The 77 Million Faces of Brian Eno
Even if you’ve unfamiliar with his solo work, the 64-year-old British composer and multimedia artist Brian Eno has touched your world. A founding member of the group Roxy Music, he has collaborated or produced signature albums over the years with the likes of David Bowie, David Byrne, Coldplay, Devo, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, U2, and many others. He co-wrote the soundtrack for the 2009 film The Lovely Bones. And remember that sound your computer used to make when you booted up Windows 95? He created that as well.
Eno also makes his own music. After putting out four highly influential pop albums during the mid-1970s, he became intrigued by minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley and began to think less about melody and more about texture. Eno called his experiments “ambient” music—works intended for a particular place or to set a particular mood—1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports was inspired by a gleaming new terminal in Cologne. He has also been a pioneer of “generative” music, wherein songs build and morph endlessly according to a set of rules determined by the composer.
LUX, out this week, is Eno’s 17th album and his first solo album in seven years. He is not calling LUX an ambient album, but it was commissioned for a specific place: the Great Gallery, a high-ceilinged hall in an 18th-century palace near Turin, Italy. I reached Eno by phone in London to talk about LUX, his “elaborate lifelong failure,” and how he accidentally re-created a Dolly Parton hit.