(Side Projects, Solo Albums, and Other Detours)
Brian Eno - “The Microsoft Sound”
In 1994 Mark Malamud and Eric Gavriluk approached renowned record producer and ambient musician Brian Eno to create a commissioned piece. Eno once described the proposed project by saying:
“The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 31/4 seconds long.”1
They wanted him to create the sound that played when you started up Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system. He accepted.
After nearly a hundred drafts, Eno finally came up with the micro-song above.2 I expect most anyone reading this will have some sort of faint memory of this sound, unless you were briefly Amish during the mid-nineties, or were born after 1995 and are some sort of computer using infant or something.3 But, I’m sure that you’ve now listened to the mp3 of it that I posted above and have considered it in a completely new light. After all, how often to stop to appreciate the beauty of the sounds of machines turning on?
Don’t worry though, I’m not going to turn this into a trite little ~~~">omg a violinist played in the subway and no one cared but he was secretly an awsome violonist that people paid a lot of money to hear there is beauty all around us art is alive wake up peopple!!!!~~~~~ sort of post. Sure, you can find beauty in everyday things or whatever, but this isn’t fucking UpWorthy. This is Dolphin/Shark, a super-duper serious, thoroughly unprofessional music blog that no one reads.
Instead, I’d like to off this as an example of how constraints can actually help the creative process. Everyone bemoans the existence of editors and producers who strangle the creativity of artists by not giving them full control of a project. And that can certainly happen. But, other times, constraints can actually help an artist, by giving them a distinct problem to overcome or a clear framework on which to base their work.
Eno has said in interviews that he took the project because he was having trouble with his own music, and found that the limitations of the Microsoft project helped him gain creative momentum that allowed him to finish those other compositions. Instead of limiting him, only having a few seconds to work did just the opposite.
Remember, kids, no matter what your punk friends say about corporate mercenary jobs, they can apparently sometimes wind up have a positive impact on your creative life.
1. An actual footnote for once!
2. It’s technically about six seconds long, nearly twice the number Eno gives in the quote above.
3. HAHAHAHAHAHA MY LITTLE SISTERS WERE BORN IN 1996 AND THEY’RE GOING TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL IN THREE MONTHS HAHAHAHAHAHA I AM JUST GOING TO TURN INTO A SKELETON THEN TURN INTO DUST AND BLOW AWAY IN THE WIND
4. Oh, and Eno composed it on a Mac.