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Brian Eno: “Speech Is Song”

Currently collaborating with the British poet Rick Holland, music producer Brian Eno has seen speech take on different qualities when it is set to music. “We are all singing,” he says. 

What’s the Latest Development?

How did Eno come to collaborate with British Poet Rick Holland? “On my last album,” says Eno, “there’s a song that dates from about 2002 I think which is called ‘Bone Bomb’ where I used one of the voices that actually turns up on this record, a woman called Aylie Cooke to read a poem that I had made out of two news reports about suicide bombers. And I was really fascinated by this new territory of ‘musical poetry,’ you might call it, but I thought, ‘Who’s going to write the poems?’ That’s not my job, really, I’m not that good at it, and anyway I don’t particularly want to, I don’t want to be concerned with that aspect of the job.”

What’s the Big Idea?

“We are all singing,” says Eno. “We call it speech, but we’re singing to each other, and I thought, as soon as you put spoken word onto music, you start to hear it like singing anyway. You start to develop musical value and musical weight, and you start to notice how this word falls on that beat, and so on and so on. So in a way I think I was trying to draw more attention to the fact that everybody is a singer—everybody who uses their voice is kind of singing. And that was a big liberation for me, to realize that.”


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