425. Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1978)
Some music is meant to be closely listened to, some is meant to be easy listening, something that can just be in the background because listening to it closely will not reward you in the least. This album is something else.
We had seen the first stirrings of ambient music with Eno here on the in Another Green World, actually before that he had Discreet Music, which isn't on the list. But the most significant piece of Ambient music that Eno created is definitely Music For Airports.
In the early 20th century Erik Satie had composed some music which he called "furniture music", something that doesn't impose itself on the audience. Eno does the same here, with music that never imposes itself but that is truly rewarding if you decide you want to listen to it closely.
If you think that this was created as music to lower the fear of flying while people are waiting in Airport lounges you can only reach the conclusion that it works perfectly. The emotional effect of the music is immediate, it is an album which immediately relaxes me in a way that makes me quite happy and carefree. Eno was going for music that would be like having some distant sounds reaching you from far away, something pretty that never really develops but that you want to know more about. In this way it is almost like being in the womb, like music filtered through water.
This is a work of genius, a piece of art meant for installation that is still lovely. It's just a pity that Enya made her whole career out of 2/1.
All tracks were composed by Eno except "1/1", which was composed by Eno, former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, and Rhett Davies.
Music for Airports employs the phasing of tape loops of different length in some tracks, where, for example, in "1/1", a single piano melody is repeated and at different times other instruments will fade in and out in a complex, evolving pattern due to the phenomenon of phasing: at some point these instrumental sounds will clump together, at some points, be spread apart.
Talking about the first piece, Eno has said:
“ ... I found this very short section of tape where two pianos, unbeknownst to each other, played melodic lines that interlocked in an interesting way. To make a piece of music out of it, I cut that part out, made a stereo loop on the 24-track, then I discovered I liked it best at half speed, so the instruments sounded very soft, and the whole movement was very slow. ”
The two tracks containing the wordless "aaaaah"-style vocals intermingle four tracks which loop back on themselves and constantly interact with each other in new ways. Subtle changes in timing occur, adding to the timbre of the pieces.
Eno explains of the vocal-only piece:
“ One of the notes repeats every 23 seconds. It is, in fact, a long loop running around a series of tubular aluminum chairs in Conny Plank's studio. The next lowest loop repeats every 25 seconds or something like that. The third one every 29 seconds or something. What I mean is they all repeat in cycles that are called incommensurable — they are not likely to come back into sync again. Your experience of the piece, of course, is a moment in time, there. So as the piece progresses, what you hear are the various clusterings and configurations of these six basic elements. The basic elements in that particular piece never change. They stay the same. But the piece does appear to have quite a lot of variety. ”
2/2, the synth piece, was performed with an ARP 2600.
Eno talks about it: