Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Inducing Calm and a Space to Think




Sure David Bowie called it "unremittingly dull", but Brian Eno's follow up to Discreet Music, Ambient 1: Music For Airports, released in 1978, has sold more than 200,000 copies . In the liner notes, Eno stated the manifesto; "It must be as ignorable as it is interesting" and "induce calm and a space to think".

I've been using it to drown out fellow office workers and train passengers for many years.

A nervous flyer, Eno believed the muzak streamed through airport terminals only made fliers feel more anxious. 


The first of the four tracks consists of Robert Wyatt on piano who was instructed to play spontaneously:

Brian just sort of got me to improvise at the piano for a while and chose what to use of it later. I was surprised and delighted with his use of what I did – how he created a sustained mood. I didn’t know what he would do with what I’d played . . . I think the results were brilliant, pure Brian – great stuff!

Said Eno:

I had four musicians in the studio, and we were doing some improvising exercises that I'd suggested. I couldn't hear the musicians very well at the time, and I'm sure they couldn't hear each other, but listening back, later, I found this very short section of tape where two pianos, unbeknownst to each other, played melodic lines that interlocked in an interesting way. To make a piece of music out of it, I cut that part out, made a stereo loop on the 24-track, then I discovered I liked it best at half speed, so the instruments sounded very soft, and the whole movement was very slow.

"2/1" has vocal performances by Eno, Christa Fast, Christine Gomez and Inge Zeininger :


There are sung notes, sung by three women and myself. One of the notes repeats every 23 1/2 seconds. It is in fact a long loop running around a series of tubular aluminum chairs in Conny Plank's studio. The next lowest loop repeats every 25 7/8 seconds or something like that. The third one every 29 15/16 seconds or something. What I mean is they all repeat in cycles that are called incommensurable — they are not likely to come back into sync again. So this is the piece moving along in time. Your experience of the piece of course is a moment in time, there. So as the piece progresses, what you hear are the various clusterings and configurations of these six basic elements. The basic elements in that particular piece never change. They stay the same. But the piece does appear to have quite a lot of variety.



In Michael Bloom's Rolling Stone review he called  the album ‘aesthetic white noise... In theory, none of these pieces end: the loop can continue, with eternal variation, as long as the airport is standing. But whether or not they ever play this stuff over the loudspeakers at LaGuardia, Brian Eno has succeeded once again in provoking his fans.’

(The album would be played at LaGuardia for an installation at the Marine Terminal in 1980)

Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ review, writing:

Although I'm no frequenter of airports, I've found that these four swatches of modestly "ambient" minimalism have real charms as general-purpose calmatives. But I must also report that they've fared unevenly against specific backgrounds: sex (neutral to arid), baseball (pleasant, otiose), dinner at my parents' (conversation piece), abstract writing (useful but less analgesic than Discreet Music or my David Behrman record). Also, I'm still waiting for "1/1" to resolve the "Three Blind Mice" theme.

Eno also spent 1978 working on new albums by Talking Heads, David Bowie and by the No Wave artists of New York City. The Devo debut he produced would be out by the end of the Summer. In other words, we certainly haven't heard the last from Mr Eno this year.



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