on this issue and for me to make it an issue on this blog was unpardonable.

    Brian Eno is the patriarch of Ambient. He profoundly influenced The ORB and others. I luv Gilt trip and right now I’m having a guilt trip.”For The Love of God” by Steve Vai has revived me. Every blog needs its inane twits and i’m it !

  35. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    now don’t forget slowdive with eno in part 2. minor as it was…..


  36. avatar
    fantasticandy | 10 November 2007 at 2:55 pm #

    way to go bri!!!!!!
    my favourite inane twit!

  37. avatar
    davem | 10 November 2007 at 4:40 pm #

    Welcome home Brien.

  38. avatar
    Anonymous | 10 November 2007 at 9:32 pm #

    inside and out…i see the flatness of cyberspace….a community could float forever,and never find this blog….um? R don thank that thar were the goodest poetry…morning you lovely loons whose turn is it to make the tea?…welcome back mr brien. and good morning Sir,as always,genx xxx

  39. avatar
    ed in fl | 10 November 2007 at 10:45 pm #

    Your best blogs…i have all those albums on records…loved em when they came out. Absolutely amazing guitar solo on “Baby’s on Fire” off Here come the warm jets..if you haven’t heard it fans – get it.

    ed in fl

  40. avatar
    Anonymous | 11 November 2007 at 12:30 am #

    waiting,waiting,patiently for part 2.are you coming back today?

  41. avatar
    Centuryhouse | 11 November 2007 at 7:48 am #

    QUOTE: “…treated guitar with robert fripp consisting of long droning notes looped and fed through synths
    you can hear the church with this effect on dead mans dream solo” -end quote

    “Dead Man’s Dream” is one of my favorite Church tracks, and while I never connected the guitar solo with Eno’s “No Pussyfooting” (which I love) I can certainly see it now that you’ve mentioned it.

    That solo on DMD is very cool, I love listening to it. As a matter of fact, I think almost the entire “Sometime Anywhere” album is fascinating and deserves more respect & discussion than it typically receives. It was very experimental and highly listenable.


  42. avatar
    lily was here | 11 November 2007 at 7:54 am #

    12:15am – whilst i dont want to make his head any bigger, i can vouch that there’s no pudding on the esskay, lightly sunkissed lucid skin, sparkling blue-grey eyes and a body that even 30 year olds would love to have. Thats my verdant opinion & observation in the flesh. There’s plenty of recent pics if you peruse the net. That pic might be old, but the personality in that shot is still current.

    Sue x
    Overstepping the comment limit but as personal assistant to the starfish for many years, well hey.

  43. avatar
    Anonymous | 11 November 2007 at 11:54 pm #

    LP !

  44. avatar
    Dumbo | 14 November 2007 at 1:33 am #

    are you sure that elephants cant fly????? 🙂

  45. avatar
    joe801 | 23 November 2007 at 4:59 am #

    Steve, I know I’m jumping in a little late here, but you can’t forget about 801 Live. One of the best live albums of all time! Eno doing songs from his first 3 solo albums and Phil Manzanera from his Quiet Sun and solo albums. It’s an amazing space rock album. Diamondhead has my favorite guitar solo ever.

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