Electronic Music

'The genius of Eno is in removing the idea of genius'

‘Genius is individual, scenius is communal’

Many years before he expensed a strip club trip to the LA Times, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote a profile on Brian Eno and his style of work:

Eno is widely known for coining the term “ambient music,” and he produced a clutch of critically revered albums in the nineteen-seventies and eighties—by the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and U2, among others—but if I had to choose his greatest contribution to popular music it would be the idea that musicians do their best work when they have no idea what they’re doing. As he told Keyboard, in 1981, “Any constraint is part of the skeleton that you build the composition on—including your own incompetence.” The genius of Eno is in removing the idea of genius. His work is rooted in the power of collaboration within systems: instructions, rules, and self-imposed limits. His methods are a rebuke to the assumption that a project can be powered by one person’s intent, or that intent is even worth worrying about. To this end, Eno has come up with words like “scenius,” which describes the power generated by a group of artists who gather in one place at one time. (“Genius is individual, scenius is communal,” Eno told the Guardian, in 2010.) It suggests that the quality of works produced in a certain time and place is more indebted to the friction between the people on hand than to the work of any single artist.

Strict rules would render some musicians creatively immobile so Eno’s work ethic isn’t for everyone but for those stuck in a rut, it might be worth considering. And if you need some Enospiration, listen to the Spotify playlist below featuring over 1,700 of his collaborations.

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