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On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

David Sheppard
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Authorised biography of Brian Eno - the 'Father of Ambient Music'

A sonic alchemist to the stars, Brian Eno's address book is a veritable who's who of rock and pop. Tellingly, his involvement with Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2 has coincided with these artists producing their most challenging and critically revered work.

ON SOME FARAWAY BEACH is the first serious, critical examination of the life and times of Brian Eno, from an idiosyncratic childhood to 1960s art school and the sharp end of pop charts around the world.

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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Major artist, perfect book 30 novembre 2014
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Very well documented, very well written. A book that is hard to leave once you started.

And how many major artists had such interesting music, + behaviors, + theories & concept about life ?
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Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5  15 commentaires
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 This book belongs in every Enophile's library! 14 novembre 2008
Par Steven Yates - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This is the definitive biography (so far) of Brian Eno--founding member of Roxy Music, experimental musician and composer, occasional essayist/lecturer, producer, visual artist, and for some of us one of the most interesting people alive.

David Sheppard begins by recounting a teenager's precocious interest in art and tape recorders, and his excited response to 1950s musical genres such as doo-wop. One of Eno's defining moments came during his late teens, dutifully recorded by Mr. Sheppard (p. 45): the mother of his then-girlfriend wondered why someone as bright as he was wanted to be an artist. He would say later: "[I]t set a question going in my mind that has always stayed with me, and motivated a lot of what I've done: what does art do for people, why do people do it, why don't we only do rational things, like design better engines? And because it came from someone I very much respected, that was the foundation of my intellectual life."

And what a life! Eno thrived at Ipswich, whose eclectic faculty was devoted to upsetting everybody's preconceptions. He became familiar with the works of John Cage, LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, Cornelius Cardew, and other leading lights of the musical avant garde. He participated in Cardew's Scratch Orchestra, this being his first appearance on vinyl. He would join Gavin Bryar's colorful Portsmouth Sinfonia, which combined virtuosos with folks who had never before touched their instrument (Eno played clarinet!!!!!). And he would encounter cutting-edge rock groups such as the Velvet Underground, whose third album he considered a masterpiece.

Sheppard recounts how Eno ended up--literally by chance--in Bryan Ferry's Roxy Music. He encountered sax/oboe player Andy Mackay on a train and learned of the band's need for someone who could record their demos. When the members of the band heard the sounds he produced on a synthesizer he found in the studio one day, they invited him to join. Sheppard does not spare us from what some would consider Eno's shadier side--his cross-dressing, for example, or his having his way with Roxy's many groupies, during a period when Eno frankly stated that his main interests were music and sex. Eventually he and Ferry butted heads, and he was out of the band. Eno had been feeling the need to stretch beyond the confines of Roxy; he had recorded tape-loop experiments with Robert Fripp (also feeling confined by the demands of being King Crimson's frontsman) that were released as No Pussyfooting.

Eno would release four albums loosely categorizable as "rock": Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mtn. (by Strategy), Another Green World (which many of us consider his finest achievement!), and Before and After Science. Sheppard recounts the insights, experiments, and sometimes struggles that went into these--Eno did experience periods of sleeplessness, anxiety and self-doubt, especially as he felt the pressure to duplicate the success he'd achieved with the magnificent Another Green World. But he emerged triumphant.

He recorded another Fripp collaboration (Evening Star, which I consider superior to No Pussyfooting). He produced (and performed on) ex-Velvet singer Nico's melancholy solo album The End. He worked with Fripp and Bowie on the latter's infamous trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger). He produced Talking Heads, eventually recording My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with David Byrne--easily the most influential release of that year (1981) with its use of samples instead of vocals and building rhythmic sound-sculptures around them. He produced Devo's quirky debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (although the results there were mixed at best). Right around this time he also became a hero to the New York City avant-punk underground by producing the controversial No New York, featuring four of that scene's most adventurous bands (The Contortions, Teenage Jesus, Mars and DNA).

Eno was nothing if not versatile. Beginning with the quiet and unobtrusive Discreet Music, Eno forged "ambient music" from its origins in avant garde composers into something almost commercially viable--Music for Airports, for example. His interest was not so much in fixed composition as in creating an environment with sound, incorporating random elements wherever possible. To enhance this process, in the mid-1970s he and artist Peter Schmidt had constructed a special deck of cards entitled Oblique Strategies. Each card bore a written instruction. When at an impasse, one could pick a card and then do what the card said. The most famous of these was, "Honor thy error as a hidden intention." Another read: "Make a list of everything you might do and then do the last thing on the list." Another: "Emphasize the flaws." Still another: "Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities."

Eno plucked other "ambient" artists from obscurity and got them on the map. Harold Budd is an example. Eno produced Budd's Plateaux of Mirror for his Obscure series which released Discreet Music and collaborated with him on The Pearl. Eno would also promote the career of avant-garde trumpet player Jon Hassell, collaborating on the latter's Fourth World Vol. One Possible Musics among others. Later Eno would produce Laurie Anderson, James, and especially (after a period of hesitation) the Irish super group U2. U2 developed a trademark depth and resonance. Eno probably deserves the credit for this. Eventually he and Bryan Ferry would mend their differences; the two would co-compose several tracks on recent Ferry solo releases.

While producing U2 and others, or collaborating with the German group Cluster (Cluster & Eno, After the Heat), Michael Brook (Hybrid), John Cale (Wrong Way Up), Jah Wobble (Spinner), or Peter Schwalm (Drawn From Life), Eno began forging his own creation: "generative music" which made use of the possibilities of computers to yield pieces that would never sound the same twice. Generative Music 1 came out of this; also The Shutov Assembly and The Drop. Eno also set up visual art installations such as I Dormienti, White Cube, The Quiet Room, and several others. The purpose of these was to create a total environment of light and sound which would enhance the viewer/listener's experience of time--by suggesting that one is experiencing only a small and temporary slice of something that had always been going on and would continue indefinitely into the future. Segments of music from each of these, and others besides, were released as a special series by Eno's company Opal. These are hard to find (I was able to purchase several on eBay for in some cases fairly hefty sums). Of course, the CDs miss an important point--it is not the music that is the star of the show but the environment which includes the music as one not quite separable component and places "equal value" on all its components. Eno overcame this limitation by releasing the entrancing 77 Million Paintings, software which when installed on your computer brings Eno's visual art directly into your study in constantly shifting, nonrepeating patterns set to "Quiet Room" generative music.

Unlike many artists Eno has always been comfortable around technology. He's a systems thinker--perhaps the only such thinker who has consciously employed systems theory to create art and music with an eye to accessibility to a large audience and acceptability within large public-access venues (airports are an example). Even early in his career, he was fascinated by the possibilities of self-regulating systems and how an experimental musical composition consisting of a few instructions could come to regulate itself given its environment (see his essay "Generating and Organizing Variety in the Arts"). Eno's recreational reading included authors such as Stafford Beer (Brain of the Firm, Designing Freedom and other books and essays which apply cybernetics to management). Eno remained fascinated with the media in which he worked. He was the first to release a CD consisting of 61 minutes of unbroken trancelike music--Thursday Afternoon. There is an accompanying video version approximately 20 minutes longer. New technology made this possible.

What emerges from David Sheppard's detailed and engaging account is a portrait of a man whose intellect engaged the world around him on multiple levels--the world of people, of music and the arts, of technology and its possibilities, and of "big ideas" of culture. "Culture," says Eno, is "everything you don't have to do"). We have to eat, so that isn't culture, it is part of being human (or, more precisely, being part of a biological system). We don't have to eat caviar, or sushi. So that's culture. At times we get the impression Brian Eno is curious about nearly everything. His diary from 1995--A Year With Swollen Appendices--is a fascinating account of his day-to-day observations, thoughts, and doings, which includes lengthy correspondences with Stewart Brand (of Whole Earth Catalog fame). Eno avoids the usual fixed premises or preconditions, but instead adopts a methodology of: "Establish your parameters, set things in motion, see what happens." His methodology avoids fixed rules but instead adopts a sense of what James P. Carse calls "infinite gamesmanship" (cf. Carse's Finite and Infinite Games). Instead of aiming for a definite outcome with winner and loser, we set about to continue the play.

Although his compositions and methods may seem whimsical, Eno clearly cares very much where this world is going; hence his participation in the West Coast based Long Now Foundation ([...] - see his essay "The Long Now") and his opposition to the U.S.-led war of aggression against Iraq (see articles "How to Lie About Iraq" and "The Missionary Position"). The latter culminated in one of his rare live appearances on the Stop the War Benefit Concert DVD.

There you have it. Brian Eno, now 60 years old and still going strong, a life worth celebrating. This review may have seemed to be more about him than David Sheppard's book. So let me just say: that this book belongs in every Enophile's library. If you've no knowledge of Eno, you might wonder what is the point of so detailed a biography of an artist/composer. But if you've found his music, his interviews, and his current activities at all interesting and stimulating, you'll find this book to be "unputdownable." If you're new to Eno, I'd get Another Green World first, and perhaps a few more CDs like Music for Films, or Another Day On Earth which features his recent return to standard, accessible songs and lyrics. Google his name and read some of his essays and interviews online. Then realize that these offer but mere glimpses into the thought processes behind the music. Sheppard's book fleshes everything out and gives us a complete and well-rounded portrait of one of the most significant artists, composers and cultural commentators of our time.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Demystifying Eno 20 septembre 2009
Par Charles Miller - Publié sur Amazon.com
So many music biographies so often miss the point via brevity, misplaced gushing praise, or lack of authoritative support. Not so here. This is an excellent book, clocking in at 439 pages, and written with serious intent and obviously fully researched. Perhaps most importantly, the author had access to both the subject of his book and many of those involved, adding to the quality of the finished product.

Brian Eno's early life and influences are fully developed, as is his time with Roxy Music and his early works. Every important release, be it solo material or collaborations are fully expounded upon, giving the reader genuine insight into the working process behind these works. Perhaps as importantly, each is directly tied into what went before and what is to come; a chronology of influences.

As the pages turn, Eno's output is explained in a way that for me anyway, demystified much of his works, while at the same did not lesson the "magic" contained within them. Indeed, it would be difficult to read this book without listening to the recordings being written about and hearing them again with new ears.

Unfortunately, and preventing what otherwise could have been a 5-star book, as the years roll by, the later works are given less and less pages... rushing to the end without the detailed narrative it began with. In fact, almost every recording of the past 20 years is given little more than a sentence. This was a major disappointment.

Another minor quibble is the lack of a discography, which would have served as a valuable reference point.

All that said, there is no finer book on the life and works of Brian Eno currently available and those interested in understanding the who, what, when and where of this most important of recording (and visual) artists, should regard this volume as a desert island selection.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great... up to a certain point. 30 juin 2010
Par Franklin Weise - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I'm a long-time Eno fan and this book helped me to understand him much better. It explains how he became one of the most respected avantgarde musicians and producers, starting from an initial interest in plastic arts. It describes his creative process (sometimes song by song) and really makes you curious to listen to his music again. My only complaint is that the rhythm suddenly changes from 1983/84 onwards. Mysteriously, the author mentions this work and collaborations in a very superficial way, even though he was in charge of producing U2's greatest albums (Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and Zooropa), besides other important releases. I guess the author was more interested in the 70's and early 80's Eno, but there was so much more to tell about the years after... In a few words, it starts fantastically, and in the last pages you realized that something's missing. I agree that Eno was more productive in the 70's, but it doesn't justify why some albums (Talking Heads) deserve detailed explanations and some others (U2, James) so few text.
21 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A good start but... 2 mai 2009
Par jhorton - Publié sur Amazon.com
David Sheppard has written an engaging and intellectual biography of Brian Eno, while admitting that we really need an Eno Enyclopedia to begin covering the territory required. Unfortunately he starts out well, covering Eno's early life, the 70's and early 80's quite authoritatively, but it then appears he tires of the subject, and we fairly gallop our way through the late 80's, 90's and beyond. I wanted the same in depth analysis for the whole period, or perhaps he should have written two books and given each time frame equal treatment. All the same I enjoyed reading more about Eno, to the point that I ended up playing each of the albums as Sheppard passed on his intelligence about their genesis. It was enlightening to read about Eno's lack of formal musical qualifications - (I realised he wasn't a God after all, and was/is prone to same foibles as us all) - but my admiration for his output was not diminished for the experience, and I can honestly say that if you're as interested in Eno as I am obviously am (and I mean to demonstrate my bias), then overall you'll not find this book an entirely disappointing experience.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Exhaustive examination of Eno's career; though much stronger on his earlier work 11 avril 2010
Par Timothy P. Scott - Publié sur Amazon.com
Author David Sheppard was surely paid by the word for this work. The only way to give a sense for it is to pick a typical quote. On p. 89, referring to the first Roxy Music album: "In its deftly shaken cocktail of pastiche retro chic, avant rock swagger and, courtesy of Eno, mysterioso futurism, the _Roxy Music_ album pulled back the velvet curtain on an impossibly modish, devastatingly stylish demi-monde. Mature, urbane, yet delivered with unquenchable hauteur of beautiful, breathless youth, Ferry's disquisitions on playboy ennui were viscerally thrilling and divinely decadent...As a narrator Ferry could be suave, tender, predatory, and often all three in the same song. He evinced a picaresque character, part-libertine lotus eater, stiletto-sharp urban hipster and brooding metaphysical lover - the improbable progeny of Charles Trenet, Lou Reed and John Donne, exquisitely lit with downtown neon and dusted with space age glitter." (p. 89)

Holy Thesuarus, Batman!

But let you think the book is a tiresome exercise in adjectival overload, he redeems himself with trenchant little asides like this one (p. 91, referring to the cover photography of the album): "...Eno, in leopard-skin chemise and trowelled-on foundation looked sleek, seedy and android-like - although his clenched pose suggested a man passing a troublesome stool."

Actually, once you get used to the rhythm and the "any adjective is better than no adjective, and a long one is better than a short one" style of Sheppard, I find the book becomes quite readable. Weaned on a diet of Shakespeare, Chaucer and J. P. Donleavy I've only needed to resort to the dictionary a few times ("selaphobia?") and there is plenty of bigraphical, musical, and historical meat in Sheppard's servings.

I agree with some of the other reviewers that Eno's more recent experiments and projects get strangely short shrift towards the end of the book. Halfway through it, he's only arrived at 1975.

Personally I'm very much enjoying it, although if someone told me Sheppard's prose caused in them an irresistible urge to hurl the tome into the abyss, I could understand and sympathize. I would have rated it 4 stars, but it is so thorough, and so meticulously researched, and since I didn't buy it but borrow it from the local public library, I generously bumped it up to 5.

Only a couple of nitpicking minor errors found: "we" for "the" on one page, and in a footnote a reference to a CD released in 1976. Undoubtedly "LP" or "album" was meant as there were no CDs at that time.
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