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Originally released as a limited-edition (500 copies) LP in 1976 which was sent to a selection of filmmakers for possible inclusion in their work 1, the commercial Music for Films release was expanded to include a number of pieces for, as Eno put it, "possible use as soundtracks to ‘imaginary’ films". In fact, excerpts from the album (particularly, "Sparrowfall 1") did appear in at least one movie, John Woo's A Better Tomorrow. The album is a loose compilation of material from the period 1975 to 1978, composed of short tracks ranging from one-and-a-half minutes to just over four, making it the antithesis of the long, sprawling, ambient pieces he later became known for.
Unlike Eno’s later ambient works, Music for Films utilizes a broader sonic palette, with Eno’s synthesizers and "found sounds" being supplemented by standard studio instrumentation played by other musicians (see Credits).