Why Are We Here?

Russell Edson

Russell Edson

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.


8 responses

  1. I take it you have a copy of “Begegnungen” by Eno, Moebius, Roedelius & Plank hiding in your collection? 😉

  2. No, but I do have After the heat and Cluster & Eno.

    Are you familiar with Discreet Music? I’m digging that one right now.

  3. me too is a big fan of ENO…another green world is an all time great. in fact, i wrote a post on one of its track which you can find here


    another favorite is ‘before and after science’ with three great tracks, ‘here he comes’, ‘julie with’ and ‘by the river’. try it if you havent yet. being a big fan of ‘canon in d major’ i didnt like eno’s variations of the same, though had approached it with a lot of enthusiasm.

    will try and spend some time time with Edson. thanks for making me familiar with him.


  4. “I take it you have a copy of “Begegnungen” by Eno, Moebius, Roedelius & Plank hiding in your collection?” Sounds like its hiding in other peoples collections…

    Ilegirl when is your birthday then we can organise a copy *grins*

  5. Hi Meraj – I just purchased a new copy of Before and After Science as my previous pressing had disappeared. I like the same cuts you like. This morning I was walking down the hall at work and realized I was humming ‘By this River’.

    On Discreet Music, I usually skip the ‘Three Variations …’

    It sure seems that we have similar tastes in music.

    I hope you enjoy Edson. While I was looking for a link to share with you, I ran across this poem I had forgotten about:

    The Marionettes Of Distant Masters

    A pianist dreams that he’s hired by a wrecking company to
    ruin a piano with his fingers . . .
    On the day of the piano wrecking concert, as he’s
    dressing, he notices a butterfly annoying a flower in his window
    box. He wonders if the police should be called. Then he thinks
    maybe the butterfly is just a marionette being manipulated by
    its master from the window above.
    Suddenly everything is beautiful. He begins to cry.

    Then another butterfly begins to annoy the first butterfly.
    He again wonders if he shouldn’t call the police.
    But, perhaps they are marionette-butterflies? He thinks
    they are, belonging to rival masters seeing whose butterfly can
    annoy the other’s the most.

    And this is happening in his window box. The Cosmic
    Plan: Distant Masters manipulating minor Masters who, in turn,
    are manipulating tiny butterfly-Masters who, in turn, are
    manipulating him . . . A universe webbed with strings!
    Suddenly it is all so beautiful; the light is strange . . .
    Something about the light! He begins to cry . . .

    And, here is a link: http://www.poemhunter.com/russell-edson/

  6. SF – This year, I am either fortunate or cursed as my birthday falls upon the date of the US Presidential elections.

    The only present I would like is to see you safely among friends.

  7. You have rendered me speechless, thanks you!

  8. thanks for the link, ilegirl! and thats another good one from Edson.

    feels good when musical tastes match 🙂

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