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BECAUSE SHORT, vowel-heavy nouns are in finite supply, the makers of crossword puzzles resort to familiar tricks: Charlie Chaplin’s fourth wife (OONA), Jacob’s hirsute brother (ESAU), Kwik-E-Mart’s manager (APU). Most of these people are known for exactly one thing, so the clues tend to be repetitive. ENO—that is, the 64-year-old British polymath Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno—is an exception to the rule. All of the following crossword clues have been used to describe him: “Roxy Music co-founder”; “Ambient music pioneer”; “David Byrne collaborator“; “Grammy-winning Brian”; “Producer of Paul Simon’s newest album”; “Composer of The Lovely Bones‘ music”; “Creator of the ‘Microsoft sound’ played when Windows 95 starts”; “Brian who produced several U2 albums”; “Generative music pioneer.” (He has also helped chartbuster Coldplay hone its sound. “Brian doesn’t work with many people, so if he wants to work with you, you want to do it,” frontman Chris Martin told Pitchfork.) Some of his other epithets—abstract painter, inventor of iPad apps, subject of an eponymous song by the band MGMT—are too obscure even for crossword prodigies.
Eno makes his own music, too. His four experimental pop albums from the mid-1970s were universally revered and have influenced generations of indie rockers. But listeners began to stray—little surprise, since only one of his albums since 1977’s Before and After Science has included vocals. Bored with the rock format and intrigued by minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley, Eno began to think less about melody and more about texture. He called his experiments “ambient” music—works intended for a particular place or to set a particular mood. With 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports, Eno was not merely being cute; he’d recently visited the gleaming new terminal in Cologne, Germany, and thought it strange that the architects were so careful with their floor plan but had neglected to provide a soundtrack. (The album was later used for an Eno installation at LaGuardia.)
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