34 Eno

Brian Eno (b. 1948) is a pop music producer and experimental musician known for popularizing ambient music. Eno's article compares the use of organization to control variety in classical and experimental music.

Classical music is organized much like a military, in that the members of an orchestra with the high-responsibility positions have the most freedom of action. The hierarchy is listed as "conductor, leader of the orchestra; section principals; section subprincipals; and finally, rank-and-file members." High-responsibility members, such as soloists, generate events in the foreground of the music, while rank-and-file members generate the background. Musicians are trained to produce predictable sounds given specific instructions, and classical music is composed with specific sounds, progressions, and goals in mind. However, limitations in musical notation, individual characteristics of the performers, and variations in tuning cause there to be some variety in each performance of the piece.

Experimental music is designed as a hypothetical continuum based on a set of controls. Eno writes extensively about Paragraph 7 of The Great Learning by Cornelius Cardew, in which a group of performers are instructed to sing a line of text on a note of their choosing, and then to choose the note for the next line from among the notes they hear the other performers singing. Many would consider this work indeterminate, but while the score contains imprecise constraints on the performers, many implied factors limit the amount of variety in performance, such as tone deafness, the natural tendency of a singer to transpose a dissonant note toward something more pleasant, beat frequencies, resonant frequencies of the room, and cultural preferences. Pieces of this nature often obtain a pleasant, drone-like quality and appear to be part of a continuum rather than having a particular goal in mind.

The idea of organization to control variety provides a new way of talking about music. Classical and experimental music cannot be polarized as completely controlled and completely random but open up a dialogue about the function of variety in music.

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