How a building sounds, unless it is a concert hall, is something architects rarely consider. Airports are no exception, they are vast halls where the lighting, signage, passenger flows and even advertising placement has been carefully orchestrated. The resultant soundscape however is rarely considered beyond tannoy placement and reducing the noise of aircraft. Eno felt that a functional soundtrack could be designed to uplift and inspire passenger experience.
Airport clients carefully define and break down into quantifiable parameters for what makes for good passenger experience. Speed, ease of use (the phrase ‘intuitive way finding’ is a common one) and durability often head the list. Successful airport architecture has gone to great lengths to ensure visually that successive parts of the airport read clearly and are well defined, so that the passenger seamlessly moves from one function to the next, without having to engage in strenuous navigation.
The neglect of attention to a soundscape could work against the careful calculation of architectural wayfinding. An airport’s soundscape can potentially be chaotic; multiple tannoys, noise of jets and the consumer frenzy of duty free can be disorientating. On the other end of the spectrum waiting when waiting for a plane the soundscape is totally inane, magnifying the already intense dis-ease our culture suffers from of not being able to sit quietly.
Eno clearly recognised these chaotic and banal sound environments as missed opportunities to ‘celebrate of the achievements of mankind’ and ‘to reflect on our mortality’. The result was Music for airports, a set of musical compositions specifically designed for an airport environment.