Oblique Strategies 1.0.0 is intended as an aid to boosting creativity. It’s produced by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, and is based on a set of flash cards of a very cryptic nature, used by Eno for inspiration when working on his famous musical compositions. Eno’s music is well known for compositions that are very intentionally distanced from the impulses of the creator. They draw instead on randomness of conjunction of apparently disparate elements, in order to create pieces that are surprising by nature and unexpected in their direction. The approach is very deliberately unconventional, attempting to superce normal processes of creation and composition through structure that’s based on a chaotic approach.
There’s a spontaneity involved that is quite different from that of jazz and other improvisational styles. Eno himself makes comparisons with wind-chimes – the composer chooses the length of the chimes, which determines both harmonics and notes, but everything else is entirely depended on external forces, such as wind, and is not under the control of the composer.
One source of prompting for creativity used by Eno is Oblique Strategies, a deck of cards. On each card is a suggestion or bit of advice that is cryptic and oblique – phrases such as ’emphasize differences’. According to Eno, the direction his compositions take is often prompted by the random phrases thrown up by the cards, rather than his own impulses. Although there’s such a random element involved, though, the interpretation of the messages thrown up by the cards is entirely dependent on the interpretation of the composer, so that the musical direction is unexpected, and sometimes chaotic, but never soulless or impersonal. Oblique Strategies is meant to function not only as a source of inspiration, but also as an unusual and creative way of overcoming any kind of mental block while creating compositions.
Oblique Strategies is now available in the form of an app for Android. There is only one function – all you can do is draw a card. You do have the option of what edition of the cards you want to use, though. The only real drawback is that you have to press your phone’s back button in order to draw a new card, instead of simply being able to draw one card after another. Apart from that, it’s an interesting and somewhat innovative way of finding inspiration.