Ambient 1/Music for Airports

Music for Airports

Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978) is an Ambient music album by Brian Eno.


This was the first of four albums released on Eno's own, then new, Ambient label to actually carry the name "ambient" - a term which he coined to differentiate his minimalistic approach to the album's material and "the products of the various purveyors of canned music.

Notice of similarly quiet, unobtrusive music had been given on albums such as Evening Star, Discreet Music, Music for Films and Harold Budd's The Pavilion of Dreams (which he produced), but in this album it was given precedence as a full-blown concept.

The music was designed to be continuously looped as a sound installation, with the intent to defuse the tense, anxious atmosphere of an airport terminal. Eno conceived this idea while being stuck at Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany in the mid 70s. He had to spend several hours there and was extremely annoyed by the uninspired sound atmosphere.

It was installed at the Marine Air Terminal of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Track listing

The track labelling is the way it is because of the album's first release (1978) as an LP, and so the first track means "first track, first side", and so on.

  1. "1/1" : Acoustic & electric piano; synthesizer. – 16:30
  2. "2/1" : Vocals only. – 8:20
  3. "1/2" : Vocals; acoustic piano. – 11:30
  4. "2/2" : Synthesizer only. – 6:00 (9:38 in the Working Backwards box edition, 1983)

The tracks length is different in the CD edition:

  1. "1/1" : 17:21
  2. "2/1" : 8:54
  3. "1/2" : 12:07
  4. "2/2" : 9:38

The music

See Miscellanea for citations.
All tracks were composed by Eno except "1/1", which was composed by Eno, former Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt and Rhett Davies.

Music for Airports employs the phasing of tape loops of different length in some tracks, where, for example, in "1/1", a single piano melody is repeated and at different times other instruments will fade in and out in a complex, evolving pattern due to the phenomenon of phasing: at some point these instrumental sounds will clump together, at some points, be spread apart.

Talking about the first piece, Eno has said:

... 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.

The two tracks containing the wordless "aaaaah"-style vocals intermingle four tracks which loop back on themselves and constantly interact with each other in new ways. Subtle changes in timing occur, adding to the timbre of the pieces.

Eno explains of the vocal-only piece:

One of the notes repeats every 23 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 seconds or something like that. The third one every 29 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. 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.

2/2, the synth piece, was performed with an ARP 2600.


  • Various instruments, cover art & production: Brian Eno
  • Vocals : Christa Fast, Christine Gomez, Inge Zeininger
  • Acoustic piano : Robert Wyatt
  • Engineering : Dave Hutchins (2/1, 1/2), Conny Plank (2/2), Rhett Davies (1/1) and Eno
  • Recording Location:
    • Tracks 1-3 : London
    • Track 4 : Plank's Studio, Cologne


Country Label Cat. No. Media Release Date
US Editions EG EGS 201 LP 1978
US Polydor AMB 001 LP 1978
France Polydor 2310 647 LP 1978
Canada GRT 9167-9835 LP 1978
Italy Polydor 2310 647 LP 1978
US Editions EG EEGCD 17 CD Aug 1990
UK Virgin Records ENOCD 6,
7243 8 66495 2 2
CD 2004


  • "Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan" is a 1981, 47-minute ambient video created by Eno which uses music from both the albums On Land (cat # HEN 2134) and this album IMDB link
    Two time-lapse animated GIFS from the production - (133K) , (270K)
    This title was later repackaged with his Thursday Afternoon video as "14 Video Paintings", RykoDisc, (HNDVD 1508) Ryko link
  • "I Travel", a Simple Minds' song from their 1980 album Empires and Dance arguably refers to this album in the verse " Airports playing Brian Eno".
  • Music from the album has been covered by:
    • Bang on a Can - Music For Airports Live, 1997, Point-Music (314 536 847-2) 1 , 2 , 3
    • Makyo - 2/1 (Night Flight Mix), on the double compilation CD Minimalism: More Or Less, 1998, Law & Auder (LA05CD) 4, 5
  • The first track is used in the PBS special "The Creation of the Universe" (IMDB link). Eno is the sole music credit, and he also wrote original music for the documentary.
  • Part of the first track featured in the 1986 erotic drama 9½ Weeks.
  • The Dutch comedy group Jiskefet has used the track 1/2 quite extensively. All their petshop sketches ('De Dierenwinkel', broadcasted weekly on Dutch national TV in the 1990s) ended with 1/2 being played.
  • In 2005, an extract was used in an advertisement for Orange.
  • 2/1 was featured in a NOVA episode called The Miracle of Life

See also



  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books.

External links

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