Thursday, March 12, 2009

now I believe a little

If there's one show on NPR that has always driven me nuts, it has to be "This I Believe," the weekly five minute segment of smug banality in which ordinary Americans (Hey, like me!) get to share with us all which cliched maxim they organize their lives around and explain it to us like they invented it.

But then they mixed it up a bit by giving time to not an ordinary American but an exceptional Englishman, Brian Eno. And his segment is so good. It's all about singing, together, with other people. And sure, I've heard about singing before, but the way he describes the experience makes it sound like such a new and good idea. Everyone should be singing together, but we won't.

* * *

I can't think about Eno without remembering the time I first listened to his Music for Films. It was the summer after I graduated as an enthusiastic and directionless English major. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, the next year, or the next week, so my friend Bruce and I went car camping on the beach, Whitefish Point up on Lake Superior. All I had to do was read.

We were both fascinated by the Lake Superior Shipwreck Museum just up the road, so most days we went back there, came back to read on the sand, ate something with sand in it, and then read until it got dark, when we listened to Music for Films on this tiny stereo and then out on Lake Superior the freighters sounded their deep horns. The idea of a freighter on Lake Superior still sounds so quaint to me as to be absurd, but there they were, empty for all I know, pushing through the largest freshwater lake on the power of maritime nostalgia. When they rounded the Point, we stopped reading to look up at their lights.

Anyway, that Eno record was perfect for that setting. If you've heard it, you probably know what I mean.


Dawn Potter said...

I have always hated "This I Believe," and I always seem to be stuck in the car somewhere having to listen to it. Glad to hear that at least one episode rose above the rest, though Brian Eno in other situations can cross the line between "witty and thought-provoking" to "boring and pretentious" (thus reminding me of the great Spinal Tappian maxim: "there's a fine line between clever and stupid.").

Mindstroller said...

I saw an interview with Brian Eno and Will Wright (video-game genius, creator of The Sims and Sim City) as part of the Long Now Foundation. It was a very interesting talk about procedurally generated music and other procedural things. That's the only experience i've had with Brian Eno, although i tried to download some of his music a while back. No luck, i'm afraid.

nathan_fisher said...

So how many more Viva la Vida's and No Line on the Horizon's does this guy have to produce before he loses all his cred?

Also, I've been trying to get into these Talking Heads guys. So far, can only listen to Buildings and Food without wanting to give that Byrne geek a swirly.

Mr. Hill said...

For me, it goes in this order:

1. '77
2. Buildings and Food
3. Fear of Music
4. Remain in Light

This recent African beat kind of stuff you hear in Ruby Suns and Vampire Weekend and even "Brother Sport" all goes back to Talking Heads, I think. Well, that and Africa.

Anyway not liking Talking Heads = No Cred. Just ask Joe.

Dawn Potter said...

I have give Remain in Light top billing but only because I was in love with a guy who used to sing along with the songs while staring meaningfully into my eyes. Not reliable in the long run, though it worked really well at the time.

That's All said...

BTW, is that the Museum with the big lens and the relentless playing "Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald"?
I couldn't work there and not hate Gordon.

Mr. Hill said...

That's the one! They have that loop with a few tracks from the Eno album, then the Lightfoot song, and then all over again. You have to time your visit so you leave before it plays that song more than a couple of times.

Great museum, even though it's pretty tiny.

Z-Blow said...

Hi, Scott!

I can't say I've always hated This I Believe, but am often disappointed for sure.

The cool thing was that I recently discovered that one of my favorite martha graham quotes was from an essay she did for them in the 1950's:

I really liked Brian Eno's too. I've gotten to experience pub singing a number of times and it's one of my absolute favorite things, everyone standing around with a beer in one hand, singing at the top of their lungs.

Mr. Hill said...

Zadie!!! We just stayed with Brian and Deborah the last two nights and were all remembering you and how cool you are!

For you, I will listen to the Martha Graham segment.

And "Flamarimba" sounds fun. Cath and I were playing Brian and Deb's marimba all weekend. Everyone should have one of those.