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Discreet Music

Discreet Music
Discreet Music EG.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 1975
RecordedSide A 9 May 1975
Side B 12 September 1975
StudioSide A Brian Eno's studio
Side B Trident Studios, London
ProducerBrian Eno
Brian Eno chronology
Another Green World
Discreet Music
Cluster & Eno
Alternative cover
Virgin release
Virgin release

Discreet Music (1975) is the fourth studio album by the British musician Brian Eno. While his earlier work with Robert Fripp (No Pussyfooting) and several selections from Another Green World feature similar ideas, Discreet Music marked a clear step toward the ambient aesthetic Eno would later codify with 1978's Ambient 1: Music for Airports.[1] It is also Eno's first album to be released under his full name "Brian Eno" as opposed to his previous rock albums released simply under the name "Eno".

Background and recording

Brian Eno's concept of ambient music builds upon a concept composer Erik Satie called "furniture music".[2] This means music that is intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than be directly focused upon. Like Satie's notion of music that could "mingle with the sound of the knives and forks at dinner" Discreet Music was created to play in, and blend with, the subtle background audio of various, or any given, situation.

The inspiration for this album began when Eno was left bed-ridden in a hospital by an automobile accident and was given an album of eighteenth-century harp music.[3]A friend, as she was leaving, asked if Eno wanted her to put a record on, and he said yes. She did so and left. However, the volume was turned down too low and Eno could not reach to turn it up. It was raining outside, and Eno says he began listening to the rain and to "these odd notes of the harp that were just loud enough to be heard above the rain".[4] Eno said this experience taught him a new way to perceive music:

This presented what was for me a new way of hearing music—as part of the ambience of the environment just as the color of the light and the sound of the rain were parts of that ambience.

This album is also an experiment in algorithmic, generative composition. His intention was to explore multiple ways to create music with limited planning or intervention. Nicole V. Gagné described the album as "a minimalist work using tape-delay and synthesizer" that would lead to Eno's further experiments in ambient music.[5]

The A-side of the album is a thirty-minute piece titled "Discreet Music". It was originally intended as a background for Robert Fripp to play against in a series of concerts.[citation needed] The liner notes contain a diagram of how this piece was created. It begins with two melodic phrases of different lengths played back from a synthesizer's digital recall system (the equipment used in this case was an EMS Synthi AKS, which had a then-exotic, built-in digital sequencer). This signal is then run through a graphic equaliser to occasionally change its timbre. It is then run through an echo unit before being recorded onto a tape machine. The tape runs to the take-up reel of a second machine. The output of that machine is fed back into the first tape machine which records the overlapped signals. This tape loop arrangement was earlier utilized by Fripp & Eno in their release (No Pussyfooting) (1973) and soon became known as Frippertronics.

The pieces on the second half of the album are neither discreet nor discrete. The second half of the album consists of three connected pieces, collectively titled "Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel". These pieces were performed by the Cockpit Ensemble, conducted and co-arranged by Gavin Bryars. The members of the ensemble were each given brief excerpts from the score, which were repeated several times, along with instructions to gradually alter the tempo and other elements of the composition.[citation needed] The titles of these pieces were derived from inaccurate French-to-English translations of the liner notes of a version of Pachelbel's Canon performed by the orchestra of Jean-Francois Paillard.[6]


Discreet Music was the third (of four) simultaneous releases on Eno's new Obscure Records label.

This album was re-released on the Virgin label.[when?] On CD reissues, a full minute of silence separates Discreet Music's title track from the Pachelbel piece.

Reception and legacy

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Mojo4/5 stars[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[8]
Spin Alternative Record Guide7/10[9]
The Village VoiceA−[11]

Trouser Press described the album as "striking and haunting, filled with beauty and apprehension, paralleling the minimalist music being made by Steve Reich and Philip Glass."[12]

This album was a favorite of David Bowie's, and led to his collaboration with Eno on Bowie's late '70s Berlin Trilogy.[13]

For the 40th anniversary (2015) of the release of the album, the Canadian music ensemble Contact recorded "Discreet Music" with classical instruments as a seven-part one hour work.[14]

Track listing

Side A
  1. "Discreet Music" (Brian Eno) – 30:35
Side B

Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel

  1. "Fullness of Wind" – 9:57
  2. "French Catalogues" – 5:18
  3. "Brutal Ardour" – 8:17


  • Brian Eno – synthesizer, keyboards, producer, photography
  • Gavin Bryars – arranger, conductor on Side B
  • The Cockpit Ensemble - performer on Side B
  • Simon Heyworth – mastering
  • Peter Kelsey – engineer
  • John Bonis - cover design
  • Andrew Day – redesign

See also


  1. ^ a b Westergaard, Sean. "Discreet Music – Brian Eno". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  2. ^ Suchin, Peter. "Brian Eno and the "Quiet Club": Subtle Beauty as Social Critique". /seconds. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b Singer, Liam (7 October 2004). "Brian Eno / Harold Budd: Discreet Music / Ambient 1: Music for Airports / Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror / Ambient 4: On Land". Pitchfork. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Brian Eno Tells The Origin Story For Ambient Music". Synthtopia. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  5. ^ Gagné, Nicole V. (2012). Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Classical Music. Scarecrow Press. p. 90.
  6. ^ Sheppard, David (2008). On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno. Hachette UK.
  7. ^ Barnes, Mike (October 2004). "Brian Eno: Discreet Music / Music for Airports / On Land / The Plateaux of Mirror". Mojo (131): 127.
  8. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "Brian Eno". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 278–279. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  9. ^ Weisbard & Marks 1995, p. 129.
  10. ^ Pinnock, Tom (January 2019). "Brian Eno: Discreet Music / Ambient 1: Music for Airports / Music for Films / Ambient 4: On Land". Uncut (260): 38.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (27 June 1977). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
  12. ^ Grant, Steven; Green, Jim; Robbins, Ira. " :: Brian Eno". Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Eno: I would set up sonic scenarios for David Bowie". BBC News. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  14. ^

Works cited

External links

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