Required Listening: Music For Airports

by Randy Murray on February 15, 2012

I find this album difficult to write about. It is, essentially, an experience. It is very much music, and yet, it’s also about the act of listening.

Brian Eno was the person who coined the term, “ambient music,” and this was the first album of its kind. I know that for many, ambient music has come to mean “not music at all.” Many use the term ambient for recordings of random or muted repeating sounds, the kind of thing you’d find playing when you went for a massage.

Music for Airports is much more.

This is music, not just sound. There’s structure there, melody. But it’s also something of a hologram. There’s a three dimensionality about this piece. Listen, and you can walk around in the music. Listen, and you can imagine and see space, the architecture around you. Listen, and become completely centered and aware of yourself.

This isn’t an album to lose yourself in. You can find yourself in this music.

The album is divided into four sections, each referring to the original vinyl LP. 1/1 means “first track, first side.” The original album also had silence added to the end of each piece, 30 long seconds, building on and referring to the work of John Cage. The silence is important. Listen to it.

Pop music can be fun, energetic. Loud music can be invigorating (and sometimes enraging). But Eno’s invention, discovery, is exquisitely contemplative and beautiful. And it is eminently listenable.

I strongly recommend that you add Eno’s original 1978 recording to your collection. I also quite like the version by the experimental music group Bang on a Can (and it was one of the first CDs that I purchased).

Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music For Airports.
iTunes link

Bang On A Can’s Version of Music For Airports
iTunes link

Amazon - all versions: Ambient 1: Music for Airports


More Required Listening

The Required Listening: Music For Airports by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl February 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

Indeed, Brian Eno’s Music For Airports is one of my favorite and most listened to album of all time. In addition to that, I also love his collaboration with Harrold Budd: The Pearl. Those two albums together, make a pleasant ambient background for when I work.


Kurt February 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I found a copy of the Bang on a Can CD at an SPCA consignment shop in Monterey, Virginia on a Saturday in March 4 or 5 years ago. I had heard of the music, but had never listened to any of it and it is marvelous. Finding it in such a place makes the music ever more meaningful - a memorable trip and a fantastic find.


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