Researched by Thomas DeMichelePublished - April 4, 2016 Last Updated - January 14, 2019
Did Brian Eno Invent Ambient Music?
Brian Eno didn’t invent ambient music, but he did coin the term and popularize the genre drawing from underground experimental music and the work of Erik Satie.
In other words, Brian Eno was “instrumental” in popularizing ambient music, but he wasn’t the first to play in that style (see early acts like Tangerine Dream). He drew inspiration for earlier artists like John Cage, and he used his star status to popularize the experimental work of underground bands. He helped to bring the underground music, and what Brian would later call “ambient music,” to a large audience.
Eno didn’t just work with electronics, but he is most famous for his work with innovative recording techniques and experimenting with synthesizers. The story of Eno is well encapsulated in the BBC documentary.
FACT: Brian Eno was one of the first popular “art school rockers”. Like Warhol’s “art rock” groups, Eno was less a virtuoso and more an artist. He rightfully got a reputation of “a mad scientist of music” being one of the first to use a synth as a “noise machine” rather than a beefed-up electronic keyboard in the pop-music world.
FACT: Eno’s first foray into music with the band Roxy Music (one of the first glam bands) is mostly rock, his following work goes more toward experiment, and then most of his career after the 70’s is experimental and ambient (mostly electronic) music.
FACT: John Cage is famous for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which contains no notes and instead prompts the conductor to “play the natural sounds occurring in the room.”Cage was a big influence on Eno. Cage used to use I Ching to create his works, employing chance in his art. Eno utilized a similar method with Eno’s own “card game” Oblique Strategies: Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas (Amazon), which provides random bits of insight to “unstick” stuck artists.
What is Ambient Music?
Ambient music is just what it sounds like, it emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. Brian said (paraphrasing), “ambient music should be unobtrusive enough to play in the background, but just interesting enough to capture attention.”
Other important albums that elude to this direction are David Bowie’s Low (which Eno helped produce along with the more famous Heroes) and Eno’s other 1975 album Another Green World (and generally tracks from earlier Eno albums).
Brian Eno experimented with music, one result was what he called “ambient music”. He drew from other sources, meaning we can’t just credit the invention of the music to his name, but with this in mind he popularized and named the genre, and helped to popularize other artists in the genre as well.
Ultimately, Brian Eno is an important innovator in a few different music genres including glam rock, ambient techno, and, in ways, just electronic music. Eno was also influential in the post-punk and the new wave movements due to work like the track “Third Uncle” predating any popular and like music by years. He was also notable for his work with Talking Heads (The song “Kings Lead Hat”, from Before and After Science (in my opinion Eno’s best album), is an anagram of Talking Heads). Eno would later produce Talking Heads’ second, third and fourth albums, Devo’s first album, and much more. Check out Eno’s latest album The Ship (2016) (in the links below).
Author: Thomas DeMichele
Thomas DeMichele is the content creator behind ObamaCareFacts.com, FactMyth.com, CryptocurrencyFacts.com, and other DogMediaSolutions.com and Massive Dog properties. He also contributes to MakerDAO and other cryptocurrency-based projects. Tom's focus in all...