In the preface, Geeta Dayal describes using an Oblique Strategies deck in writing the book. It’s fitting, of course, as the cards were first published by Eno and Peter Schmidt the same year Another Green World and Discreet Music were released, but there’s an uneasy moment in any book where the author is describing how difficult they found writing it.
Dayal sketches out Eno’s history, including the influence of Ipswich Art College (experimentation on the nature and boundaries of art, and the role of Tom Phillips, with the cover art coming from a detail of one of his paintings) and his developing interests as spectator and artist: John Cage, Fluxus, Cornelius Cardew, cybernetics and the Portsmouth Sinfonia.
Though much of the book is broader than Another Green World - which is inevitable, given Eno’s breadth of interest and activity during the period - there’s a description of the process and collaborators, including Robert Fripp and John Cale as well as others from diverse musical backgrounds. This flows into process, Oblique Strategies, John Cage and the I Ching, and studio techniques.
The best parts are Dayal’s description of the tracks, such as ‘Over Fire Island’ as it’s framed in a discussion of Phil Collins’ and Percy Jones’ involvement in the album. At points, it seems a little breathless - ‘enthralling’, ‘cosmic’ - but perhaps it really captures Dayal’s experience as a listener. Discreet Music gets a full chapter, as does the place of Another Green World in Eno’s career in retrospect, ending in a summary of points already made repeatedly.
Possibly as a result of the amorphous structure, there is a lot of repetition and it gets grating quickly. In particular, Eno is described as a ‘non-musician’ so many times that it could be the basis of a dangerous drinking game, but there’s also the reliance on landscape metaphors to describe music, and a chapter on music in 1975 lands in the middle of the book as if unmoored from all other parts. It’s a pity, because Dayal clearly has an intellectual, thorough, passionate interest in the subject and there’s plenty of material to work with, and yet the book dragged - it’s not that it needs to be easy reading, by any means, but it felt like fumbling through notes and drafts to find the points of interest. Not a process of discovery, even, just a very disappointing book.