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Ambient Techno

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Ambient Techno

Ambient music
Stylistic origins Electronic music
Background
Furniture
Minimalist
Experimental
Drone[1]
Frippertronics
Krautrock
Space rock
Psychedelic rock
Progressive rock
Dub
Cultural origins Early 1970s, United Kingdom
Typical instruments Electronic musical instruments, electroacoustic music instruments, and any other instruments or sounds (including world instruments) with electronic processing
Derivative forms Ambient houseAmbient technoChilloutDowntempoTranceIntelligent dance
Subgenres
Dark ambientDrone music[1]LowercaseBlack ambientDetroit technoShoegaze
(complete list)
Fusion genres
Ambient dubIllbientPsybientDark ambientAmbient houseSpace musicPost-rock
Other topics
Ambient music artistsList of electronic music genresFurniture music

Ambient music, unlike other forms of "background music", is intended to enhance acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies in the sound environment. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty from the music, ambient music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to "brighten" the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and leveling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms), ambient music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

"Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."[2] As a genre it originated in the United Kingdom at a time when new sound-making devices such as the synthesizer, were being introduced to a wider market. Brian Eno was an early pioneer of ambient music. The Orb and Aphex Twin gained commercial success with ambient tracks. Ambient compositions are often quite lengthy, much longer than more popular, commercial forms of music. Some pieces can reach a half an hour or more in length.

History

Developing in the 1970s, ambient stemmed from the experimental and synthesizer-oriented styles of the period,[3] while being influenced by nurse with wound , Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze; nevertheless, the dance and techno music of the 1980s also played an important role in the genre. Brian Eno is regarded as ambient's founder.[4] The concept of background or furniture music had already existed some time before, yet Eno created ambient by fusing elements of environmental music with electronic music. Ambient's sound was additionally influenced in part by space rock and Krautrock.

As a genre, ambient music focuses on creating a mood or atmosphere through synthesizers and timbral qualities. It often lacks the presence of any net composition, beat, or structured melody. Due to its relatively open style, ambient music often takes influences from many other genres, ranging from house, dub, industrial and new age, amongst several others. Since it is a relatively ambiguous term,[5] ambient has no distinct characteristics, and its style can vary a great deal. In essence, it is a term to describe forms of music that put an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. Ambient music is often highly conceptual and experimental in style, while it is said to evoke an "atmospheric",[6] "visual"[7] or "unobtrusive" quality.[8]

Ambient did not achieve large commercial success, being criticized as having a "boring" and "over-intellectual" sound.[5] Nevertheless, it has also attained a certain degree of acclaim throughout the years. It had its first wave of popularity in the 1970s, yet saw a revival towards the late-1980s with the prominence of house and techno music, growing a cult following by the 1990s.[3]


As an early 20th-century French composer, Erik Satie used such Dadaist-inspired explorations to create an early form of ambient / background music that he labeled "furniture music" (Musique d'ameublement). This he described as being the sort of music that could be played during a dinner to create a background atmosphere for that activity, rather than serving as the focus of attention.[9]

Brian Eno is generally credited with coining the term "Ambient Music" in the mid-1970s to refer to music that, as he stated, can be either "actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener", and that exists on the "cusp between melody and texture".[9] Eno, who describes himself as a "non-musician", termed his experiments in sound as "treatments" rather than as traditional performances. Eno used the word "ambient" to describe music that creates an atmosphere that puts the listener into a different state of mind; having chosen the word based on the Latin term "ambire", "to surround".[10]

The album notes accompanying Eno's 1978 release Ambient 1: Music for Airports include a manifesto describing the philosophy behind his ambient music: "Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."[11]

Eno has acknowledged the influence of Erik Satie and John Cage. In particular, Eno was aware of Cage's use of chance such as throwing the I Ching to directly affect the creation of a musical composition. Eno then utilised a similar method of weaving randomness into his compositional structures. This approach was manifested in Eno's creation of Oblique Strategies, where he used a set of specially designed cards to create various sound dilemmas that in turn, were resolved by exploring various open ended paths, until a resolution to the musical composition revealed itself. Eno also acknowledged influences of the drone music of La Monte Young (of whom he said, "La Monte Young is the daddy of us all"[12]) and of the mood music of Miles Davis and Teo Macero, especially their 1974 epic piece, "He Loved Him Madly", about which Eno wrote, "that piece seemed to have the 'spacious' quality that I was after...it became a touchstone to which I returned frequently."[10]

Beyond the major influence of Brian Eno, other musicians and bands added to the growing nucleus of music that evolved around the development of "Ambient Music". While not an exhaustive list, one cannot ignore the parallel influences of Wendy Carlos, who produced the original music piece called "Timesteps" which was then used as the filmscore to Clockwork Orange, as well as her later work Sonic Seasonings. Other significant artists such as Mike Oldfield, Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis, also Russian electronic music pioner Mikhail Chekalin, have all added to or directly influenced the evolution of ambient music. Adding to these individual artists, works by groups such as Pink Floyd, through their albums Ummagumma, Meddle and Obscured by Clouds. The Yellow Magic Orchestra developed a distinct style of ambient electronic music that would later be developed into ambient house music.[13]

1990s developments

Main article: ambient house

By the early 1990s artists such as The Orb, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, the Irresistible Force, Geir Jenssen's Biosphere, and the Higher Intelligence Agency were being referred to by the popular music press as ambient house, ambient techno, IDM or simply "ambient" according to the liner notes of Brian Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports:

Template:Cquote

So-called 'Chillout' began as a term deriving from British ecstasy culture which was originally applied in relaxed downtempo 'chillout rooms' outside of the main dance floor where ambient, dub and downtempo beats were played to ease the tripping mind.[14][15]

The London scene artists, such as Aphex Twin (specifically: Selected Ambient Works Volume II, 1994), Global Communication (76:14, 1994), FSOL The Future Sound of London (Lifeforms, ISDN), The Black Dog (Temple of Transparent Balls, 1993), Another Green World (Invisible Landscape,1996), Autechre (Incunabula, 1993, Amber), Boards of Canada, and The KLF's seminal Chill Out, 1990, all took a part in popularising and diversifying ambient music where it was used as a calming respite from the intensity of the hardcore and techno popular at that time.[14]

Related and derivative genres

Dark ambient

Main article: Dark ambient

Brian Eno's original vision of ambient music as unobtrusive musical wallpaper, later fused with warm house rhythms and given playful qualities by the Orb in the '90s, found its opposite in the style known as Dark ambient. Populated by a wide assortment of personalities -- ranging from aging industrial and metal experimentalists (Scorn's Mick Harris, Current 93's David Tibet, Nurse with Wound's Steven Stapleton) to electronic boffins (Kim Cascone/PGR, Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia), Japanese noise artists (K.K. Null, Merzbow), and latter-day indie rockers (Main, Bark Psychosis) -- dark ambient features toned-down or entirely missing beats with unsettling passages of keyboards, eerie samples, and treated guitar effects. Like most styles related in some way to electronic/dance music of the '90s, it's a very nebulous term; many artists enter or leave the style with each successive release.[16] Some artists and releases that epitomize the style include Sandbar David Wonder, Bass Communion's Ghosts on Magnetic Tape and Vajrayana, Lull's Cold Summer, Controlled Bleeding's The Poisoner, the Robert Rich/Lustmord collaboration album Stalker and Burzum's albums Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf, many albums by Mathias Grassow . Related styles include ambient industrial and isolationist ambient.

Ambient house

Main article: Ambient house

Ambient house is a musical category founded in the late 1980s that is used to describe acid house featuring ambient music elements and atmospheres.[17] Tracks in the ambient house genre typically feature four-on-the-floor beats, synth pads, and vocal samples integrated in an atmospheric style.[17] Ambient house tracks generally lack a diatonic center and feature much atonality along with synthesized chords. Illbient is another form of ambient house music.

Ambient industrial

Main article: Ambient industrial

Ambient industrial is a hybrid genre of ambient and industrial music; the term industrial being used in the original experimental sense, rather than in the sense of industrial metal or EBM.[18] A "typical" ambient industrial work (if there is such a thing) might consist of evolving dissonant harmonies of metallic drones and resonances, extreme low frequency rumbles and machine noises, perhaps supplemented by gongs, percussive rhythms, bullroarers, distorted voices or anything else the artist might care to sample (often processed to the point where the original sample is no longer recognizable).[18] Entire works may be based on radio telescope recordings, the babbling of newborn babies, or sounds recorded through contact microphones on telegraph wires.[18]

Among the many artists who work in this area are Coil, Controlled Bleeding, CTI, Deutsch Nepal, Hafler Trio, Lustmord, Nocturnal Emissions, PGR, Minóy, Zoviet France,[18] Nine Inch Nails, Susumu Yokota, Scorn and Heimkveld Kunst. However, many of these artists are very eclectic in their output, with much of it falling outside of ambient industrial per se.[18]

Space music

Main article: Space music

Space music, also spelled spacemusic, includes music from the ambient genre as well as a broad range of other genres with certain characteristics in common to create the experience of contemplative spaciousness.[19][20][21] Space music ranges from simple to complex sonic textures sometimes lacking conventional melodic, rhythmic, or vocal components,[22][23] generally evoking a sense of "continuum of spatial imagery and emotion",[24] beneficial introspection, deep listening[25] and sensations of floating, cruising or flying.[26][27]

Space music is used by individuals for both background enhancement and foreground listening, often with headphones, to stimulate relaxation, contemplation, inspiration and generally peaceful expansive moods[28] and soundscapes. Space music is also a component of many film soundtracks and is commonly used in planetariums, as a relaxation aid and for meditation.[29]

Hearts of Space is a well-known radio show and affiliated record label, specializing in space music since 1984, having released over 150 albums devoted to the music style. Notable artists who have brought elements of ambient music to space music include Michael Stearns, Constance Demby, Jean Ven Robert Hal, Enigma, Jean Michel Jarre, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Numina, Dweller at the Threshold, Jonn Serrie, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream (as well as the group's founder Edgar Froese), and Vangelis.

Isolationist ambient music

Main article: Isolationism (music)

Isolationist ambient music, also known as isolationism, can be differentiated from other forms of ambient music in its use of repetition, dissonance, microtonality, and unresolved harmonies to create a sense of unresolved unease and desolation.[30] The term was popularized in the mid-1990s by the British magazine The Wire and the Ambient 4: Isolationism compilation from Virgin, this began as more or less a synonym for ambient industrial, but also inclusive of certain post-metal streams of ambient, such as Final, Lull, Main, or post-techno artists such as Autechre and Aphex Twin. It may be less appropriate to call isolationist ambient a genre than using it to describe the style or "feel" of particular works by an artist working in an ambient mode. This is because many artists better known for other styles of work can occasionally create pieces that "sound" isolationist. (For example, Labradford, Seefeel, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Techno Animal, Voice of Eye, KK Null, etc.)[31] There are many labels releasing work that could be termed isolationist ambient, among these are Malignant Records, Cold Spring, Manifold Records, Soleilmoon, and The Sombient label with the "drones" compilation series. Some of the artists known for this style of ambient music include Lull, Final, Bass Communion, M.A/V.E - Musica.Arte/Video. Experimental, Deutsch Nepal, Inanna, Negru Voda, Thomas Köner, Robert Fripp, Steven Wilson, and Chuck Hammer (Guitarchitecture).

Of late there has been an influx of progressive metal artists who have clear ambient influences. Bands such as Cult of Luna, Isis, Devil Sold His Soul, Porcupine Tree have pioneered the genre and are largely credited with popularizing the sound. These bands are largely known as post-metal.

Ambient dub

Ambient dub involves the genre melding of dub styles made famous by King Tubby and other Jamaican sound artists with DJ inspired ambient electronica, complete with all the inherent drop-outs, echo, equalization and psychedelic electronic effects. It often features layering techniques and incorporates elements of world music deep bass lines and harmonic sounds which evolve.[32] As writer and performer David Toop explains in an early Beyond Records newsletter, "Dub music is like a long echo delay, looping through time...turning the rational order of musical sequences into an ocean of sensation."[this quote needs a citation]

Notable artists within the genre include Dreadzone, Higher Intelligence Agency, The Orb, Loop Guru, Woob and Transglobal Underground[33] as well as Banco de Gaia and Another Green World.

Notable ambient-music shows on radio and via satellite

SiriusXM Chill plays ambient, chill out and down tempo electronica

  • Echoes, is a daily two-hour music radio program hosted by John Diliberto featuring a soundscape of ambient, spacemusic, electronica, new acoustic and new music directions – founded in 1989 and syndicated on 130 radio stations in the USA.
  • Hearts of Space, a program hosted by Stephen Hill and broadcast on NPR in the US since 1973.[34][35]
  • Musical Starstreams, a US-based commercial radio station and internet program produced, programmed and hosted by Forest since 1981.
  • Star's End a radio show on 88.5 WXPN, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1976, it is the second longest-running ambient music radio show in the world.[36]
  • Ultima Thule Ambient Music, a weekly 90-minute show broadcast since 1989 on community radio across Australia.
  • SoundScape, a weekly 3 hour show program hosted by Greg 'Cracker' Carrick on community radio [1] in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.
  • Alpha Rhythms, a 3 hour radio show aired by WYSO, an NPR affiliate operated by Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio airing on Sunday evenings.
  • Ambient Zone, Sunday Electronic Listening Program broadcasting weekly from Ambient Zone Website
  • Sound Introversion, An ambient / drone / glitch / melancholia music project and weekly radio show on Sound Introversion Website

See also

References

External links

  • Ambient Music Guide – Comprehensive ambient music resource site
  • Further examples of ambient music
  • DMOZ
  • Ambient sounds of nature or rain
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