The music critic Jon Pareles gives Brian Eno’s album its due respect, but saying that the “musician and producer’s new songs meditate on folly and annihilation” does not really make you want to listen to it. This interview title from Wired has a different effect, at least on me:
Brian Eno on Why He Wrote a Climate Album With Deepfake Birdsongs
The ambient music pioneer is back with ForeverAndEverNoMore, an album that wants to get you in touch with your climate emergency feelings.
THE TITLE OF Brian Eno’s new album ForeverAndEverNoMore sounds fairly doom and gloom. When you realize the name is inspired by a book on the fall of the Soviet Union it sounds even more so. Ultimately, though, its tone and message could be a hopeful one: Things can change—and change quickly.
Eno is probably best known as an endlessly inventive ambient music pioneer and prolific producer/collaborator who has worked with the likes of David Byrne, David Bowie, and Grace Jones. But more recently, his eyes have been on the planet. In 2021 he founded EarthPercent, a charity that aims to raise money from the music industry to “be directed to the most impactful organizations dealing with climate change.” Now, with ForeverAndEverNoMore, he’s using his music to address the climate crisis as well.
But at the end of the day, what can art do? Lots of musicians have dedicated songs to environmental awareness, but the planet keeps getting hotter. WIRED spoke with Eno about the goals of his new album, his creative process, and the importance of deepfake birds.
WIRED: Can you tell me about the birds we hear on the album?
Brian Eno: The British Library’s National Sound Archive has a huge collection of bird recordings, some of which are now extinct. We settled on the Yellowhammer, an increasingly rare bird. I also like trying to make deepfake birds, so several of the birds you hear on the album are not real.
How do you go about making deepfake birds?
Oh, I just listen to bird sounds a lot and then try to emulate the kinds of things they do. Synthesizers are quite good at that because some of the new software has what’s called physical modeling. This enables you to construct a physical model of something and then stretch the parameters. You can create a piano with 32-foot strings, for instance, or a piano made of glass. It’s a very interesting way to try to study the world, to try to model it. In the natural world there are discrete entities like clarinets, saxophones, drums. With physical modeling, you can make hybrids like a drummy piano or a saxophone-y violin. There’s a continuum, most of which has never been explored.
Why did you choose to perform vocals?
Really I wanted to try writing some songs. I make instrumental music like diarrhea, it just flows out of me. I thought, what would happen if you left out some of the ingredients of songs—strong rhythms, chord changes by and large—but still treated it like a song? I wanted to keep the landscape sensibility I’ve been developing, the sense of music being a place rather than an event.
Another thing that’s happened is that over the 50 years I’ve been recording it, my voice has dropped quite a lot in register. It’s a different personality that I can sing from. It can be melancholy, regretful even…
Read the whole interview here.