Though not the earliest entry in the genre (which Eno makes no claim to have invented), ‘Ambient 1 (Music For Airports)’ was the first album ever to be explicitly labelled ‘ambient music’.
Eno had previously created similarly quiet, unobtrusive music on albums ‘Evening Star’, ‘Discreet Music’, and Harold Budd's ‘The Pavilion of Dreams’ (which he produced), but this was the first album to give it precedence as a cohesive concept. He gave his explanation of and aspirations for ambient music in this short 1978 essay.
Eno conceived the idea for ‘Music For Airports’ while spending several hours waiting at Cologne Bonn Airport, becoming annoyed by the uninspired sound and the atmosphere it created. The recording was designed to be continuously looped as a sound installation, with the intent of defusing the tense, anxious atmosphere of an airport terminal, by avoiding the derivative and familiar elements of typical ‘canned music’.
The album features contributions from Robert Wyatt and Rhett Davies.
‘Ambient 1 (Music For Airports)’ was followed by Harold Budd and Brian Eno’s ‘Ambient 2 (The Plateaux of Mirror)’ and ‘Ambient 3 (Day Of Radiance)’ by Laraaji, which was also produced by Eno.