Some of my favorite albums are the quartet of “pop” records Brian Eno made in the 1970s after he left Roxy Music: Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, and Before and After Science. These albums live in my brain and will reside there until I’m dead.
Eno has had a long and storied career since as the creator of ambient music, a producer of wonderful albums by Talking Heads and U2 and many others, and a multimedia artist. But one of the things that he no longer seems to do, much, is sing. He did, some, on a collaboration with John Cale from 1990 titled “Wrong Way Up.” But mostly, these days, he doesn’t. Now, his voice is not a conventionally “good” voice, but I always enjoyed it, and I’ve missed hearing it in new music. [UPDATE — yeah, I forgot about the 2005 Another Day on Earth, probably because I never got that into it. Should try it again…]
All of which is by way of introduction to this delightful piece Eno recently contributed to the NPR series “This I Believe,” in which Eno declares that what he believes in is…singing. It’s a strange admission for him to make after all these years — like, I don’t know, Harpo Marx espousing the virtues of speech, or Greta Garbo expressing her love of crowds. But he makes a good case.
A recent long-term study conducted in Scandinavia sought to discover which activities related to a healthy and happy later life. Three stood out: camping, dancing and singing…. When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.
[thanks to Kottke for the link]
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That’s one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.
Sorry to disagree, not with the joy of singing and the inner pleasure that can be derived from it, but with what seems to be the fundamental premise of the quoted paragraph – that group think engenders empathy.
Sure it does. That’s why Brown Shirt behavior has such a strong association with empathy. That’s why religion is so related to commonality and completely antithetical to harsh judgment of others and … holy wars.
There’s nothing that says empathy like being the proud member of a gang.
We like to portray the rare violent mad loner as emblematic of a dangerous social trait (like being a liberal) but when a group, such as a nation, is lead to wars of choice for very spurious yet shouted reasons, killing thousands and thousands and more in the process, it has nothing to do with group think and its potential for malevolence.
Grouping has little to do with empathy. It seems much closer to the opposite.
Eno’s new album with David Byrne is well worth checking out if you haven’t already. Eno does a lot of backing vocals. See everythingthathappens.com. It’s stronger than Wrong Way Up or Another Day, in my opinion.
Eno wrote one of my absolute favorite essays on technology several years back in Wired magazine. It’s well worth the read:
I like Eno’s voice very much. Right now I am listening to a live album by Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and Eno contributes keyboards and vocals. One of my favorite vocal performances is I’ll Come Running (To Tie Your Shoes). Those albums you mentioned are simply great, I agree.