Eno & Co. Improvising Electronic Music

by Thomas Brett

Ambient music guru Brian Eno recently released a recording called Small Craft On a Milk Sea (2010 Opal Ltd.).  Perhaps as part of a promotional strategy for the new release (?), Eno is making a series of seven videos called “Seven Sessions On a Milk Sea” documenting improvised performances with two other musicians (Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams) in his home studio.  The first video can be viewed at the New York Times here.  The music in this video is largely a pulsating drone overlaid with arpeggios of shifting lengths.  Given all the gear involved–Eno’s keyboard and laptop, Hopkins’ keyboard, and Abrahams’ processed guitar–it’s hard to tell exactly who is doing what or where the individual sounds are coming from.  But it’s still nice to see musicians improvising electronic sound together in real-time, reminding us that the idiom is more than the solo DJ spinning MP3s or a lone laptop musician playing back sound files.  It’s people playing and listening together, making a collective din.