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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week: Music for Airports by Brian Eno

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

Brian Eno originally conceived Music for Airports as a response to the unpleasant and tense atmosphere he encountered in Cologne Bonn airport. Its 1978 release stands as a major landmark in the nascent "ambient" genre. Eno, whose stellar career has left a heavy imprint on rock music (U2, B-52's, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and Roxy Music, for starters), began his Ambient label as a way to utilize controlled environment with the techniques of Muzak, but toward an entirely different effect.

For the uninitiated, the four pieces are slow paced and deceptively simple. Persons with wildly disparate aural tastes love this album. In fact, I have yet to meet an avowed hater of Music for Airports (though I understand some of his rock fans did not take well to this turnabout). I think these works replace harried brainwaves with soothing ones.

The transformative nature of the music was put to the test in June, 1980. As part of "New Music America," the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport played it for a week. My friends who made it to the airport issued glowing reports about their experience. The same week, the Minneapolis downtown's Nicollet Mall speakers ushered forth--not the usual insipid background music--but Music For Films, a companion Ambient release by Eno. As I sat awaiting a bus, I enjoyed a changed landscape. My work-wracked body relaxed into a state of benign alertness. The random rattle and chaos of city streets suddenly took on a sense of order and purpose.

Thank you, Brian!