Perhaps best known as a musician and producer, he’s also an artist, professor and thinker. Music-wise, even if you haven’t heard any of his own records, you may have heard his production contributions to albums by rock legends U2, David Bowie, Talking Heads or James. In other media, his music sometimes appears in films (Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine, Heat), television programs and commercials, and the Windows 95 start-up sound.
What are Oblique Strategies?
Oblique Strategies (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas) is a deck of printed cards in a black container box created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975. Each card offers an aphorism (saying) intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.
“These cards evolved from separate observations of the principles underlying what we were doing. Sometimes they were recognised in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack, or by drawing a single card from the shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if its appropriateness is quite unclear. They are not final, as new ideas will present themselves, and others will become self-evident.”
“The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.” -Brian Eno, interview with Charles Amirkhanian, KPFA-FM Berkeley, 2/1/80
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