In September 1975, Brian Eno released his album Another Green World. The following month, the BBC’s acclaimed documentary series Arena first aired, using Another Green World‘s title track as its theme music. 35 years later, the show finally got around to documenting Eno himself. This 2010 episode, also called Another Green World, captures the “intellectual guru of the rock world” (as a Desert Island Discs DJ calls him) at work in his studio, in conversation with a variety of interlocutors—including journalist Malcolm Gladwell, record producer Steve Lillywhite, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins—and cycling around the green hills that roll around his neighborhood. Bono from U2, several of whose records Eno produced, calls the man “a mind-expanding drug,” and listening to Eno expound here upon his various ideas about and experiences with art, music, technology, journaling, and his native England, I’d have to agree.
The faintly hypnotic tone and pace of the episode — a sensibility not far removed from Eno’s famous “ambient” records like Discreet Music and Music for Airports — might also have something to do with that. We learn about Eno’s school days, his love of singing, his descent from a long line of “postmen with passion,” his getting more girls than Bryan Ferry in their days with Roxy Music, his preference for inconsistent instruments, his history with Catholicism, his enthusiasm for Stafford Beer’s management book Brain of the Firm, his work with audiovisual installations, and his ever-present interest in how complexity arises from simplicity. But we also feel like we’ve seen something not just about Eno, but Eno-like, where form meets function as closely as in all of Arena‘s most memorable episodes and all of Eno’s most memorable projects. Or maybe I just like the sound of the rain outside during the studio segments — a sound which had a lot to do with Eno’s development of ambient music in the first place.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.