Thirty years ago, Brian Eno put out Music for Airports, his first "ambient" album. It was the precursor for the broad spectrum of music that is today called ambient, a term Eno himself invented. It was a four-part piece, composed in the studio, devoid of all but the most basic aspects of song, challenging listeners to re-imagine what music might be.
Twenty years later, the Bang on a Can All-Stars created their own version of the work with live musicians, all the while staying close to the source by sharing the project as it developed with Brian Eno. It was released on record in 1998 to wide acclaim.
Ten years later, Cantaloupe Music releases a live version of Music for Airports. To this day, the All-Stars frequently perform the classic work live, most recently, in the middle of the night at this past year's Bang on a Can Marathon in New York City. The Village Voice was there for the performance along with hundreds of fans and had this to say:
"It was beautiful, and best enjoyed while lying flat on your back and staring straight up, through the palm trees and the sunroof to the deep night outside, with the neighboring, towering buildings overhead appearing to curve inward around you as breathy keyboards slowly gave way to meandering clarinet."
In the recording, the overarching calm of the piece is enhanced with touches of instrumentation behind and around its central six-note piano phrase. In the two sequences that follow the piano phrase, a choir of voices fades in and out against the sparest of sonic landscapes.
All songs performed by Bang on a Can All-Stars: Maya Beiser, cello; Evan Ziporyn clarinets (keyboard/samplers on 1/1); Mark Stewart, guitar; Steven Schick, percussion; Lisa More, piano/keyboards; Robert Black, bass.