CR4® - The Engineer's Place for News and Discussion®

Notes & Lines Blog

Notes & Lines

Notes & Lines discusses the intersection of math, science, and technology with performing and visual arts. Topics include bizarre instruments, technically-minded musicians, and cross-pollination of science and art.

Previous in Blog: How Loud is Too Loud?   Next in Blog: Redesigning the Acoustic Guitar

Montefiore Prescribes Eno

Posted May 03, 2013 10:00 AM by Hannes

Brian Eno has worn many hats over the course of his 64-year life: glam rocker, experimental composer, influential producer (for no less than David Bowie, Talking Heads, Devo, U2, and Coldplay), artist, writer, and political activist. As of late, the English musician has brought his unique talents to the completely different arena of healthcare.

The Independent recently reported that Eno had installed two "ambient sound installations" - for the purpose of creating a serene environment for patrons - at the newly-renovated Montefiore Hospital in Hove, East Sussex, England. One of the installations is generative - created to constantly evolve and never repeat using complex algorithms - while the other is a predetermined soundtrack album accompanied by ambient lighting and art. (The image at right shows Eno with one the art installations at Montefiore.) Public music installations are not unfamiliar to Eno: his well-known 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports was devised to calm nervous fliers in airport terminals.

As an electronic music pioneer, Eno was instrumental in the conception and development of both ambient and "discreet" (a term of his own invention) music. Ambient music is defined as that which focuses more on sonic textures than the more traditional cornerstones of rhythm and melody. Most of Eno's ambient music is very slow and sprawling, with gradual musical changes. (Eno himself has confessed that he typically plays and records his ambient pieces at a normal pace, then slows down the tape.) Discreet music is a type of ambient music - based on the eccentric "furniture music" derived by early-20th century French impressionists - designed not to be explicitly heard but to blend in with an environment and its surroundings and be perceived like a piece of furniture. This probably explains why the hospital was so eager to contract with Eno to enhance their "three-dimensional, all-embracing means of treating patients" - the idea is for the patient or visitor to be comforted and soothed without explicit awareness of what is comforting them.

Just as Eno is no stranger to ambient music, the medical profession is well-acquainted with the benefits of music therapy. Decades of research has shown that music improves patients afflicted with mood disorders, schizophrenia, aftereffects of stroke, Alzheimer's, dementia, and heart disease, as well as children with developmental disabilities. If Eno's ambient installations prove successful at Montefiore, I would hope other medical centers follow their lead and proactively work to comfort those likely to be experiencing stress or trauma.

(Image credit: Long Now Foundation)


Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Previous in Blog: How Loud is Too Loud?   Next in Blog: Redesigning the Acoustic Guitar