Music as painting

Brian Eno

“We all need to start using a different word than music for what we’re doing because it’s so different from what people were doing up until the 20th Century. With the birth of multitrack recording (music) became something much closer to painting . . .  in the sense that people were saying a piece of music doesn’t have to exist before we start making it in the studio, and it doesn’t have to be done on one day. Well as soon as you have multitrack recording you can say let’s do those drums today and then put on a guitar next week and let them go back to the drums again and change the sound of it . . . so it’s much much closer to painting than to traditional music . . .

“It’s interesting to note that music students had very little impact on this . . .they were anchored to performance. But we art students thought this is like painting. Now we’re in a slightly different situation where we don’t have to do this in great big soundproof rooms with complicated microphones. We can do it in our bathrooms. The digitization of sounds allows us access to sound in really strange new ways. As soon as you transform sound into numbers, which is what you do when you digitize it, you allow it to be subject to all sorts of mathematical operations which sometimes have nothing to do with our prior experience of sound. We’ve now gone to a new level of abstraction in music. Music has always been a rather abstract form. It was a great breakthrough in painting when suddenly the subject matter could disappear. Kandinsky walked into his studio one night and saw one of his own paintings turned on its side and thought wow, what is that? He suddenly realized a picture that didn’t have a subject could still be a painting. Music has always been like that. But I think now with digitization it’s a new level of abstraction and we’re only just starting to discover what it is and what it does for us.”

Brian Eno, interviewed by Sound Opinions, 11.6.11

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