City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Brian Eno interviewed by Peter Halley in Index magazine:

BRIAN: Yes. It led me to my theory that cities are places built for women.
BRIAN: In cities, you have the opportunity to do all the things that women are really specialized at: intense social relationships and interactions, attention to lots of simultaneous details. And of course in cities you can do very few of the things that men are good at.
PETER: Like what?
BRIAN: You can’t break anything in a city. Everything is valuable, so you’re limited in how much you can test the physical nature of things — which I think is a big part of a man’s make up.
PETER: Many urbanists say that public life in the eighteenth century — which is when the modern city began to take shape — was available only to men. Do you think a female city was always there under the surface?
BRIAN: I do. One of the peaks of civilization in the west was the salon. They were nearly always the invention and ongoing project of women.
PETER: I’m a real devotee of the German sociologist, Norbert Elias. He would say that the first female-oriented societies were the aristocratic courts, and that the salon would be an outgrowth of that.
BRIAN: Don’t you think the court is in a way the original city? It’s a congregation of people who aren’t related, so it’s not a clan, and they’re in very close proximity, which always gives rise to manners.
PETER: Elias also gives the court credit for the invention of psychology.
BRIAN: Oh that’s interesting.

Not quite sure what to make of this. I’m, er, generally averse to such generalisation, no matter how well-meaning. Still, at least makes you stop and think. Also some good stuff later in the interview on Richard Sennett. And this nice quote on music:

Eno: “What I value more than anything else about the music business is its distribution system. Records, record shops, and concerts are ways of distributing things to a lot of people. I like the idea of saying, “Here’s this incredibly well organized, powerful and pervasive machine — I want to be part of it.”

[aside: note how the interview suddenly stops, apparently halfway through the word ‘censorship’]

Index magazine interviews Brian Eno.
[via Peter Marsh – thanks!]


5 responses to “Eno: “Cities are places built for women””

  1. nick Avatar

    For court/psychology: Castiglione’s The Courtier and the idea of sprezzatura.
    Eno’s playing fast and loose, as you suspected: there’s a big difference between, say, the medieval court, the Saxon hall, the Roman court and so on. But if you hone it down a bit and think about the renaissance court — the court of Castiglione, the post-Erasmus court, the court of Wyatt and Surrey — then there’s more to work on. Castiglione also offered up interesting ideas (for his time) on the role of women: he saw them as being ‘of the court’, without being ‘courtly’.


  2. Janne Avatar

    I find Eno’s comments simplistic in the extreme.
    However, my female friends and I often comment on how we feel we have much more freedom in London. When we go out of London, there still appears to be pretty traditional expectations regarding who women are and what they can be.


  3. quicklinks Avatar

    You can’t break anything in a city

    cityofsound: Eno: “Cities are places built for women”…


  4. carmen Avatar

    Although I think Eno’s ‘theory’ is tripe, it did cause me to remember another tale about city construction: this one from Italo Calvino’s Cubist novel ‘Invisible Cities’. Calvino’s story is acknowledged as a fiction, and is much better told.


  5. Shellaby Avatar

    I agree, the conversation you posted above is simplistic and superficial. You can construct any argument along those lines: “Cities were built for X type of people” and be able to find the many ways that the complex nature of cities support that generic argument. Cities have been around since agriculture was developed, which means that it is a very human product: cities are for men, women, people of all ages, races, etc…


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