Brian Eno is one of the towering figures of modern music. Now and then throughout The Information I hear traces of Eno in Beck. Listening to Eno explain his method of composing lyrics may highlight some of what Beck is doing with his own song writing.  


“I like to set in motion a game of interpretation, as if to create a detective story about the lyrics. I’m neither interested in declarative lyrics that leave no room for interpretation, nor in meaninglessness, but something in the middle, which some people call poetry.”

“My lyrics are receivers, rather than transmitters, of meaning – very vague and ambiguous, but just about evocative enough to stimulate some sort of interpretation process to take place.”

“This notion of meaning is for me a very overused one. Nobody ever says, what’s the meaning of that piano part, what’s the meaning of that guitar part? Those things have meaning, too. And for me, I’m trying to put lyrics on the same level of meaning as those. They have to make musical and rhythmic sense first for me, and if they have the other sense, if they have semantic sense also, that’s another story. . . .”

“My main interest was to avoid banal meanings. What that meant was always creating as much branching of ambiguities as I could, hinting at possible types of meaning that the words could have.”

“Meaningless lyrics are actually not interesting, if they’re clearly meaningless. What’s interesting is being on the border, of having the rich ambiguity of making it feel like there’s something there but you’re not quite sure what it is. And lyrics can only give a lovely sting to a song. Just a particular word in the right place. . . .”

“And sometimes you get a marriage of sonic texture and word that is really beautiful.”



Paragraphs: 1, see John Hockenberry, “Eno: more songs about meaning and/or love”, The Tech, M.I.T., 1990, p. 11 [online];  2, see Ian MacDonald, “Before and After Science”, New Musical Express, November 26, 1977 [online at enoweb]; 3 and 4, see John Diliberto, “Brian Eno’s Luminous Fringe”, Musician, 1988 [online at enoweb]; 5 and 6, see Pamela Z, “Brian Eno – Ambiguity, Yams & Ju-Ju Spacejazz”, Mondo 2000, 1990[?], [online at enoweb].