Last Friday, the Bang on a Can All-Stars performed the group’s transcriptions of Brian Eno‘s Music for Airports with the Kronos Quartet. The show was part of a marathon of concerts, which was part of the ongoing 150th-anniversary celebration of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the event was staged. In advance of the show, Bang on a Can bassist Robert Black submitted to an interview (MP3) on the radio show Here & Now, during which he was asked by the host, “How does that work, when this was something that was technology initially?”
The question’s a good one. The Bang on a Can exercise takes music that’s an early example of studio-as-instrument, a process that blurs the roles of recording, composing, and performing, and retroactively assigns the resulting music to a traditional musical score. Black doesn’t fully answer the question, but he does set up what the Eno was up to, and how the composers divided up the task: “Music for Airports was a piece that was really sort of a seminal listening experience for most of the people in Bang on a Can. So, the four sections of that — each composer that founded Bang on a Can, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Evan Ziproryn, they each took one of those sections and then it was up to them to orchestrate it for the All Stars.”
The interview is about 10 minutes long, and while it may not be fully satisfying in explaining how the transcriptions function, it does provide helpful background, and side-by-side examples of the original music and the Bang on a Can rendition. Interview originally posted at hereandnow.wbur.org.