Brian Eno Lists the Benefits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intelligence, and a Sound Civilization


Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In Bri­an Eno’s A Year with Swollen Appen­dices, one of my very favorite books, the well-known rock pro­duc­er, visu­al artist, and “non-musi­cian” musi­cian writes out all the things he is, includ­ing “mam­mal,” “celebri­ty,” “wine-lover,” “non-dri­ver,” “prag­ma­tist,” and “drift­ing clar­i­fi­er.” The list gives us a kind of overview of the man’s many facets, as well as of the many facets we all have, but it does­n’t men­tion one of his most impor­tant roles: that of a singer.

Even with­in the realm of music, you might not imme­di­ate­ly asso­ciate Eno (who there made his name spout­ing syn­the­sized sounds into Roxy Music’s ear­ly records, cre­ative­ly shak­ing up big acts like David Bowie and U2, and pret­ty much invent­ing the word­less ambi­ent genre) with singing. But of course he’s done it since his ear­li­est solo albums and con­tin­ues to do it on rel­a­tive­ly recent ones, and you can hear sam­ples of both here in this post.

“I believe in singing,” says Eno. “I believe in singing togeth­er.” He expounds upon this belief in an NPR seg­ment called “Singing: The Key to a Long Life.” He also cred­its the prac­tice with the abil­i­ty to ensure “a good fig­ure, a sta­ble tem­pera­ment, increased intel­li­gence, new friends, super self-con­fi­dence, height­ened sex­u­al attrac­tive­ness and a bet­ter sense of humor.” It offers the chance to “use your lungs in a way that you prob­a­bly don’t for the rest of your day, breath­ing deeply and open­ly,” to expe­ri­ence “a sense of lev­i­ty and con­tent­ed­ness,” and to “learn how to sub­sume your­self into a group con­scious­ness.”

Beyond sim­ply, er, singing the prais­es of singing, Eno also explains just how he goes about his own prac­tice, reg­u­lar­ly bring­ing togeth­er not just friends will­ing to sing, but “some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics and a strict start­ing time” — all cen­tered around a care­ful­ly curat­ed selec­tion of songs. Years of this have con­vinced Eno of singing’s impor­tance to our very civ­i­liza­tion, to the point that, as he says, “if I were asked to redesign the British edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem, I would start by insist­ing that group singing become a cen­tral part of the dai­ly rou­tine. I believe it builds char­ac­ter and, more than any­thing else, encour­ages a taste for co-oper­a­tion with oth­ers.” And it would cer­tain­ly encour­age whichev­er stu­dent turns out to be the next, well, Bri­an Eno.

P.S. Here’s Eno’s Group-Sing Song List:

Can’t Help Falling In Love
Love Me Ten­der
Keep On the Sun­ny Side
Six­teen Tons
Will the Cir­cle Be Unbro­ken
If I Had a Ham­mer
Love Hurts
I’ll Fly Away
Down By the River­side
Chapel of Love
Wild Moun­tain Thyme
Que Sera, Sera
Cot­ton Fields

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

How David Byrne and Bri­an Eno Make Music Togeth­er: A Short Doc­u­men­tary

David Bowie & Bri­an Eno’s Col­lab­o­ra­tion on “Warsza­wa” Reimag­ined in Com­ic Ani­ma­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma 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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