Brian Eno on the Oblique Strategies, 1978

A terrific conversation with Brian Eno from 1978 was just republished online by Interview magazine. He speaks quite a bit about the Oblique Strategies deck and its uses:

The Oblique Strategy was an attempt to make a set that was slightly more specific, tailored to a more particular situation than the I Ching, which is tailored to cosmic situations, though I suppose that with sufficient skill one could use the I Ching. And of course, all of those oracles work in the same way. You can either believe that they carry intrinsic wisdom of some kind, or else you can believe that they work on a purely behavioral level, simply adjusting your perception at a point, or suggesting a different perception. Or you can believe a blend of both.

I always pick at random. Other people sort through them, but I never use them unless I come to a point where a piece isn’t getting anywhere and needs help. When I work there are two distinct phases: the phase of pushing the work along, getting something to happen, where all the input comes from me, and phase two, where things start to combine in a way that wasn’t expected or predicted by what I supplied. Once phase two begins everything is okay, because then the work starts to dictate its own terms. It starts to get an identity which demands certain future moves. But during the first phase you often find that you come to a full stop. You don’t know what to supply. And it’s at that stage that I will pull one of the cards out.

Later on you might be faced with a number of options that seem equally desirable—again I might pull one out rather than try all the options. I’ve used them on nearly every record I’ve made.

{David Bowie and I} used Oblique Strategies quite a lot. On one of the pieces {on Heroes}—”Sense of Doubt“—we both pulled an Oblique Strategy at the beginning and kept them to ourselves. It was like a game. We took turns working on it; he’d do one overdub and I’d do the next, and he’d do the next. The idea was that each was to observe his Oblique Strategy as closely as he could. And as it turned out they were entirely opposed to one another. Effectively mine said, “Try to make everything as similar as possible,” which in effect is trying to create a homogenous line, and his said “Emphasize differences,” so whereas I was trying to smooth it out and make it into one continuum he was trying do to the opposite.

Read the full interview HERE.

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