Brian Eno

A couple of hundred years ago when I was a high school student myself, the primary form of one-upmanship in my crowd consisted in identifying the most obscure, and often the most unlistenable, prog rock band. Then, at exactly the right moment, i.e. when it would most effectively reflect one’s own cultural superiority, one would drop the name of said band into conversation, generally editorializing on the band’s “excellence.” Personally, I wasted a lot of time and money on this exercise in status anxiety, buying and listening to execrable records by bands like Jade Warrior, Aphrodite’s Child (my faux sophistication required me to feign affection for the atrocious album 666 by Aphrodite’s Child), and other groups and artists on Vertigo Records.

And this to some extent continues–or at least it did ten years ago when I was out visiting Madison. At a cocktail party, one of my interlocutors mentioned to several of us that he’d recently seen Peter Hammill live. I think he assumed that we wouldn’t know that Mr. Hammill had been a founding member of another of these prog rock bands, Van der Graaf Generator, or, indeed, that I still had Mr. Hamill’s song “Imperial Zeppelin,” from his solo album Fool’s Mate, in one of my current playlists. I decided it was best, at age almost fifty, to pass on taking the conversation any further.

Anyway, if you have such students, if they don’t already know about him, this reading on Brian Eno and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet might be of some interest. Eno remains a major figure–and of deserved interest because of his work with David Bowie and U2, to name just two artists with whom he has worked–so this material, relatively speaking, is au courant. But he was, in my day, somewhat arcane–and for me, also mostly unlistenable.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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