What can the church learn from Brian Eno?

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno (born 15 May 1948), professionally known as Brian Eno or simply ‘Eno’ is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

Best known for his time playing keyboard and synthesiser for Roxy Music in the early 1970s, Brian has explored more experimental musical styles as a solo artist. He has also been extremely influential, pioneering ambient and generative music and innovating production techniques.

Eno pursues multimedia ventures in parallel to his music career including art installations – when I read this it reminded me of the liturgy hack post I did a while back about getting people with different creative giftings together to see what might happen…

According to an Article in WIRED UK (italics from sept 2012 p87), Brian suggests you don’t plan! He says you should start from scratch and go from there. Eno enters the studio with no plans, only instruments and musicians and “just dabbles until something happens” – can you imagine what church would look like if we did this each week? For some of you that is your worst nightmare, for me, it sounds really pretty exciting…

If the free-form approach doesn’t work, go for the other route: impose rules. For example, Eno will say to himself: “this piece is going to be 3’19” long” – what would happen if we had all the elements of a service scattered around the church and everyone was told they had an hour to do something with it?

During the 70s, Eno came up with his Oblique Strategy Cards. These prompts are designed to break entrenched patterns of thinking – If you were going to design some OSCs to break the entrenched patterns in your church, what would you produce? I had a bit of a think and wondered what would happen if you had cards that said things like “the children should lead the service”, “how about not singing today”, “stop the service every 15 minutes and spend 2 minutes in silence”, “instead of a sermon, get 6 people to share something amazing that happened this week”, “invite a visitor to choose the next song”… I’m sure there is absolutely no market for this but it would shake things up a bit wouldn’t it?

So, that’s just a few thoughts on what Brian Eno might teach the church. If you missed it – check out what Will Wright could teach the church too.

1 Comment

  1. Loving this series of ‘What the church can learn from…’. We keep saying that for the church to learn best it needs to leave the Christian bubble and look at what the secular world is doing – so successfully, and work out whether we can (and whether it’s appropriate) to use it in other settings. If I was a vicar, you’d have a market for those cards with me… as with teaching, sitting in rows listening can be appropriate at times, but not always!

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