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Brian Eno: Music for Airports & In the Ocean (featuring Bang on a Can All-Stars)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

During the 1999 Holland Festival, the New York group Bang on a Can performed their new instrumental version of Brian Eno's composition of this 70s work. The performance was accompanied by Frank Scheffer's digitally shot images of Schiphol Airport on a lar


Music for Airports features a double-bill from Dutch filmmaker Frank Scheffer. In the title piece, which premiered at 1999's Holland Festival, Scheffer's abstract video imagery provides the visuals for New York's six-piece Bang on a Can performance of Brian Eno's 1978 ambient music album (this version was also released on CD in 1998). Divided into four parts, each section features an arrangement by a different member: Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Evan Ziporyn. Since the musicians themselves remain off-screen--viewers are instead treated to out-of-focus shots of passengers and airplanes arriving and departing from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport--the end result feels more like an art installation than a concert. As for the music itself, Eno explained in the liner notes to the original record that "it must be as ignorable as it is interesting," which about sums it up. The second Scheffer film--2001's In the Ocean--takes a wide-ranging look at contemporary avant-garde/minimalist music, focusing on the story of Bang on a Can, while offering commentary from peers and influences such as Eno, John Cage, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Elliot Carter, and Louis Andriessen. Music samples and scenes of bustling Big Apple street life are interspersed throughout. Modern music collections will want to consider--more for the informative documentary than the lackluster title piece--but this is optional elsewhere. -- Video Librarian, K. Fennessy, May/June 2009

This DVD is a double-bill by and about the Bang on a Can composers' collective, two very different films directed by Dutch documentary filmaker Frank Scheffer. The first is an adaptation of Brian Eno's 1978 album of ambient music Ambient 1: Music for Airports, originally conceived as a sound installation to be played on continuous loop. A set of repeating chords (especially closely related mediant chords melting into one another) with slight variations for piano and clouds of synthesized sounds (strings, voices), it was supposedly inspired by an unexpected layover Eno suffered at Cologne-Bonn Airport, and it was eventually installed at LaGuardia. The concept might lead you to think that the music is nightmarish, an endless wait that circles back upon itself, but it is really just a dreamy wash, amelodic, like a mind lost in thought, at the edge of sleep.

The can-banging holy trinity of Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe each made an arrangement of Eno's piece, to form a four-movement suite with a final arrangement by their associate clarinetist Evan Ziporyn. The group's performance of these arrangements provides the soundtrack to Scheffer's 1999 film, four tableaux made with the camera more or less severely out of focus. The shots are slow-motion views of airports, people walking through a revolving door, jets taxiing, people pushing luggage carts or pulling suitcases. Images come more or less into comprehensibility and just as quickly dissolve into blobs of color, that flow back and forth in a way reminiscent of the lava lamp. You will probably see this movie put on continuous loop in the chill room of the next rave you attend.

The second feature, In the Ocean, is a more straight-laced documentary by Scheffer about the history of the Bang on a Can festival and its associated movements in modern music. There are spoken contributions from and excerpts of music by John Cage, Philip Glass, (a fairly angry) Steve Reich, Elliott Carter, Louis Andriessen, as well as the can-bangers themselves. It is informative, thought-provoking, and aesthetically pleasing. Worth a look for anyone with an interest in contemporary music. -- Ionarts blog, Charles Downey, February 19, 2009

This absorbing film inlcudes performance of the musicians' own pieces, and interviews with composers such as John Cage, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, who were all an influence on Eno himself. -- MOJO Magazine, Mike Barnes, February 2009

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Bang on a Can All-Stars, Brian Eno
  • Directors: Frank Scheffer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: French, German
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: EuroArts
  • DVD Release Date: January 27, 2009
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001H02J4C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,313 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tym S. on January 27, 2009
Brian Eno turned the sonic textures that he'd injected into the art rock band Roxy Music into solo excursions of timbral soundscapes that he called "ambient music". His 1978 "Music For Airports" album is a milestone for many reasons. Chiefly, it created a smart and abstract approach of mood sound for social environments, and created a nexus for avant classical, electronic music, performance art, and outre rock.

The experimental enclave, Bang On a Can, tributed this album twenty years later by re-orchestrating its tape loops and synths with traditional instruments played by unconventional musicians. Their live concert in Amsterdam is the score used on this fascinating DVD, though they are not seen performing it. To match the impressionistic and slow-winding variance of the music, director Frank Scheffer filmed airports out-of-focus in long stretches. The "MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS" presentation seen here is what it was meant to be; curiously familiar but oddly fluid impressions of the airport environment in sound and light. The tonal modes and shifting color auras combine into the calming but interesting ambient mood that Eno originally intended as a tonic to the clatter and tension of the normal airport experience.

It is also a synesthete's delight. The sounds are nuanced and quietly rich, unfolding in a patient and ethereal plain. The images, blasted with sunlight around moving figures and machines looking like nimbuses of fluid colors, matches the open, tidal tones. At its best (tracks 3 and 4) it is like a perfect synthesis of abstract art and avant sound. Track 2 is lifted by the minimalist version of choral sirens, while 3 and 4 are enlivened by contemplative piano and reflective cello.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dale 3433 on September 22, 2013
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The 4 videos for each of the 4 sections of Eno's "Music for Airports" (The Bang on the Can live recording) turn out to be shots at an airport. This might seem a bit too obvious and concrete, except for, I think, the really smart touch of making the video very much out of focus. Remember Eno's early comments about "ambient" music, that one could choose to listen to it attentively, or just have it in the background, or go back and forth between these. So, these videos are consistent with that approach. I guess you COULD sit in front of the TV and watch them and not avert your eyes, but I found myself looking at them for awhile, and then writing a bit, and then looking again. So, you know...ambient video!

The other item on this DVD, the documentary about composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Eno, John Cage, Laurie Anderson, I found not as engaging as I would hope, in spite of the fact that I'm an admirer of the work of all of those artists.
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By A Customer on April 17, 2013
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As usual I expected and got what I wanted from the Music For films portion of this DVD. Owever the other portion In the Ocean.....did not like at all.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Emilio on November 23, 2010
I like abstract visuals, but most of the images shown here were obtained by out-of-focus distortion, which may be damaging to your eyes if you watch them for too long. I feel like looking at the TV screen and enjoying the shades, but my eyes get blurry in just a few seconds. This is a great video to be played in an exhibition so you can catch a glimpse of it while passing through, but I just can't watch it in full. Sorry.
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Brian Eno: Music for Airports & In the Ocean (featuring Bang on a Can All-Stars)
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