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Comment is free: The birth of ambient

Brian Eno on how he came to create ambient music, which has since evolved into what we think of as electronica. Brian Eno is an inspiration to me.

Comment is free: The birth of ambient
So I started thinking about music as something functional… that existed as part of the design of your life. Just like the way you decorated your room or the kind of furniture you chose or the kind of lights you used. They were all kind of issues about how you want to feel… so I wanted to make things that were panoramic in a certain way. Things that have a way of existing in the space and you enter them for a while and then you leave them for a while. I didn’t want this narrative thing to be part of the record so much.

In early 1975 I got hit by a taxi as I was crossing the Harrow Road and was immobilised for a while. When I was lying in bed Judy Nylon brought me a record of renaissance harp music and put the needle on when she left. My speakers were a bit dodgy and one of them had broken – and it was also raining quite heavily outside and the volume wasn’t very high. I couldn’t get out of bed and was irritated, thinking ‘I can hardly hear this music’. Then gradually I started to think ‘well, there it is – it’s going to play for the next 20 minutes anyway’.

Suddenly it started to seem like a really beautiful way of listening to music – instead of dominating the environment it became part of a soundscape. The rain was hitting the windows and occasionally I would hear the loudest parts of the harp notes appearing like the tips of icebergs in this sonic ocean. And from that I really developed the whole Ambient idea – which was more an approach to listening than to composing. It was saying: ‘let’s treat music like painting’.

Now playing: Brian Eno: Taking Tiger Mountain

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