Another Green World
Island – 1975
Brian Eno’s masterpiece is an absolute triumph: an album that aimed to transcend the simple pleasures of pop music, and in the process, achieved something far greater.
What if an album were an art museum? Not just the background noise in an installation, but the actual focal point of an honest-to-goodness, world-class art museum.
Think about it. You pay the entrance fee, and mill about in the lobby as a crowd assembles. Then, as the clock hits the top of a new hour, your small group is ushered into another room: a circular one with high ceilings. The lights dim, and the first song begins. As its rhythm bends and contorts, visual stimuli swirl overhead in perfect sync with the jagged, alien sounds. This room was perfectly designed and fine-tuned with this piece of music in mind, and it’s delivered through the finest sound system that money can buy. When the song is over, an illuminated exit sign beckons your party to move to a second room.
In total, your group will pass through fourteen rooms in just over forty minutes – perhaps closer to forty-five, accounting for travel time. A few of these spaces are merely corridors that link one room to another, but each room is markedly different from the others. Each has its own color scheme, its own visual stimulants, even its own temperature.
Every room has its own unique floor and ceiling. One is glass-bottomed, with an aquarium – or perhaps a terrarium – below. One room has a faint breeze. Another is a moss garden. In each, the ocular, sensory, and even olfactory stimulants are perfectly aligned, but the aural ones remain at the center of attention; for as unique as each room is, all of them adhere to the notion of ambient minimalism.
The etiquette of this museum is the same as any other fine art institute: no loud talking; no food or drink; no running. The only difference is that once each song ends, the group must make their way into the next room in a timely manner. Those who need assistance will receive it, and those who refuse to adhere to the rules are asked to leave.
Naturally, some rooms leave more of an impression than others. In fact, they were designed that way. However, in sum total, each somehow makes those that surround it more memorable, more impactful. After visiting for the first time, you may only be able to immediately recall two or three of the rooms in vivid enough detail to adequately describe them to friends, but the overall impression that the experience leaves is lasting.
And of course, when it’s all over, you exit through the gift shop. There, you can find the entire audio program in the high-quality format of your choice. For the particularly enthused, the museum’s alluring, semi-abstract logo can be purchased in the form of postcards, t-shirts, posters, and tote bags.
While listening to it at home may not provide the same visceral reaction that you got from the museum itself, the take-home version remains stunning in its own right – largely because there’s really nothing else that sounds all that much like it. Sure, elements of it can be found in far less impressive pieces from other artists, but listening to this souvenir will always provide a singular experience.
Could such an endeavor actually work? The logistics would present a sizable challenge, and the cost may exceed the financial draw that an admittedly-niche project might generate. Still, with the right soundtrack, and the right name, I think you could pull it off.
Mr. Eno, I won’t charge for the idea. Just make sure to fly me out to London for the opening.