Brian Eno on foiling the critic

I managed to get through 70some drafts of How To Say Everything before quoting Brian Eno, but it was bound to happen.

From a terrific 1980 interview with Charles Amirkhanian (found here. Thanks, Matt Madden.):


Lyric writing is an embarrassing thing to do because there’s a kind of exposure in writing lyrics that is really more critical than any other kind of exposure I can think of.

Words have such distinct meanings that they pin you down in a sense. So to start writing lyrics is hard. To start writing lyrics when you don’t know quite what to say is even more difficult.

So I began inventing systems the intention of which was to foil the critic in me and to encourage the child in me. I tend to think that one’s mind is mediated by two characters: one is a critical one and the other is playful and childish one. And we’re inclined to let the critic have a bit too much sway in that balance.

And so quite a lot of the procedures I use are intended to catch him off guard for a little while so that the playful person can come out.

And more:

When I was young the most overpowering emotions were induced in me by music. Not only emotions but also a sense of wonder and a sense of "I must find out what that is or how it was done or where it came from."

I suppose a lot of my early knowledge if you like was the result of a self-education in culture, particularly in music.

Now, once you become more culturally aware, you tend to know where things come from and upon hearing them you already have a category in which to place them. And so by that means you lose that sense of mystery that some of them have. One of the points in writing music is exactly that, to produce music that has that same effect on you. As music first did. To produce things that are as strange and mysterious to you as the first music you first heard. And I guess that's the thrill for me: to do something that is actually outside of the territory of things I can defend, I'm just moved by it and I'm not sure of the reasons why I'm moved by it.


mattmadden said…
yes, I particularly liked those two observations as well.

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