Thursday, June 21, 2007

Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills)

There's often precious little useful information on the internet about poets and artists who have involved themselves in landscape, but one thing the web is usually good for is popular music. Brian Eno, for instance, is unsurprisingly well served by various sites - most obviously Enoweb, which contains, for example, these comments from the sleeve notes to a reissue of On Land (1982).

Eno writes that "from Another Green World [1975] onwards I became interested in exaggerating and inventing rather than replicating spaces, experimenting in particular with various techniques of time distortion. This record represents one culmination of that development and in it the landscape has ceased to be a backdrop for something else to happen in front of; instead, everything that happens is a part of the landscape. There is no longer a sharp distinction between foreground and background.
In using the term landscape I am thinking of places, times, climates and the moods that they evoke. And of expanded moments of memory too... One of the inspirations for this record was Fellini's Amarcord (I Remember), a presumably unfaithful reconstruction of childhood moments. Watching that film, I imagined an aural counterpart to it, and that became one of the threads woven into the fabric of the music.
What qualified a piece for inclusion on the record was that it took me somewhere, but this might be somewhere that I'd never been before, or somewhere I'd only imagined going to. Lantern Marsh, for example, is a place only a few miles from where I grew up in East Anglia, but my experience of it derives not from having visited it (although I almost certainly did) but from having subsequently seen it on a map and imagining where and what it might be. We feel affinities not only with the past, but also with the futures that didn't materialize, and with the other variations of the present that we suspect run parallel to the one we have agreed to live in."

In a subsequent interview he explained the need to avoid New Age pastoral landscape music by providing a texture of more dissonant sounds. "Texture is information. Texture is only form looked at from a distance. If you look at this carpet, you perceive it as texture, but if you looked closer, you would see that it's actually a whole lot of forms. If you take birdsong -which is one of the aural textures of being in the country - the fact of it is that much of it is the sound of alarms and distress and attack.

"Landscape is a funny word for me, because it does conjure up pictures of nice little paintings with little paths going down them, but landscape really is and always has been a depiction of a psychological space, often of psychological cataclysm. it doesn't imply peacefulness, not to me.
"On the whole On Land is quite a disturbed landscape: some of the undertones deliberately threaten the overtones, so you get the pastoral prettiness on top, but underneath there's a dissonance that's like an impending earthquake."

As I write this entry I'm listening to a particularly effective track from the album, 'Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills)'. According to the Wikipedia entry on the album, Eno explained that "Leeks Hills is a little wood (much smaller now than when I was young, and this not merely the effect of age and memory) which stands between Woodbridge and Melton. There isn't a whole lot left of it now, but it used to be quite extensive. To find it you travel down the main road connecting Woodbridge and it lies to your left as you go down the hill"


Candy Barr said...

This is thoughtful insights on the interpretation of landscape. As I paint or search for a place to paint, there must be a lot of your subtext going on that I've never articulated. I look forward to reading more of your "musings" if I may call them that.

Plinius said...

You may. Thanks.

Palaverer said...

I didn't expect to find commentary about this piece on a landscape blog, but, having seen it, I think, "of course!" Very well done. I linked to you, as well, here:

Hope you enjoy!

Plinius said...

Thanks. I like this - "We set up a system where we’d have a microphone stuck in the end of a long resonant tube ... It picks out or amplifies [a particular note]. In this case, it was G sharp and anything that is related to G sharp." The idea of hearing a landscape in terms of the sounds that happen to be at a specific note of your choice.