Essential New Music: Brian Eno’s “Reflection”

Fifty years after recording his first ambient piece—an art-school lampshade spinning at quarter speed—Brian Eno is still trying to capture the music of moving parts. With Reflection, he’s chosen a palette of shimmering metallic tones that sound like bells, vibes, tuning forks and singing bowls, one layered on top of another. Then, writing short fragments for each, he’s sent the music into motion through a series of algorithms, allowing the piece to generate itself over the course of hours or days. On this 54-minute version, the sounds are gently percussive, the movement gradual, the mood meditative. Reflection doesn’t have the sense of structure that comes with more pianistic pieces, where motifs appear and reappear like parts of a symphony. Here, there’s less going on harmonically, producing a floating quietness, an ambient music to free us from workday silence. In one metaphor, Eno describes this piece as a river; in another, as a self-seeding garden. I’ve been listening non-stop for hours, and I think it’s beautiful.

—Kenny Berkowitz