Brian Eno presents “first three-dimensional song” in Prague installation

Brian Eno - 'The Ship', photo: archive of National Gallery

Among an impressive range of new exhibitions at the Czech National Gallery’s Trade Fair Palace is an installation by the UK artist and musician Brian Eno. Though Eno is known to many for his work with U2 and David Bowie, the immersive work The Ship builds on his status as the inventor of ambient music.

Brian Eno,  photo: Tereza Křenová / National Gallery
Brian Eno was a member of Roxy Music and has produced albums by the likes of David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay. But his most lasting legacy is likely to be his invention of ambient music in the 1970s.

Now Brian Eno has installed a piece in Prague entitled The Ship. The immersive work comprises soothing voice-based music panning between several vintage loudspeakers in a dimly illuminated room.

Speaking at the start of the new season at the Czech National Gallery’s Trade Fair Palace – of which his installation is part – Eno explained how he had begun composing the work a couple of years after the centenary of the world’s most famous maritime disaster.

“I started getting this image of a sea, an ocean, an ocean that was disturbed and chaotic and dangerous. After a while I realised that I was writing a song and that the song was about a ship. And the ship was the Titanic and the Titanic was a kind of metaphor for this whole human issue of thinking we’re too big to fail… I had thought of songs as something that come out of two loud speakers. Suddenly to think of a song as a place that you visit and that you live inside of was a different feeling for me. So I began making my first three-dimensional song, really.”

Perhaps the renowned polymath’s best-known ambient work is 1978’s Music for Airports, which was designed to be continuously looped as a sound installation that would calm travellers in what is often a stressful situation. Eno was asked in Prague how producing pieces for museums compared to his earlier endeavour.

Brian Eno - 'The Ship',  photo: archive of National Gallery
“I assume that people who come to listen to this piece have come here to listen to this piece. I don’t assume that people go to airports to hear Music for Airports. They go to airports to catch a plane [laughs]. So it’s a different demand that the music is making, really. On the hand, I’m making something that is in the background. But here I’m making something that is the foreground, is the whole ground, actually.”

Visitors can soak up the calming atmosphere of Eno’s The Ship – and take in a couple of other pieces by the artist – at Prague’s Trade Fair Palace until September 10.