I had to post something to get that bad taste out of my mouth, and rehabilitate Brian Eno’s legacy instead of dwelling on an unfortunate, if lucrative, association.
I love this version of “1/1″ by Bang On A Can.
I think Eno’s original has benefited by being played by live musicians.
The fact that they were able to score Music For Airports is remarkable.
I usually play this version these days because I like the way the instruments and the room sound.
I admit the first time I heard Music For Airports I was underwhelmed. It was new, and sounded like Fripp And Eno without the electric guitar, which I needed as an anchor. I think because of the piano I gravitated to “1/1″ soonest. In the three decades since it has found a comfortable spot in my psyche. Airport ambience would benefit greatly by it’s presence.
A few years ago I picked up the version by The Bang On A Can All-Stars.
Here’s a brief excerpt from their 1998 liner notes:
“What Eno didn’t imagine was that his piece would be realized with live musicians. In his analog studio, methodically stringing out bits of tape and looping them over themselves, he hadn’t anticipated that a new generation of musicians would take his music out of the studio and perform it on live instruments in a public forum. Over at Bang On A Can we have always searched for the redefinition of music, exploring the boundaries outside what is expected……..All of the music on this disc has been created by living people in real time. Each of the four movements was recorded in a whole take on analog tape.”
Bang On A Can All-Stars: Maya Beiser, Robert Black, Lisa Moore, Steven Schick, Mark Stewart, and Evan Ziporyn
These are the liner notes from the initial American release of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports / Ambient 1″, PVC 7908 (AMB 001)
The concept of music designed specifically as a background feature in the environment was pioneered by Muzak Inc. in the fifties, and has since come to be known generically by the term Muzak. The connotations that this term carries are those particularly associated with the kind of material that Muzak Inc. produces – familiar tunes arranged and orchestrated in a lightweight and derivative manner. Understandably, this has led most discerning listeners (and most composers) to dismiss entirely the concept of environmental music as an idea worthy of attention.
Over the past three years, I have become interested in the use of music as ambience, and have come to believe that it is possible to produce material that can be used thus without being in any way compromised. To create a distinction between my own experiments in this area and the products of the various purveyors of canned music, I have begun using the term Ambient Music.
An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.
Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to `brighten’ the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.
Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.
I spent a great deal of time staring at the diagrams on the back cover. This was a tremendous influence on my understanding of music. At the time I had no idea composers like John Cage routinely drew pictures instead of scoring music.
For fun I include Fripp and Eno’s “Evening Star”, their most concise and fiery collaboration, from their 1975 album Evening Star.