INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Mojo SEPTEMBER 23, 2009 - by Jenny Bulley
BRIAN ENO: AMBIENT 1: MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS
Eno creates a new musical genre to mellow environmental harshness and inadvertently mixes a mother's little helper.
Released in 1978, the first in Eno's Ambient series was conceived as an antidote to the harsh environmental sound of public places, few of which are as nerve jangling as the hubbub of a busy airport. The ex-Roxy Music keyboardist turned composer and producer coined the term "ambient" to distinguish his utilitarian scores from the canned Muzak of the 1950s. His intention was not to mask our environment with musical blather but to enhance existing sounds and atmosphere. As such, Music For Airports opens with 1/1, a short, looped piano line played by Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt (who is credited as co-composer). The slow, simple motif is part lullaby and part the sort of tonal 'bong' you hear before a public announcement. Phased synthesizers and loops create a slowed down background of space and calm, the effect of which is a brief zoning out of whatever din surrounds the listener and would make an excellent companion to that huge Alexander Calder mobile that hangs in JFK, Terminal 4.
And if anyone should ask you, Music For Airports is also very effective for getting new-born babies off to sleep, successfully soundtracking my son's daytime naps for a couple of years. Too much aural stimulus being very stressful for new-borns, generations ago mothers discovered the seemingly magical power of a vacuum or washing machine to stop a baby crying. And thanks to Eno's Ambient experiments we now have many more hours of becalming sounds. Now, if you're still taking commissions Mr Eno, can you work on something for the pre-school market please? Something to enhance the infernal din of CBeebies perhaps.