Brian Eno turned 75 years old this past spring, but if he has any thoughts of retirement, they haven’t slowed his creation of new art and music. Just last year he put out his latest solo album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, videos from whose songs we featured here on Open Culture. However compelling the official material released by Eno, the bodies of fan-made work it tends to inspire also merits exploration. Take French visual artist Thomas Blanchard’s short film “Emerald and Stone” above, which visualizes the eponymous track from Eno’s 2010 album Small Craft on a Milk Sea, a collaboration with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.
“Emerald and Stone,” which you’ll want to watch in full-screen mode, consists entirely of “riveting imagery built from a simple concoction of paint, soap and water.” So says Aeon, in praise of the film’s “ephemeral dreamworld of flowing music and visuals that’s easy to sink into.”
Its drifting, glittering bubbles have a planetary look, contributing to a visual aesthetic that suits the sonic one. Like many of the other compositions on Small Craft on a Milk Sea, “Emerald and Stone” will sound on some level familiar to listeners who only know Eno’s earlier work developing the genre of ambient music in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.
That same era witnessed — or rather, heard — the rise of “new age” music, which played up its associations with outer space, seas of tranquility, the movement of the heavenly bodies, and so on. Eno’s work was, at least in this particular sense, somewhat more down-to-earth: he called his breakout ambient album Music for Airports, after all, having created it with those utilitarian spaces in mind. Appropriately enough, Blanchard’s short for “Emerald and Stone” evokes the cosmos without departing from the fine grain of our own world, and appears abstract while having been made wholly from everyday materials. Eno himself would surely approve, having premised his own on not escaping reality, but placing it in a more interesting context.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.