Resonant Thoughts: Brian Eno On Moire Patterns In Music


“A Moiré pattern is an interference pattern produced by overlaying similar but slightly offset templates. A simple example is obtained by taking two identical ruled transparent sheets of plastic, superposing them, and rotating one about its center as the other is held fixed.”

“Now a moire pattern… is actually a very good analog of the Steve Reich piece [It’s Gonna Rain] in action. Something happens because of one’s perception rather than because of anything physically happening to these two sheets of plastic which produce an effect that you simply couldn’t have expected or predicted. I was so impressed by this as a way of composing that I made many, many pieces of music using more complex variations of that…

All of my ambient music I should say, really was based on that kind of principle, on the idea that it’s possible to think of a system or a set of rules which once set in motion will create music for you…

If you move away from the idea of the composer as someone who creates a complete image and then steps back from it, there’s a different way of composing. It’s putting in motion something and letting it make the thing for you.”

Brian Eno, “Generative Music” (1996)


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