Tuesday Tunes: Discreet Music by Brian Eno

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Brian Eno’s first solo ambient album does exactly what it says on the tin. The title track is basically two short, quiet melodies looped repeatedly with differing time delays; this was very much an early experiment for Eno and a technique he played with a lot in later ambient and instrumental pieces.

Here, it gives a somewhat ethereal, calming effect, the two pieces of music drifting in and out of hearing like a musical interpretation of the sea lapping at the shore.

On vinyl the title track, running to around 30 minutes, filled side 1, while side 2 was given over to three Variations On ‘The Canon In D Major’ By Johann Pachelbel, given a similar treatment in that excerpts from Pachelbel’s Canon are repeated with timing or other elements altered.

Unfortunately, Discreet Music is so minimal as to be barely audible at times, and without the break to flip the disc the jump from that to the slightly louder second track, Fullness of Wind, is somewhat jarring and, well, indiscreet.

However, once the volume has been adjusted to taste, both halves of this CD have a very similar effect: you can put them on in the background or to cover the noise of a squawking child in the next room, but not have it interrupt your thought processes. The repetitive nature of both halves, far from making them boring pieces, just helps them to disappear into the background and be forgotten. And for me, that’s exactly what makes this ideal writing music.

Stand-out track: Well there isn’t one, that’s kind of the point. However, my favourite track is Discreet Music, partly because being synthesised lends itself more to the kind of sci-fi background noise that suits a lot of my writing. I have found, however, that it is weirdly chameleonic, and will lend itself to a variety of moods and writing tasks.

On the downside, it’s equally likely to put me to sleep, so you know, there’s a time and a place.

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