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Eno: Music For Airports / Bang On A Can

Music For Airports & In The Ocean / (Full)
Release Date: 01/27/2009 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 3077558  
Composer:  Brian Eno
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bang on a Can
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 43 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ENO (arr. Gordon, Lang, Wolfe, Ziporyn) Music for Airports & Bang on a Can All-Stars MEDICI ARTS 3077558 (DVD: 107:00)

& Frank Scheffer documentary: In the Ocean

Back in 1979, Brian Eno released a recording called Music for Airports . Annoyed by the “canned” Read more music he heard in airports, Eno set out to create his own “ambient” music that could be used in those environments instead. Played continuously, it would blend into the surroundings, and would be as satisfying to hear as not hear. The music itself was comprised of overlapping elements on tape and tape loops, and was scored for acoustic and electric piano, synthesizer, and wordless vocals. Music for Airports ultimately was installed in one of LaGuardia Airport’s terminals. The LP became a small hit among new-music intellectuals, and remains appreciated today.

Almost two decades later, composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Evan Ziporyn—all associated with the New York-based new music collective Bang on a Can— arranged Music for Airports for acoustic instruments—one original LP track per composer—and recorded it for Philips’s Point Music label. The following year, Bang on a Can All-Stars performed the new arrangements live at the Holland Festival. On that occasion, the music was accompanied by a digitally shot video by filmmaker Frank Scheffer. Scheffer’s video, shot in and around Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, was comprised of intentionally out-of-focus images, and the result was ambient video to complement Eno’s ambient music.

The first part of this DVD replicates that Holland Festival concert, although I think that the musical portion returns to the Point Music CD. Eno commented that hearing Music for Airports live was “surprisingly emotional and moving,” and I agree. This performance is more interesting than the studio-based construction heard on Eno’s original recording. “Interesting” might be beside the point, however. The music and the video are truly ambient in the sense that it is equally valid whether you listen to and watch them or not. In fact, as I was playing the first part of this DVD (several times), I dozed off (more than once), which would be an insult if Heifetz were playing Beethoven, but which seems acceptable for the intersection between Eno and Scheffer. Don’t get me wrong; this is pretty music to hear and these are pretty images to watch, and I am quite happy with this DVD; but gripping it is not—nor do I think it was meant to be.

The second part of this DVD is a 52-minute documentary by Scheffer. Most of it is in focus, yet it has a “fuzzy” center in Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe. I wrote “fuzzy” not to describe the video quality, but to describe the vagueness of the subject matter. One might call this a documentary about Bang on a Can and its artistic creds, except there are many interviews with composers (Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Elliott Carter, John Cage, Louis Andriessen, etc.) about American classical music at the end of the last century. Or one might turn it the other way around. Snippets of music abound, but these snippets are annoyingly short, and sometimes they are even stacked one on another. (Very Cage-like.) In the Ocean consequently feels like it has attention deficit disorder, although I won’t deny that it held my attention, and that visually Scheffer does many interesting things throughout its length. It did make me want to pull out CDs I have not heard in many years, though, and that’s a good thing too.

With or without Scheffer’s images, Bang on a Can’s retooling of Music for Airports is definitely worth experiencing if you like your music simultaneously gorgeous and uneventful. In the Ocean is entertaining, but not very nourishing. A full-screen format is used in both, and the quality of the audio and the video is just fine.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Video Language (In the Ocean): English
Subtitles: French, German
Booklet notes: English
Running time: 103 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
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Works on This Recording

Music for Airports by Brian Eno
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bang on a Can
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Holland Festival 

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