卡塔爾航空的登機音樂由他們的官方作曲家 Dana Al Fardan 編寫，她是卡塔爾唯一的現代女作曲家，也是當地第一家、亦是唯一一家唱片公司 DNA Records 的創辦人。沒有受過正統音樂教育的她，總是透過作品展示出一種細膩優雅的成熟，連許多經驗老到的作曲家都望塵莫及。
身為當地標誌性人物，Al Fardan 除了為音樂界作出卓越貢獻，亦熱衷於教育事業。從機艙到音樂廳，她的音樂在世界各地演奏，連聯合國和教科文組織成員亦曾是其音樂會的座上客。無論是卡塔爾國家博物館的主題音樂，還是 2022 年的世界盃主題曲，都出自 Al Fardan 筆下。卡塔爾航空委託她編寫登機音樂，實為明智而有意義之舉。
可是，英國航空卻選中了一首相當適宜的歌劇詠嘆調 —— 由法國作曲家德利伯（Léo Delibes）創作的三幕歌劇「拉克美」（Lakmé）中的「花之二重唱」（Flower Duet）。此曲不但能夠為忙碌的商務旅客放鬆心情，亦可為飛行者帶來一種舒適的安心感。這首詠嘆調自 1980 年代起，已是英國航空深入民心的廣告宣傳之一；作為一名舉足輕重的歌劇及芭蕾作曲家，德利伯常被音樂界忽視，英航此舉卻確保他不會被世人遺忘。
Airlines’ Boarding Music
Almost every airline nowadays has its own boarding music, and some airlines even frequently change such music to provide a fresh and innovative experience to travellers. I have had the pleasure of listening to a wide array of boarding music from my travels, and must say that some of those completely failed in its purpose; they were disturbing and excruciating, and irritated me and my eardrums from the moment I set foot on an aircraft.
To be fair, the majority of boarding music is satisfactory and effective, but I have been particularly impressed by the boarding music of three airlines, who have put a considerable amount of thought, attention and consideration into this area of customer experience.
Qatar Airways’ boarding music was composed by the airline’s official composer, Dana Al Fardan, who is noted as Qatar’s only female contemporary composer, and also the founder of the first and only record label in Qatar, DNA records. Despite not having any formal training in music, Al Fardan’s music always displays a maturity, refinement and finesse many seasoned composers could only dream of.
The airline’s boarding music combines the styles of Western classical, Western musical theatre, Arab-influenced contemporary classical and traditional Arabic music, utilises instruments from different musical cultures and features a sophisticated, graceful and exquisite orchestration. The masterful use of tonalities, of musical ornaments and of both traditional and innovative harmonies enhance the composition with a majesty and elegance that is so rarely realised in modern music.
As a Qatari national icon, Al Fardan is making a significant contribution to her country’s music industry and also taking part in various educational initiatives in Qatar. Her music has been performed all around the world (in both aircrafts and concert halls), and enjoyed by audiences including members of the United Nations and UNESCO. Furthermore, the theme song for the National Museum of Qatar as well as an official song of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are also composed by Al Fardan. Qatar Airways indeed made a wise and meaningful move in engaging Al Fardan to compose its boarding music.
If an airline aims to represent its region’s multifaceted musical cultures through their boarding music, then Taiwan’s China Airlines accomplished this with aplomb. By combining elements of Taiwanese pop, Taiwanese aboriginal music, Bunun, Taiwanese campus folk songs, and blending them into Western tonality and timbre, China Airlines created a tune that juxtaposes traditionalism and modernity, inspires courageousness and adventurousness as well as underlines the beauty of Taiwanese music.
The elegant and exquisite melodies, the remarkable orchestration (featuring compelling and profound use of the piano, the strings and the trumpets) and the innovative harmonic progressions all contribute to the brilliance of the music. A good number of airlines overcomplicate their boarding music – with rapidly virtuosic passages, complex instrumentation, obscure tonalities and cryptic melodies – which is often frustrating and unsuitable. China Airlines keeps its boarding music simple and straightforward. And it delightfully does the trick.
Although many airlines’ boarding music is of a modern and contemporary nature, British Airways elected to pick a composition from the classical music repertoire. This was a risky move; after all, such music is not known to suit the ambience of an aircraft, and if picked carelessly, passengers might feel bored and spiritless at the beginning of their journey.
However, to their credit, British Airways selected a little-known operatic aria that is both enlightening and fitting. The ‘Flower Duet’ from French composer Léo Delibes’ three-act opera Lakmé generates soothing and reassuring sentiments that could not only unwind busy business travellers but also relax nervous flyers. This piece has also been part of British Airways’ advertisement campaigns since the 1980s, and its growing popularity ensures that Delibes, an important operatic and balletic composer often ignored by musicologists, will not fade into oblivion.
The irony, however, lies in the fact that British Airways, as the flag carrier and pride of the United Kingdom, uses a French operatic aria as its boarding music. Is there really not an equally worthwhile and suitable British composition for the occasion?
As a side note, the aviation industry is undergoing a period of severe uncertainty due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. It is very regrettable to see the majority of airlines’ fleets grounded or stored in airports, and my thoughts go out to the crews and employees furloughed or asked to take unpaid and voluntary leave of absence. I remain, however, most grateful to the pilots and staff still working round the clock to bring passengers home and to transport medical supplies, and am keeping my fingers crossed that there would be a vaccine to combat this novel coronavirus in the near future.