Oblique Strategies

I’ve just discovered the Oblique Strategies cards, produced by Brian Eno and British painter Peter Schmidt, in four editions — 1975, 1978, and 1979 with a fourth artfully decorated edition in 1996.  You can read more about these cards here.

I have compiled the strategies from all four editions and from a few other sources so that you can make them into cards of your own, select them, use them for your own creative practice in art or science:

Abandon normal instruments

Accept advice


A line has two sides

Allow an easement (an easement is the abandonment of a stricture)

Always first steps

Always give yourself credit for having more than personality (given by Arto Lindsay)

Are there sections? Consider transitions

Ask people to work against their better judgment

Ask your body

Assemble some of the elements in a group and treat the group

Back up a few steps. What else could you have done?

Balance the consistency principle with the inconsistency principle

Be dirty

Be extravagant

Be less critical more often

Breathe more deeply

Bridges -build –burn

Call your mother and ask her what to do


Change instrument roles

Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

Children speaking -singing

Cluster analysis

Consider different fading systems

Consult other sources -promising -unpromising

Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element


Cut a vital connection

Decorate, decorate

Define an area as ‘safe’ and use it as an anchor

Describe the landscape in which this belongs

Destroy -nothing -the most important thing

Discard an axiom

Disciplined self-indulgence

Disconnect from desire

Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them

Distorting time

Do nothing for as long as possible

Don’t be afraid of things because they’re easy to do

Don’t be frightened of cliches

Don’t be frightened to display your talents

Don’t break the silence

Don’t stress one thing more than another

Do something boring

Do the washing up

Do the words need changing?

Do we need holes?

Emphasise differences

Emphasise repetitions

Emphasise the flaws

Faced with a choice, do both (given by Dieter Rot)

Feed the recording back out of the medium

Feedback recordings into an acoustic situation

Fill every beat with something

First work alone, then work in unusual pairs.

From nothing to more than nothing

Gardening, not architecture

Get your neck massaged

Ghost echoes

Give the game away

Give way to your worst impulse

Go outside. Shut the door.

Go slowly all the way round the outside

Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place

Honor thy error as a hidden intention

How would you explain this to your parents?

How would you have done it?

Humanise something free of error

Idiot glee (?)

Imagine the music as a moving chain or caterpillar

Imagine the piece as a set of disconnected events

In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

Infinitesimal gradations

Instead of changing the thing, change the world around it.

Intentions -nobility of -humility of -credibility of

Into the impossible

Is it finished?

Is the tuning intonation correct?

Is there something missing?

Is the tuning appropriate?

It is quite possible (after all)

Just carry on

Left channel, right channel, centre channel

List the qualities it has. List those you’d like.

Listen to the quiet voice

Look at a very small object, look at its centre

Look at the order in which you do things

Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them

Lost in useless territory

Lowest common denominator check -single beat -single note -single riff

Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame

Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do and do the last thing on the list

Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate

Mechanicalise something idiosyncratic

Mute and continue

Not building a wall but making a brick

Once the search is in progress, something will be found

Only a part, not the whole

Only one element of each kind

(Organic) machinery

Overtly resist change

Pay attention to distractions

Put in earplugs

Question the heroic approach

Remember those quiet evenings

Remove ambiguities and convert to specifics

Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities

Remove the middle, extend the edges

Repetition is a form of change

Retrace your steps

Revaluation (a warm feeling)


Short circuit (example; a man eating peas with the idea that they will improve his virility shovels them straight into his lap)

Shut the door and listen from outside

Simple subtraction

Simply a matter of work

Spectrum analysis

State the problem in words as clearly as possible

Steal a solution

Take a break

Take away as much mystery as possible. What is left?

Take away the elements in order of apparent non-importance

Tape your mouth (given by Ritva Saarikko)

The inconsistency principle

The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten

The tape is now the music

Think of the radio

Tidy up

Towards the insignificant

Trust in the you of now

Try faking it (from Stewart Brand).

Turn it upside down

Twist the spine

Use an old idea

Use an unacceptable colour

Use fewer notes

Use filters

Use ‘unqualified’ people


What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving

What are you really thinking about just now? Incorporate

What do you do? Now, what do you do best?

What else is this like?

What is the reality of the situation?

What mistakes did you make last time?

What most recently impressed you? How is it similar? What can you learn from it? What could you take from it?

What were the branch points in the evolution of this entity?

What would make this really successful?

What would your closest friend do?

What wouldn’t you do?

When is it for? Who is it for?

Who would make this really successful?

Work at a different speed

Would anybody want it?

You are an engineer

You can only make one dot at a time

You don’t have to be ashamed of using your own ideas



This entry was published on March 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Oblique Strategies

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