The Telegraph APRIL 29, 2010 - by Thomas H. Green


Brian Eno, guest director of the Brighton Festival, has assembled a truly eccentric series of events. Here, he introduces his ten favourites.

Brian Eno is curating this year's Brighton Festival. The sixty-one-year-old musician and artist was involved in the Luminous Festival at Sydney Opera House last year but this is his first time overseeing a British festival.

"I love San Francisco and Brighton has something of San Francisco about it," he says. "It's by the sea, there's a big gay community, a feeling of people being there because they enjoy their life there."

He will live in Brighton during May and when we meet, in his spacious west London studio, he's preparing for his departure.

He is in equal portions cheerfully genial, slightly mischievous and exploding with ideas; a self-confessed dilettante whose life appears a constant search for intellectual stimulation.

This, then, is Eno on ten events he's looking forward to at this year's Brighton Festival.

May 1-2, Dome

Orchestral interpretation of Eno's 1983 album Apollo - "Last year was the fortieth anniversary of the Moon landings and the Science Museum asked me if I'd perform Apollo live. We came up with the idea of giving it to this young Korean composer Woojun Lee to make, not a facsimile of the original, but a new piece based around it. He did a fantastic job. He scored for eleven players, a very unusual ensemble: a clarinet, a bassoon, an accordion, three electric guitars, bass, electric piano, viola, cello."

May 5-6, Pavilion Theatre

Uncategorisable one-man show from Seattle - "Reggie Watts is one of a kind. I've never liked musical comedy but the way he does it is so, so funny. He's an extraordinary singer and an amazingly clever parodist. A lot of what he does is a parody of rap with all its extreme macho-ism. He does a kind of science talk with it, connecting things in what sounds like serious scientific language. It takes quite a long time to realise he's talking absolute rubbish. He's got a Stanley Unwin quality, the great comedian whose trick was to confabulate words at lightning speed."

May 7, Dome

Celebration of the human voice with The Persuasions, Reggie Watts, and New York beatbox band Naturally 7 - "I came across The Persuasions when I moved to New York City in 1978. I lived by Washington Square Park, and every weekend there'd be this bunch of guys singing there, not even busking, just using the park as a place to meet. That was The Persuasions. I used to sing with them sometimes. I'll sing with any excuse, really."

May 9, Dome

Seven-hour improvisation split into three concerts with Eno leading an ensemble that includes Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde and Australian jazz experimentalists The Necks - "The audience may not know what they're going to get but nor do we. I realised that if you have seven people on stage you have a hundred and twenty-eight possibilities - no people playing; seven people playing; or another hundred and twenty-six possible combinations. The problem with improvised music is that everyone tends to play all the time. So I have a system for directing. I write notes and everyone has a monitor. The conceit for the show is that this isn't a concert but a university lecture set a couple of centuries in the future where we're looking back at the music of the early twenty-first century."

May 13, Dome

The Philip Glass Ensemble perform his score to Godfrey Reggio's cult 1982 film - "Koyaanisqatsi is groundbreaking but it's a good example of something telling a story in the least flattering way possible. For example, all that film of commuters speeded up so they look ant-like; anything looks stupid when you speed it up. If you slowed it down, they'd look like graceful athletes. It's too easy to just change the speed of a piece of film. We're not sophisticated enough to see through it yet. We see people walking like that, we think: 'Stupid humans behaving like ants', we don't think: 'Oh, film-maker has turned the speed up by fifty per cent'. I like the music and the film is beautiful but it's something most of us believe - that things are a bit of a mess. You don't have to convince me by speeding up humans."

May 14, Dome

Concert featuring drummer Tony Allen and Fela Kuti's youngest son Seun with his father's band Egypt 80 - "When I first heard Afrobeat, and Tony Allen in particular, it changed my feelings about what music could be and also what my music could be. I remember, in 1974 or so, I sent something to Robert Wyatt, an early Fela Kuti record, and he wrote back: 'Jazz from another planet'. I thought: 'That's what it is, yes'. Obviously it came from Africa but they were huge James Brown and Santana fans so that whole African thing looped in with what had been happening in soul, R&B and so on. I thought it was a very fertile, complete kind of music and quite dangerous-sounding. Their horn sections were so much harsher and more raw than our own tight, chic horns. They reminded me of those trucks drivers leaning on the horns as they tear down the trans-African highways."

May 16, Dome

Eno and other positive thinkers "celebrate possible futures" - "It's sort of, 'Now here's the good news', because the media, in general, deal in bad news. Out of eighty stories in a newspaper, seventy-six will be things going wrong, but as somebody who's friendly with a lot of scientists, I know there's a lot of good things happening. Just think of Wikipedia - who could have imagined twenty years ago that something like that could not only catch fire but would work? Just in the past two months there's been some interesting breakthroughs in [nuclear] fusion, but there's not a bloody word about it anywhere. It's more important than other things, the election, for example."

May 20-21, Dome

New work from choreographer Hofesh Shechter - "There's so much to choose from at the Festival. Antony Beevor's appearing, he's such a nice man and Stalingrad and Berlin are on my bookshelves. And there's comedy, too. I love comedy. I think it's the best thing we do in England; comedy, then pop music. And then there's Hofesh Shechter, something I very much want to see. He's an Israeli artist I know about because a young musician friend worked on something of his."

May 22, Dome

Eno's multimedia production based on neuroscientist David Eagleman's book Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives - "Suppose when you die you relive your life backwards. What would it be like becoming younger, moving into your past? Eagleman writes short, brilliant stories that explore such possibilities. The way it works is we have twelve readers, not professionals, people with interesting voices, and when one story finishes I finish the music for that and start it for the next piece. They're sat at desks under lights that come up as they start reading."

May 23, Dome

Eno gives a talk - "Sometimes I decide to talk about something I've never talked about before in which case I don't have blocks of material ready. Other times I do have blocks. Haircuts is one of my blocks. I talk about stylistic continua using haircuts as examples.

I don't have my illustrations done in advance. I do them there and then. I use an overhead projector which I think is an infinitely more sophisticated device than PowerPoint."