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WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

Eno from 1986 on the artist as re-mixer

I've been meaning to post this quote for a while. I found it in a book I recently read and enjoyed, Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound, by Eric Tamm.

In 1986, Brian Eno said that the artist:

"re-mixes"—he perpetuates a great body of received cultural and stylistic assumptions, he re-evaluates and re-introduces certain ideas no longer current, and then he also innovates. But the "innovation" part might be a much smaller proportion than we usually think. Consequently, I started to suspect that the palette of the painter or artist was incredibly broad—that it was the whole history of art. There's nothing linear about evolution at all: it is a process of trying to stay in the same place, of trying to maintain an identity in a changing landscape.

Along these lines, one of the things I've been thinking about lately is how the contemporary lock-down on free culture in the U.S. (and elsewhere, described more here and here) blocks artists from bridging the divides between cultures in the world.

OK, that is a whopper statement, but this is what I mean: outside of the cultural context in which creative works are created, it is, in some ways, easier to misunderstand those works. Artists who can re-mix (i.e., in any way, directly, artistically comment upon) recent works can respond to these misunderstandings in new works that directly quote / reference / comment upon the misunderstood ones.

(I haven't read it myself, but Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone: A Novel might be a good example of this.)

I think copyright protection of less than one generation of artist (e.g., around 14 years) would be ideal: the young "students" of the current generation of artists would be able to freely create derivative works by the time they were themselves adults.

But, regardless of copyright law, I think it is worth considering how our own cultures are misunderstood, how existing creative works (think popular culture, first of all) perpetuate that misunderstanding, and how our own art can open new channels of (at least, artistic) dialog across boundaries.


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