Brian Eno on Creativity

Interesting, brief talk by Brian Eno on creativity. Anything he has to say about this topic is worth listening to. At one point Eno compares a “cowboy” (explorer) to a “father” (stay there and tend the land), expressing preference for the cowboy. It’s an interesting comparison that Kierkegaard makes in Either/Or II with slightly different terms: I think he compares a conqueror to a farmer, but Kierkegaard prefers the farmer. Behind this comparison is his controlling trope of the seducer vs. the husband, the man who takes a woman and then moves on vs. the man who loves and marries her.

I think the best creative works combine the two impulses: cowboys and conquerors are always just fathers and farmers still looking for their homes. We see this kind of figure in films like Braveheart and Gladiator: the hero fights to avenge or to recover his lost home.

I think the real question, also, is about what is being created. Being a constant cowboy in music is a good thing. But suppose you really are building a nation, a community, or a home? Being a constant cowboy makes you very destructive in those cases. And what might happen if a musician were more the father/farmer type than the cowboy type? Instead of constantly seeking new sounds, musics, etc., these musicians would be developing their genre — expanding what it can do. So does this mean the cowboy in music never makes it past a superficial exploration of his or her new sound? Or maybe, in the end, developing your sound always means transforming it into something new?


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