'Airports' Comes Back With a Bang

In 1978, "Music for Airports" epitomized Brian Eno's attempt to compose a work as "ignorable as it is interesting." In this version, his gradually changing and deceptively static "ambient music" gains renewed importance, especially compared to the inane strains of its evil twin, New Age music. If New Age dulls the ear to the point of irritation, Eno's "Airports" subtly awakens the listener, without commanding full attention.

Bang on a Can has recast the synthesized original--a dreamy, amorphous pastiche of phrases and sonorous harmonies--for six live musicians aided by plenty of reverb. The transformation--which premiered as a live work to a standing ovation a couple of weeks ago in New York--lifts the music out of its naturally hermetic, electronic identity and fleshes it out, gives it an actual space to breathe in. Purists might balk at the metamorphosis, but the instrumental colors in this chamber setting give the piece impressive new life.

Note: Bang on a Can is supposed to take the piece on the road this year, with an as-yet-unconfirmed date in Southern California in the fall.

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