I had heard about Music for Airports for years before I actually listened to the piece. And it wasn’t even the original Brian Eno record I listened to — it was Bang on a Can All-Stars’ version.
Music for Airports has since become a litmus test for me — if a band can make music that seeps into my consciousness while playing in the background, then it passes the Music for Airports test. The test can be construed as positive or negative. If you’re a country artist, you probably don’t want your music to be compared to Music for Airports. (Unless you’re making ambient country music.)
Music for Airports was a studio creation — there is no score to it. But Bang on a Can took the recording and arranged it for live musicians. The loops of differing lengths essentially became a phase piece along the lines of Steve Reich, just without a pulse and slowed down dramatically.
Because of Bang on a Can, I went back and bought the original recording to compare. It’s difficult to tell the difference.
A few months after the album was released in 1997, I saw Bang on a Can All-Stars perform "1/1" live. I didn’t even fidget.