There was a great quote in a Brian Eno interview in the March issue of MOJO where they asked him whether he thought it was as easy to innovate in 2008 as it was back in the 70s, and whether innovation is even necessary anymore:
A lot of what is going on at the moment is kind of recycling and I find that very, very interesting. It’s as though the palette that musicians have available now is every style that has existed for the last 50 years or so. I mean, I even see it with my daughters. The content of their iPods is completely, insanely eclectic. They’ve got everything from doo wop to hip hop and everything in between. Which, when you think about it, it’s as if I would have listened to music from 1906, when I first started listening to music. It’s ridiculous! Even stuff from 10 years earlier seemed hopelessly out of date.
And of course when you select a cultural block – like, to have it sound “kind of ’80s” – you are recording more than just sounds. You are recording a story as well and a kind of image of what people are like and how they could be.
This is still completely original behaviour but it doesn’t look original because it’s recombining blocks that we think we recognise. But I think once they are recombined you hear them differently. I must say I have suddenly started to realise something I’ve never really understood before, which is the point of bands like Human League. I don’t dislike them but they made no impression on me when they were around. But with them replayed and recycled, I can suddenly see their point. So I get them second time around.
Fogeyists love to complain about how there’s nothing new anymore. At least nothing good. It’s nice to see someone of Eno’s legendary stature thinking otherwise.
MP3: Brian Eno + David Byrne – “Regiment” from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, recorded 1979-1980, released in 1981, and reissued in 2006.
One thought on “Brian Eno on Innovation”
Um, it’s not really new if it’s recycled/refurbished, now is it? I’m sure your local Better Business Bureau will agree.