Brian Eno and “Oblique Strategies”

Happy New Year to Everyone out there in the blogosphere! 2013 promises to be an epic year!         

          I’m always inspired by amazing people like Eno. Also, I’m intrigued by any helpful tool that appeals to our creative energies. So make sure you check out the possible benefits inherent in Oblique Strategies.       

          Brian Eno has been a tremendous influence on many creative types , including myself. A man of varied interests in many disciplines. A true polymath.     

          Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, (born 15 May 1948 and originally christened Brian Peter George Eno), professionally known as Brian Eno or simply as Eno, is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music. Eno was a student of Roy Ascott on his Groundcourse at Ipswich Civic College. Then he studied at Colchester Institute art school in Essex, England, taking inspiration from minimalist painting. During his time on the art course at the Institute, he also gained experience in playing and making music through teaching sessions held in the adjacent music school.

Brian Eno ~ circa 1975

          He joined the band Roxy Music as synthesiser player in the early 1970s. Roxy Music’s success in the glam rock scene came quickly, but Eno soon tired of touring and of conflicts with lead singer Bryan Ferry. Eno’s solo music has explored more experimental musical styles and ambient music. It has also been extremely influential, pioneering ambient and generative music, innovating production techniques, and emphasising “theory over practice”. He also introduced the concept of chance music to popular audiences, partially through collaborations with other musicians.

          Eno has also worked as an influential music and album producer. By the end of the 1970s, Eno had worked with David Bowie on the seminal “Berlin Trilogy” and helped popularise the American band Devo and the punk-influenced “No Wave” genre. He produced and performed on three albums by Talking Heads, including Remain in Light (1980), and produced seven albums for U2, including The Joshua Tree (1987). Eno has also worked on records by James. Laurie Anderson, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Paul Simon, Grace Jones and Slowdive, among others.

           Eno pursues multimedia ventures in parallel to his music career, including art installations, a newspaper column in The Observer, a regular column on society and innovation in Prospect magazine. Eno continues to collaborate with other musicians, produce records, release his own music, and write.       

          Oblique Strategies (subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas) is a deck of 7×9 cm printed cards in a black container box, created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975. Each card offers an aphorism intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.

Oblique Strategies ~ circa 1975

          In 1970 Peter Schmidt created “The Thoughts Behind the Thoughts”, a wooden box of 55 cards, in a signed and numbered edition of 100. Eno, who had known Schmidt since the early 1960s, was intrigued by the “Thoughts” and worked with Schmidt to expand them and offer them for general sale. After Schmidt died suddenly in early 1980, Eno stopped production and the card decks became rather rare and expensive. Sixteen years later software pioneer Peter Norton convinced Eno to let him create a fourth edition as Christmas gifts for his friends (not for sale, although they occasionally come up at auction). Eno’s decision to revisit the cards and his collaboration with Norton in revising them is described in detail in his 1996 book, A Year with Swollen Appendices. With public interest in the cards undiminished, in 2010 Eno once again produced a new set of Oblique Strategies cards. The number and content of the cards vary somewhat from edition to edition.

         The entire story of Oblique Strategies, with the content of all the cards, exhaustive history and commentary, is documented in a website widely acknowledged as the authoritative source, put together by musician and educator Gregory Alan Taylor.

           The text of Schmidt’s “The Thoughts Behind the Thoughts” was published by Mindmade Books in 2012.

           Each card contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation. Some are specific to music composition; others are more general. Examples include:

  • Use an old idea.
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase? What to reduce?
  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

          Oblique Strategies can be accessed with an on-line version at the following address; . Just replay by clicking the circle button at the bottom of the screen.

There is also an app available for you’re SmartPhone.

          Brian’s brother, Roger Eno, is also a very creative person. Known primarily as a composer of ambient music, Roger’s songs are truly beautiful and one of my favorites, and in honor of this new year, is “The Whole Wide World”. Please take a moment to listen; 

~ Enjoy, sidestreetsam

About sidestreetsam

Sam Hallmark ~ Graphic Designer ● Conceptual Design ● Animation ● Multi-Media ● Music ● Desert Wind Graphics was established in 1994 as an affordable graphic design solution for a wide range of clients. From conceptual media, storyboards, print collaterals, logo design, multi-media presentations, animation, engineering, technical, marketing , advertising and corporate image packages, Desert Wind Graphics will fulfill your design needs for projects both big and small. With over twenty-five years of design experience I can provide you with access to a unique skill set that will deliver your project on time, within budget and on target! Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have regarding your graphic design needs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 comments on “Brian Eno and “Oblique Strategies”

  1. Interesting about the cards to spur creative thinking. Just in the last few years, they’ve been teaching lateral thinking in the business area with similiar concept of using unrelated association to get the brain thinking in another direction. The card concept also reminds me of TRIZ which was invented by a Russian to help mechanical design be more creative by posing similiar type alternatives to different mechanical design problems.

    • ~ Hey, Dr. Jeff! I thought the idea of “Oblique Strategies” might resonate with you. Thanks for the tip about “TRIZ”. I”ll have to check that out. When it comes to lateral thinking, you’re about the most “lateral” person I know. Not only do you have a rare talent for seeing the big picture… but you have an amazing way of thinking in different directions. ~samwell

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>