INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
New York Times JUNE 10, 2011 - by Phillip Lutz
PAYING TRIBUTE TO 'MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS' AT YALE
In a musician's life, few moments reveal themselves to be genuinely subversive. But when the clarinetist Evan Ziporyn first heard Brian Eno's Music For Airports in 1978, he knew such a moment was at hand.
"It upended certain ideas a lot of us were holding," Mr. Ziporyn said.
The album, a sound collage composed of tape loops and synthesizer effects, challenged his concept of aesthetics, suggesting that the mechanical world had a beauty that needed to be reckoned with. "We live in controlled environments, surrounded by the noise of machines, the hum of electricity," he said. "It seemed there was something in its own way organic about acknowledging that."
On Tuesday, Mr. Ziporyn's sextet, the new-music group Bang On A Can All-Stars, will bring the first of four parts of Music For Airports, along with five other works, to Yale Law School as part of the courtyard concert series at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. He expects that some listeners will find the piece as provocative as he did when he first heard it.
Mr. Eno's work tested Mr. Ziporyn's view of what was acceptable for composers in the latter half of the twentieth century. "We were told that modern music was supposed to be difficult to listen to, was supposed to be dissonant," he said. "Then, having this piece come along that was so beautiful - that got our attention."
At the same time, Music For Airports, which revels in a kind of meditative stasis, forced Mr. Ziporyn to question his assumptions about the need for narrative flow in musical compositions. "It doesn't tell a story," he said. "It doesn't develop. It just exists. And that also went against what we were being taught."
"It just sort of captured a certain change that was in the air," he said.
Mr. Eno wrote in the liner notes of the album that he intended the piece to be an answer to the "various purveyors of canned music." It was meant at least partly to replace the standard background music in places like airports, and as a result, even in Mr. Ziporyn's adaptation, some listeners may find the piece perplexing in the context of a concert.
But no one has confused Mr. Ziporyn's work with canned music. His treatment of Music For Airports - reimagined as a live work for piano, bass, cello, guitar, clarinet and percussion - imbues it with a flexibility that the original, with its rigidly structured patterns recurring at digitally determined intervals, did not have.