Music for airports

An appropriate supplement to the music

While waiting with my wife at Edinburgh Airport earlier this week for a flight I had occasion to reconsider a question that I have pondered, infrequently, over the years: what might be the most appropriate music for an airport terminal?

There is a fearful amount of queuing involved these days, but I still rather like airports. I like the huge spaces, minimalist design, light streaming through massive windows. As I described in my Lufthansa + Graphic Design post a few weeks ago they are rather interesting from a design view: the signage needs to be crystal clear to an international audience, so, usually, the typography and wayfinding icons set a standard you don't tend to see elsewhere.

Everytime we go to Edinburgh Airport we comment on the nice music that's playing, at least in the cafe areas: well chosen classical music from the 18th century. No unsettling Romanticism, just soothing Haydn, Mozart and Vivaldi.

That works fine, but I've often thought airports would be ideal for ambient too. The vast spaces, brilliant light and contemporary glass and steel architecture seem to invite warm synth pads, gentle keyboards and etherial harmonies.

The idea has already been considered, and implemented, more than 30 years ago. In 1978 Brian Eno released Music for Airports, which as the Wikipedia entry explains: 'was designed to be continuously looped as a sound installation, with the intent to diffuse the tense, anxious atmosphere of an airport terminal. Eno conceived this idea while being stuck at Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany in the mid-1970s. He had to spend several hours there and was extremely annoyed by the uninspired sound atmosphere.'

I've had it on in the office this week and it's rather pleasant to work to. According to Wikipedia it was indeed installed at the Marine Air Terminal of New York’s LaGuardia Airport soon after release.

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