The Daily Bowie #30 - "Sense of Doubt"
When I started this blog back in 2007, I named it after David Bowie's song "Sense of Doubt" from the Eno-collaboration, the 1977 album Heroes, made in Berlin as Bowie worked to straighten out his life after years of "rock 'n' roll lifestyle," mainly cocaine addiction. It is definitely one of my all time favorite Bowie works of art. In fact, I am quite fond of both Low and Heroes as albums, though primarily the instrumental, pseudo-ambient music featured on each.
I call it pseudo-ambient because I am not sure that it qualifies as true ambient music just because it's an instrumental with electronics and dubbing. It's minimalism. "Sense of Doubt" embodies the sound of Berlin at the time, Bowie's shifts in his personal life, and the zeitgeist of Berlin and the times, quite outside other musical happenings for that year in disco, Fleetwood Mac, the Sex Pistols, Van Halen, Elton John, and so on. MUSIC IN 1978.
Reading up on "Sense of Doubt" to post this blog entry, I found the connection between it and Eno's own seminal Ambient One: Music for Airports, released later that same year.
FROM PUSHING AHEAD OF THE DAME : Bowie in 1978 described the track as pitting an “organic sound” against a falsehood, a synthesizer section pretending to be a horn section, but the “artificial” provides the only glimpses of sunlight in the piece.
In the liner notes for his first ambient record, Music for Airports, Eno wrote “whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities” (my emphasis). He wrote this in September 1978, a year after he made this track, and “Sense of Doubt” seems an early attempt at this scenario—it’s providing background music that’s also a series of disturbing sounds, making it hard to serve as aural wallpaper yet having no real sense of progression. Locking the ominous piano pattern in an apparently endless cycle diminishes its power to surprise, yet its continual reappearance undermines whatever flashes of hope appear.
I like this idea of the "artificial" providing the only "sunlight" as well as how this idea of "sense of doubt" forms the foundation of ambient music along with the idea of "uncertainty," which is key concept of mine and one I had in mind when I named this blog, though I do not think I had seen this quote from Eno at the time.
I did not know until the time that I created the blog that Eno and Bowie had been working with Oblique Strategies for inspiration.
FROM WIKI: Cited as "portentous" and "thoroughly foreboding", "Sense of Doubt" is one of the darker tracks of the album, with a descending four-note piano motif juxtaposed with "an eerie synth line like a scrap of sound from a silent expressionist-era soundtrack." Brian Eno suggested that the contrasting themes were the result of him and Bowie each following an Oblique Strategies card to guide them in the track's overdubbing, Eno's directing him to "make everything as similar as possible" and Bowie's to "emphasize differences."I could write lots more, but I promised to keep the Bowie posts short.
Check these links, especially Oblique Strategies.
"Thoroughly foreboding" is a good description.
LOTS OF LINKS
WIKI: OBLIQUE STRATEGIES
ONLINE VERSION OF OBLIQUE STRATEGIES
BBC - ENO ON CREATIVE STRATEGIES AND OBLIQUE STRATEGIES
LINK: OUTTAKES FROM HEROES PHOTO SHOOT
WIKI: DAVID BOWIE
WIKI: "SENSE OF DOUBT"
PUSHING AHEAD OF THE DAME: "SENSE OF DOUBT"
"SENSE OF DOUBT" - HEROES - 1977
Rest in peace, David. We miss you.
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1602.19 - time