English songwriter, producer, and all-around big thinker, Brian Eno, was in New York this past weekend to oversee the launch of his ambitious sound and light installation, 77 Million Paintings. It’s part of the sprawling Red Bull Music Academy project, and though it continues the so-called “ambient music tradition” that Eno began in 1979 with his Music For Airports, 77 Million Paintings is different.
While all the individual tracks of sound are combining and recombining, so too are a series of mostly abstract and hi-def images. Eno originally estimated that there were 77 million possible combinations of sight and sound.
Brian Eno, on whether the title 77 Million Paintings should be taken literally:
It‘s a huge underestimate actually. When I first did the work, I calculated there were 77 million possible combinations of images, but I’ve added so many layers to it. The other day I tried to work it out. I think there’s 8.25 trillion possible combinations. That doesn’t sounds as good though, does it?
On how the installation works:
The audio is completely unsynchronized, and every element of the visual is unsynchronized with every other one, and every element of the audio is unsynchronized with every other. So what you have are a lot of independent cycles going on, constantly clustering together in different ways. It’s like a multi-dimensional moiré pattern.
On the installation as a space to relax:
It’s a place to switch off certain kinds of alertness that you generally need to have switched on if you live in a city…. Quite soon after you’ve got in there, you realize that nothing is ever going to happen. It’s just going to carry on, and nothing bad is going to happen to you. I think that’s very nice. It’s a very nice feeling to think, “Oh, good. I’ll just relax and stay here.”
77 Million Paintings runs from now until June 2 at the old Café Rouge on West 32 St.