During my college days, I explored contemporary popular art. Much of what I found was not enticing either because it lacked the interesting sort of emotional energy that establishes a relationship between the piece and the observer, or because it was so clearly lacking in intellectual depth that I could not justify the time I was allocating for my brain perceive the piece.
Sure, I was a bit of a snob.
Two particular artists appealed to me at the time, and ever since the two are connected in my mind: Brian Eno and Russell Edson.
Edson’s work is ecletic. The author of several prose poems and plays, his work is largely uncategorizable, though the self-declared genre of fable is probably most apt. Each is unique and positively absurb, overflowing with non-sequiturs, occasionally joyful, frequently portraits of human beings who are isolated but detached from their own grief. The pieces that moved me the most were frantic expressions of desire for control, the sort resulting from a maddeningly confusing world. Consider It:
It was someone as viewed in a mirror, or was it you said it was someone viewing its someone who it is in a mirror where perhaps someone lives only.
Someone is not the chair but part of where, where a table and blue in square is a window and some sky.
Nor is the chair someone with someone on its lap.
Someone becomes embarrassed sitting on a chair’s lap. Who is person who allows person this intimacy. It is none but man’s form. Is not sir said son of a mother to himself the son of his mother. Did not the chair make me to warm itself like I am a blanket for a chair.
The mirror is willing to allow anything to be – Creates to-be again.
Time is passing.
Time has passed.
And then time is passing.
Passed, it begins to pass again.
Brian Eno’s extensive discography starts with his early days as the electronic musician in Roxy Music, and continues through the present day. Not a headline-seeking star, his numerous solo and collaborative efforts with musicians including Daniel Lanois, Dieter Moebius, Roedelius, and David Byrne are innovative, emotional and evocative, seldom (but occasionally) bland. Eno also produced numerous bands including U2, Devo and Talking Heads. Interesting contributions include the Berlin Bowie (addiction recovery) albums Low and Lodger (the former preferred by most; I rather like the subtleties of the latter better). This variety appeals to me because underlying it is a steadiness of musical principles: nothing is more important than the art.
My first exposure to Eno was No Pussyfooting, a collaboration with Robert Fripp. I was astounded when a friend played this for me, and within months had collected the early solo albums as well as the first ambient albums Music for Films and Music for Airports – the latter album a frequent late-night indulgence. Of the early solo albums, Another Green World remains my favorite as it is unabashedly sentimental and idealistic; consider this lyric from Everything Merges with the Night to the tune of Robert Fripp’s understated guitar drone, painting a picture of a man rather lost in Chile, but not really worrying too much about it:
Ive been waiting all evening
Possibly years I dont know
Counting the passing hours
Everything merges with the night
I stand on the beach
Giving out descriptions
Different for everyone I see
Since I just cant remember
Longer than last september.
Under the volcano
Floats like a cushion on the sea
Yet I can never sleep here
Everything ponders in the night.
Weve been talking all summer
Picking the straw from our clothes
See how the breeze has softened
Everything pauses in the night.
How is it that these two artists, the frenetic and the serene, are connected in my mind 25 years later? Each appeals to a different part of my mind: Edson, the artistic, and Eno, the analytical. I suppose the common thread is the complete honesty of expression, the lack of pretension that engages my mind and spirit equally.