Audio Logos: Brian Eno and the Windows 95 Startup Theme

Brian Eno began his career as a glam rock artist and gradually shifted toward solo electronic music. Albums like Another Green World (1975), Discreet Music (1975), and Music for Airports (1978) highlight his transition from writing rock and roll tunes to designing ambient music.

“I want to be on this edge between improvisation and collaboration. As soon as you hear two instruments play a melody together you know there’s a conspiracy. But sometimes the nature of melody is such that you feel it wasn’t a scored melody. And it’s a trick I’ve used once or twice … I like there to be a sense of conspiracy in the things I’m doing. I don’t know really why that idea appeals to me so much. I get’s it’s the idea of seeing the perfect copy, and to do that is easy.  ” – Brian Eno interview (video shown above).


Brian Eno Wrote the Windows 95 Startup Theme


If you were born before the 90’s then you probably remember this audio logo for the Windows 95 Startup sequence. This memorable audio logo lasts for only a moment and sounds like a breath of fresh air. (see above video)
In the following excerpt, Eno explains that he was commissioned by Windows to create an audio logo that was 3.25 seconds long and communicate an overall positive feeling to the user:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem — solve it.” 

The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 3.25 seconds long.”

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.

In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.

This is what the theme sounds like when performed on an upright piano 
The Windows 95 startup theme communicates a non-verbal sense of peace to the user, like a lullaby passing from mother to child. In the excerpt above, Eno describes it as a tiny little jewel. One could also describe it as a musical talisman, a short melodic idea that has been transformed into a song.
Here is an example of a song based on the common and latin names of a plant called Motherwort.
First the words are translated, letter by letter, into musical notes.

Next, the musical notes become the basis of a full song

Each letter resonates with an astrological symbol on the Tone Color Alchemy wheel (below).

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