Bang on a Can

Brian Eno: Music for Airports

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Brian Eno's 1979 milestone Music for Airports was the first album to feature his term "ambient music," although 1975's Discreet Music and 1978's Music for Films had already been exploratory steps in that direction. It's entirely possible that Eno knew at the time that he was inventing a new form of music, but he might not have known just what a milestone Music for Airports would turn out to be, or that it would be the first ambient work to get its own tribute album. The New York-based new music collective Bang on a Can celebrated Music for Airports' 20th anniversary by writing new transcriptions of the album's four lengthy pieces. It's incorrect to say that the group orchestrated the album, because these pieces take care to replicate Eno's originals exactly, down to each piece being precisely the same length its original. The only difference is that Eno's original Music for Airports was constructed out of tape loops and this version uses live musicians. That one change makes all the difference in the world. The use of live musicians, especially on "2/1," which is a vocal work for female chorus, opens up the pieces sonically; what had felt squashed and artificial on Eno's original now breathes. This tribute doesn't replace Eno's essential original, but it's fascinating listening for any fan of the artist's ambient work.

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