Listen to “Brian Eno Day,” a 12-Hour Radio Show Spent With Eno & His Music (Recorded in 1988)


In ear­ly 1988, visu­al artist, rock pro­duc­er, and “non-musi­cian” musi­cian Bri­an Eno came to San Fran­cis­co. He’d made the trip to put togeth­er “Lat­est Flames,” a “sound and light instal­la­tion” using his own music and “tele­vi­sion as a radi­ant light source” to “cre­ate a con­tem­pla­tive envi­ron­ment.”  He cre­at­ed this con­tem­pla­tive envi­ron­ment at the Explorato­ri­um, a one-of‑a kind muse­um of “sci­ence, art, and human per­cep­tion” I remem­ber fond­ly from my own child­hood in the Bay Area (though alas, I did­n’t start going until just after “Lat­est Flames” closed). Dur­ing that vis­it, he spoke on Berke­ley’s KPFA-FM about his great admi­ra­tion for the very exis­tence of the Explorato­ri­um, which he thinks could nev­er have hap­pened in his native Eng­land, “too fussy” a coun­try to accept such an exper­i­men­tal insti­tu­tion. He also empha­sizes how much grat­i­tude he thinks Amer­i­cans should show for their pub­lic radio sta­tions like KPFA, which, in con­trast to the admit­ted­ly “great radio”-producing broad­cast­ers of the U.K., work more loose­ly, with greater cre­ative free­dom not sched­uled on “five-year plans.” It sure­ly did­n’t damp­en Eno’s appre­ci­a­tion for KPFA that he appeared dur­ing the sta­tion’s “Bri­an Eno Day,” a twelve-hour marathon of mate­r­i­al relat­ed to his work: music, music analy­sis, inter­views new and old, and even lis­ten­er calls.

This hap­pened dur­ing KPFA’s reg­u­lar pledge dri­ve, and as every Amer­i­can pub­lic radio lis­ten­er knows, pledge dri­ves hold out the promise of desir­able thank-you gifts to donat­ing callers. In this case, these entice­ments includ­ed items signed right there in the stu­dio, between turns at the micro­phone answer­ing ques­tions and chat­ting with com­pos­er-host Charles Amirkhan­ian, by Eno him­self. The auto­graphed Oblique Strate­gies decks run out first, and even after that peo­ple still call in with ques­tions about their ori­gin, their best use, and their future avail­abil­i­ty. They also (and Amirkhan­ian, and ambi­ent music expert Stephen Hill) have much else to ask besides, fill­ing the hours — those not occu­pied by pledge pitch­es, records Eno pro­duced, or the full length of his own Thurs­day After­noon album — with talk of the mean­ing of his inscrutable lyrics, the record­ing stu­dio as musi­cal instru­ment, the mak­ing of “Lat­est Flames,” his impa­tience with com­put­ers and syn­the­siz­ers, his rec­om­mend­ed Eng­lish art schools, and how ambi­ent music dif­fers from new age “muzak.” A fan could ask for no rich­er a lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence, even 26 years after it first aired — and few more enter­tain­ing lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ences than, toward the end of this long Bri­an Eno day, the man of the hour’s (or rather, of the twelve hours’) deci­sion to delib­er­ate­ly answer each and every remain­ing lis­ten­er ques­tion with a lie. You can stream all of KPFA’s 1988 Bri­an Eno Day above. It’s also bro­ken into nine the­mat­ic seg­ments at the Inter­net Archive.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Genius of Bri­an Eno On Dis­play in 80 Minute Q&A: Talks Art, iPad Apps, ABBA, & More

Bri­an Eno Once Com­posed Music for Win­dows 95; Now He Lets You Cre­ate Music with an iPad App

Bri­an Eno on Cre­at­ing Music and Art As Imag­i­nary Land­scapes (1989)

Watch Bri­an Eno’s “Video Paint­ings,” Where 1980s TV Tech­nol­o­gy Meets Visu­al Art

Jump Start Your Cre­ative Process with Bri­an Eno’s “Oblique Strate­gies”

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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