How do you describe Brian Eno? Composer, producer, Renaissance man – and now guest artistic director for the upcoming Brighton Festival (May 1-23). Back in the day, Eno gained notoriety as the high-camp heart of the original Roxy Music line-up. On stage at the Brighton Dome today, at a press conference called to launch the festival, he proved a puckish presence dressed in a black jacket, silk turquoise shirt and black denim jeans. When he laughed – which he did often – he flashed a gold molar.
“We hanker after surrender,” he said. “Sex, drugs, art and religion are all forms of surrender. They give us the chance to lose ourselves.”
Another Eno aphorism: “The artist is a gardener – not fully in control. You plant a seed and you see what happens.”
One interesting fruit from his husbandry is ’77 Million Paintings’ which runs throughout the festival at the Fabrica gallery. Produced by ‘generative’ software, the installation features Eno’s hand-drawn images which are sliced and diced in limitless variations to an ambient soundtrack.
David Eagleman’s cult book ‘Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlives’, which Eno described as ‘Borgesian’, provides the inspiration for a live performance at the Dome’s Concert Hall on May 22. Eno said it will feature the spoken word in a ‘sonically considered setting’ – almost a sung lecture.
At the Corn Exchange on May 16, the accent is on positive thinking as Eno presents a Panglossian take on our contemporary problems. “Our problems are so enormous,” he said, “that if we succeed in rethinking them we will have reinvented ourselves. You create the world you believe in.”
In the world Eno believes in, the singing voice is a central element. He became animated when discussing an evening of acapella on May 7. In particular he hymned the praised of the New York sextet Naturally 7. Here they are using their vocal cords to deliver a performance as overwhelming as any amped-up instruments.