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Brian Eno on The Reason He Made a Climate Album with Deepfake Birdsongs

One transition I liked on the album was “Garden of Stars” to “Inclusion,” which comes as a relief. This made me remember the wildfires that caused fire lilies to grow.

That’s always a dialog, the possibility that something good might come out of it. In “We Let It In,” that line “the whole of it in gorgeous flames” is an attempt to say that the destruction is a part of the process. Nature changes all the time. What we’re worried about is that we won’t be part of the picture.

Are we able to mix preservation and innovation?

These two should have some sort of interaction. Obviously we can’t fix the world in aspic. My friend who is a farmer says, “There’s new species all the bloody time, some of them will look after themselves.”

And what can follow a “fix it” techno-utopianism?

We all thought politics wasn’t important anymore, that technology would become the politics and create the future itself. It’s related to that horrible individualism of Ayn Rand—Nietzsche for teenagers—and the idea that the power of will is the strongest power on the planet. She would love it if I could tell her this was false.

Is community the best alternative to isolation?

The biggest social movement I can see right now is one that has never been seen before. There are billions of people involved in environmental care of some kind, but the media aren’t looking. There’s a huge amount of creative intelligence around, that’s what makes me hopeful. There’s a book I often mention by Alexei Yurchak called All Things Were Forever, Up Until They Ended.

Your album title.

Yes. It’s about the end of the Soviet Union, how it just disappeared overnight. One day everyone was communist, the next day they weren’t. This is how fast things can change, I think. This book explains that revolutions happen in two stages. First, when people realize something is wrong. So that’s where we’ve been now for a while, with the exception of a few ostrich holdouts. This is the second stage, when everybody realizes everyone else does it too. That’s the moment I think we’re heading towards. It’s when the liquid becomes a solid. Suddenly it’s a phase change. It will become impossible for politicians to seek office within three years without climate change as the main issue.

Is it possible to keep a CD about climate change from being too didactic?

Propaganda can be both ineffective and unpleasant. The main purpose of art is to test our perceptions about the world. The beginning of thinking is feelings. Another thing that the artist wants to emphasize is that there may be other realities. It’s offering you a little world with its own terms and values.

Are you still watching ASMR?

When I mention ASMR, most people don’t know what it means. It’s a real underground movement, one involving millions of people. It’s a great metaphor for climate change. I’m slightly touching on it in some of this record, it’s not declarative: “I’m here, you can listen if you like.” The commercial answer to attention has always been bright, loud, fast, shocking. ASMR means that this music is not loud, fast, boring, or continuous. It is slow and steady. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing for bloody years.

It’s one of those things that to me hints at a change in the world. Marie Kondo, another. Finally, the lesson of minimalism is being understood at an all-level. It’s a profound message because it’s anti-capitalist. The impact of what she’s saying is: What’s your life about if it requires all that stuff? These are the things that people do to change their thoughts. They might never have heard the word minimalism—or capitalism—but they start to live a bit differently.

Do these signalize the phase shift you are referring to?

That’s right. In the Yurchak book, when the Soviet Union disappears overnight, everybody’s ready. Everyone had worked around the system in its stagnant age, and did all you can to maintain life. They just kept going even though the system was gone. It was relatively orderly.

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