Photographers: Rolf M. Engel; Roland Blume; Nick Robertson ; Brian Eno.
Since the 1970s, Brian Eno has composed music for numerous art installations, combining video, lighting, and sculpture with music that is often generative. He initially experimented with tape recorders, overlaying looped musical passages of differing durations, resulting in a constant stream of audio flowing in an infinite number of sonic combinations. He likens this to a river -- something that is always changing, but always the same. He also began experimenting with video art, turning televisions on their sides and treating them as "video paintings." He envisions slowing music down so that it's more like a painting, and animating paintings to that they're closer to music. He's also created works that emphasize the importance of speakers as instruments, including sculptural objects called "speaker flowers" that sway in response to the sounds playing from them. Eno's Music for Installations box set collects audio excerpts ranging from a 1985 exhibit to pieces composed for installations that haven't been conceived yet, and may never. Some of these recordings have been issued as limited CDs available through Eno's website or at installations, but many of them are previously unreleased. Many of these tracks, of course, are finite excerpts from endless processes, serving as audio documents of the ephemeral. Even though the audio recordings are lacking the visuals and spatial properties of the installations (which often involve strategic speaker placement, resulting in differing experiences depending on where the attendee is located), the recordings serve their own purpose, and repeated listening reveals previously unnoticed details and nuances. While typically atmospheric and meditative, there's also somewhat of a dark undercurrent to pieces like "Five Light Paintings." The nearly hallucinatory "77 Million Paintings" (previously released as a DVD with generative video software) seems to suspend time, with slow, shredded voices and eerie whooshing noises. Eno has exhibited this piece at least 50 times and has listened to it for hundreds, even thousands of hours, and says that he never gets tired of it. Just as trippy and immersive is "I Dormienti," a 1999 piece composed for an installation by Italian sculptor Mimmo Paladino, which was released as a CD and art book. In contrast to the lengthier, process-based pieces, Making Space (initially released in 2010) includes several shorter, more rhythmic pieces, some of which include lush guitar waves by Leo Abrahams. The set's detailed liner notes are fascinating and well written, and the music is as lovely and evocative as one would expect from Eno's ambient works. ~ Paul Simpson