Bang on a Can All-Stars: Brian Eno: Music for Airports (Live) (2008)
Eno's original intent with Music for Airportsand subsequent ambient recordingswas to create music of an almost subliminal nature. It offered listeners a relaxing sonic backdrop, a serene alternative to the stimulating music often played in airports, where stress levels already run high and stimulation is the last thing people need. It was music to be felt, more than heard.
While it's easy to lay back and get lost in BoaC's live performance of the piece's four sections, the group has made the listening experience more actively engaging, especially on Ziporyn's arrangement of "2/2," where there's an improvisational component and a gradual, dramatic build-up that's in understated contrast to Eno's less invasive original. Gordon's painstaking arrangement of the suite's most well-known section, "1/1," combines the ensemble's unorthodox instrumentationcello, clarinet, guitar, percussion, piano/keyboards and basswith sampled voices, creating a more expansive (but equally calming) soundscape.
Sampled voices also drive "1/2," but Lang's arrangement introduces the other instruments so gradually that its unhurried unfolding and slowly shifting textures offer surprises without losing the piece's inherently tranquil stasis. Wolfe's reworking of "2/1" make guitar and a variety of chime-like sounds behave in an almost call-and-response fashion.
The differences between BoaC's studio version and this live recording are certainly unobtrusive. With the exception of the improvisatory "2/2," it's more about nuance and delicate interpretation of phrase than vivid, definitive re-creation. But if the studio album proved that Eno's ambient music can could be scored as contemporary chamber music, then Music for Airports (Live) reveals it to be no different than any classical piece that receives multiple readings. The differences in interpretation across the versions may be rarified, but they're genuine differences nonetheless, and make Music for Airports (Live) a worthwhile adjunct to Bang on a Can's fine studio recording.
Music for Airports (Live) is a digital download-only release.
Track Listing: 1/1; 1/2; 2/1; 2/2.
Personnel: Maya Beiser: cello; Evan Ziporyn: clarinets, keyboards/samplers (1); Mark Stewart: guitar; Steven Schick: percussion; Lisa Moore: piano, keyboards; Robert Black: bass.
Record Label: Cantaloupe Music