Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #313 - ANOTHER GREEN WORLD

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #313 - ANOTHER GREEN WORLD

Hi Mom, I found this book and read it quite by accident. Pure serendipity. The best kind.

If you like Eno, get it. Read it. If you don't know who Eno is, get it. Read it. You will become a fan if you are at all disposed to this kind of music, which is almost is not easily defined or described.

Geeta Dayal's book Another Green World is an excellent story of an album from 1975 that is still ahead of it time and may be timeless.

First, discovery. I was on Monica Byrne's Patreon page. I have written of Monica Byrne here:
HEY MOM #246.

I was looking at what Monica had posted, and I noticed the artists she has pledged to support. I knew of Amanda Palmer and Kameron Hurley, but I had never heard of Geeta Dayal, so I clicked on her Pateron page, AND.... OMG, she writes about music, ELECTRONIC MUSIC, and has written a book about Eno's 1975 album Another Green World. This is a big OMG moment for me given my love of Eno and my quest to find more Eno lovers in the universe. And to come upon it by accident continues to prove Jung's concept of synchronicity. We are all connected with threads of soul energy, woven patterns of the universe's fabric. It's energy. Or maybe it's something else. The discovery proves the power of attraction because a writer I just located and love also loves another writer who loves Eno.

It's one of the things that I like about social media and the Internet. I just went immediately to Amazon and ordered a copy of the book. When it arrived, I paged through it, but I did not intend to read it right away. I had just finished The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne and I was starting Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. But Dayal's Another Green World for Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series kept calling to me, and the next thing I knew, I was reading her book instead of Coates'. I still have not finished Coates' book, but this is not unusual because I only devote a few pages a night to a book and I am busy with comic books, graphic novels, and sundry Internet sites about Java coding and stuff. I have been on a major graphic novel kick lately (as evidenced by this HEY MOM #257), and reading those has been cutting into my book book, my prose book time.

But Dayal's book gripped me, and I found that I wanted to keep reading and finish sooner rather than later, especially since the book is short (a little over 100 pages) and I wanted to pledge to be Dayal's patron if I liked her book (and I expected that I would like it, and I did).

And then, I started listening to Another Green World, a lot. OVER AND OVER. Dayal mentioned this occupation herself, claiming that she has possibly listened to this album more times than Eno has, which, I suspect, is not a difficult task to accomplish.

Do artists listen to their own work as much as we listen to their work? 

Dayal has shared emails with Eno, and in one, he said that he does not like looking back and avoids doing it. However, Geeta Dayal's book inspired me to look back, to start listening to Another Green World repeatedly. I also try to imagine how my life would have been different had I discovered this album in 1975 or even 1976. Would I have been able to appreciate it at the age of 13 or 14?

And the more I listen, the more I cannot get enough of it. I want to listen more. And so I do. And then I think I should listen to something else, and I just go back to this album again. I am not tired of it.

We are sharing an experience of enjoying this music. Dayal wrote that she is not yet tired of listening to this and some of Eno's other albums, such as Discrete Music or that album he did with Fripp called Evening Star.  My experience is the same. Here's what she had to say:

"I often think that Another Green World's longevity comes from its ambiguity. The more you listen, the more beguiling and open-ended the album becomes. In contrast to many other albums from the mid-1970s, the record doesn't sound dated at all. Another Green World isn't stuck in the past or fixated on the future--it continues to live its life in the fabric of the present" (Dayal xvi).

I had listened to Another Green World quite a bit prior to reading this book, but as I read the book, and since I have read the book, I have been listening to the album almost daily and sometimes multiple times in a day.

Rather than charting the experience of making the album and moving through it song by song, Dayal used Oblique Strategies to structure the book (more on this in a minute). She examines two different properties of Another Green World. First, people perceive the album as a "song record" even though only five of the fourteen songs have words. I had this same perception, shelving it in my mind with other 1970s works like Before and After Science (1977), Here Come the Warm Jets (1973), and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (1974). "Each song with lyrics bleeds into the surrounding ambient tracks. How does this effect work in our heads?" (Dayal, xv). And, second, "how chains of words, even nonsense words that do not make any sense in sequence, can nonetheless profoundly affect our emotions, trigger memories, and generate very powerful images. For this reason, I spend considerable time exploring Eno's often elaborate, suggestive song titles" (Dayal, xv).
Peter Schmidt painting

As I have written elsewhere, this book inspired me to begin a Musical Monday feature, focused on the healing power of music. I did not enlightening on music's healing power. I knew that I needed music to heal as I have healed so many wounds in my life, none so great as the loss of you, Mom. More on the healing facets soon. Next, OBLIQUE STRATEGIES.

The OBLIQUE STRATEGIES decks of cards (there are now various editions, but originally, there was just one) is a thing invented by Brian Eno and the (late) painter Peter Schmidt. They were designed to navigate the creative process against the rigors of time. Eno describes them as prompts, reminders, like this: "The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, "Don't forget that you could adopt *this* attitude," or "Don't forget you could adopt *that* attitude."

The first Oblique Strategy said "Honour thy error as a hidden intention." And, in fact, Peter's first Oblique Strategy - done quite independently and before either of us had become conscious that the other was doing that - was ...I think it was "Was it really a mistake?" which was, of course, much the same kind of message" (from http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/OSintro.html).

Here's three sites: one that describes the different editions of the cards, the Wikipedia page,  and another that provides an online version of the cards.




EERIE. I was looking up the online version of Oblique Strategies to copy the link, and when I went to the site, it gave me this card below.

WHOA. The universe is trying to tell me something.

Dayal used the cards to complete the book, as she was having trouble writing it at first as she drafted and then did research. I have also sought and found some of the books Dayal read in her research, which are prized by Eno, such as Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language, Stafford Beer's The Brain of the Firm, and John Cage's Silence, which are all available online in PDF form.

The Oblique Strategies helped Dayal to organize her book using the card text as chapter names, such as "Into the impossible," "Turn it upside down," and "Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities."

And so true to her intention NOT to write the standard rock biography of Brian Eno, she explored the subject of Eno and the album in a different way. She defined her book first by what it isn't rather than what it is.

Dayal writes that "painting is an appealing analogy for Eno's ambient explorations, but filmmaking is a better model for how Eno works with other people in practice" (Dayal xix). And the book works like a short film, sectioned into scenes that build a portrait of the album rather than a straight description of it.

One card reads "Trust in the you of now." In exploring this card as a topic, Dayal shares comments Eno made to comic book author Alan Moore in 2005 about his own "mid-life crisis" and questioning whether what he is doing is worthwhile or if there is any point to it.

And the answer is, of course, that there is a point. Eno and his work has been immensely inspiring to me, and apparently to Dayal, and so many others. Despite the fact that Eno spent (spends?) a great deal of time questioning the importance of being an artist and of art, his art matters. Case in point is his other 1975 album Discreet Music.

Eno made Discreet Music while bed ridden in a hospital after an automobile accident. From the WIKIPEDIA link: "Brian Eno's concept of ambient music builds upon a concept composer Erik Satie called "furniture music." This means music that is intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than be directly focused upon.

The inspiration for this album began when Eno was left bed-ridden in a hospital by an automobile accident and was given an album of eighteenth-century harp music. After struggling to put the record on the turntable and returning to bed, he realized that the volume was turned down (toward the threshold of inaudibility) but he lacked the strength to get up from the bed again and turn it up. Eno said this experience taught him a new way to perceive music: "This presented what was for me a new way of hearing music—as part of the ambience of the environment just as the color of the light and the sound of the rain were parts of that ambience."

"This album is also an experiment in algorithmic, generative composition. His intention was to explore multiple ways to create music with limited planning or intervention. The A-side of the album is a thirty-minute piece titled "Discreet Music." It was originally intended as a background for Robert Fripp to play against in a series of concerts. The liner notes contain a diagram of how this piece was created. It begins with two melodic phrases of different lengths played back from a synthesizer's digital recall system (the equipment used in this case was an EMS Synthi AKS, which had a then-exotic, built-in digital sequencer). This signal is then run through a graphic equaliser to occasionally change its timbre. It is then run through an echo unit before being recorded onto a tape machine. The tape runs to the take-up reel of a second machine. The output of that machine is fed back into the first tape machine which records the overlapped signals. This tape loop arrangement was earlier utilized by Fripp & Eno in their release (No Pussyfooting) (1973) and soon became known as Frippertronics."

Beyond the album's recuperative power for Eno, Dayal describes its power for others: "The tales of Discreet Music's role in the recovery of its listeners are legion. David Bowie apparently soundtracked his own recovery from drugs in the mid-1970s by listening to Discreet Music. Letters from fans poured in from all over, claiming that the album's quiet power helped them heal. 'I got a letter from a woman in Cleveland who works with autistic children,' Eno said to NME in 1977. "She had one child who never spoke; he had never made a single vocal noise in his life. Another one wouldn't sleep; he was ultra-nervous, in a wretched state. She put on Discreet Music one day,a nd the kid who had never slept just lay down on the concrete floor and went to sleep. So she went to the group where the other kid was, and she kept playing Discreet Music. And this little child--not only because of the record, I'm sure, though the other one was--started talking'" (Dayal, 86).


My entire train of thought about the healing power of music came from the previous passage. Isn't that amazing, Mom? Music has the power to transform, to spark transcendence. I know much of this is not your kind of thing, Mom, but you listen patiently and enjoy the energy I bring to the discussion.

I am drawing to a close, but I can see that Dayal's Another Green World is going to stay in my office and get re-read in bits and pieces in non-linear fashion.

This is a great book. I already recommended it, right? :-)

It's inspiring for artists of all kinds as it speaks to process, it speaks to where ideas come from, it contains real ideas about how an art work takes shape and how it has importance for decades as this album has had for the last 40 years.

I am currently reading the Bloomsbury book on David Bowie's Low, which is not as good as Dayal's book on Another Green World, but it's not terrible.

Finally, a link to the Bloomsbury series and an article about Eno's album.

I have been working on this entry for a couple of weeks.

I am still haunted by my Oblique Strategy card... Thanks, Mom.



Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = 315 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1605.15 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.
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