Music for Airports: What it is and isn’t


*In the run up to Brian Eno’s birthday, I’ve decided to put out this, the first of two pieces. The other looks at arts education but more on that in due course. Interestingly his new work ‘The Ship’ is his highest charting album in the UK for a long time, some 36 years I believe, so nice to see him achieving some commercial fortune with his own work, rather than solely as producer of others.

When I play Brian Eno’s Music for Airports I don’t get the feeling of an airport. Its simple piano refrain is a little like Lava from Another Green World only expanded, it’s more akin to music for stately mansion libraries with deep red wallpaper than airports but of course there is a reason for that. Overall I’m more impressed by Aphex Twin’s THA, a nocturnal masterstroke of atmosphere which had he called it CDG would have made it almost flawless.

Eno it seems purposely set about creating a record of opposites. Instead of make music for the chaotic blur of bodies, bags and buggies moving through the terminal; between worlds, between cultures, he wanted to present the complete antithesis – a realm of calm more in keeping with that of a library; a quiet thoughtful place rather than the aforementioned temple of people flow.

Getting back to the notion of an extended Lava – that would have been more logical in the qualities of this minimalist piece which appear much like the work of Steve Reich as a subtle wash of sound gently caressing our ears over time. Eno has produced similar work with Thursday Afternoon being more or less an expanded Lost in the Humming Air from his seminal album The Pearl with Harold Budd.

There is one piece on Music for Airports which does briefly remind me a little of airports and that is the last piece 2/2 although in that instance it doesn’t so much remind me of the grand statement of the airport terminal more the geography or open space around the airport or as a secondary thought, a taxiing airplane being greeted by a water cannon after its maiden flight; there is something of an arrival taking place.

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