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?


Published by James Rovira

Dr. James Rovira is higher education professional with twenty years experience in the field in teaching, administration, and advising roles. He is also an interdisciplinary scholar and writer whose works include fiction, poetry, and scholarship exploring the intersections of literature and philosophy, literature and psychology, literary theory, and music and literature.. His books include Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism (Routledge, 2023); David Bowie and Romanticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022); Writing for College and Beyond (a first-year composition textbook (Lulu 2019)); Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History (Lexington Books 2019); Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, 2018); Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); and Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2010). See his website at for details.

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