Miles-tones

Always Evolving: 64 Years of Brian Eno's Best Nonproduction Work

Although he has more than 15 solo albums to his credit, Brian Eno's legacy in terms of popular music will always be defined by his work with others. Whether it was his time as a member of Roxy Music or his nearly 40-year production career, his best-known works have always come in the form of collaboration.

Bowie. Talking Heads. Devo. U2. They're the highlights of an impressive body of production work that few producers could rival.

Even though he's worked with some of music's biggest and brightest, Eno has always been a man of diverse interests and works. He's helped give birth to genres, been at the forefront of technology and composed one of the most recognizable short pieces of music in the last 20 years.

Next year he turns 65, which is one of those numbers that will make for a nice time to celebrate his more famous accomplishments. In honor of his more mathematically numbered (64 is a self number and a superperfect number, after all) birthday, Rocks Off takes a look at some his lesser-known but more interesting musical accomplishments.

1. Frippertronics: Most notably associated with King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp (hence the name), Frippertronics is a form of analogue delay. It basically involves using two reel-to-reel tape recorders to feed each other in a constant loop; tape exits one machine and enters the second, then the tape exits that second machine and re-enters the first.

This allowed the musician to record a phrase of music, then record on top of that layer as it played back in real time a few seconds later. They can then keep building over these layers as many times as they'd like.

Although the name, chosen by Fripp's girlfriend, doesn't mention Eno, it was something that Fripp didn't start experimenting with until he started working in Eno's studio. The result of those experiments was the pair's first collaborative album (No Pussyfooting).

2. Ambient Music: Ambient music may fall under the larger framework of EDM these days, but its roots go back to a series of solo records released by Eno in the late '70s/early '80s.

He was interested in producing works that were effectively background music: Sound to be either focused on or ignored depending on the individual listener, while intending "to induce calm and a space to think." He labeled this style ambient because if you go back far enough, you get to the word ambio, which is Latin for "to surround."

Maybe the most highly regarded of his solo ambient words is Music for Airports, which is exactly what it sounds like. Stuck during a layover, he found himself unimpressed by the background noise of the airport and decided to come up with something better.

The result might not make layovers something to look forward to, but at least the atmosphere in the terminal will be better.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia