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Author Topic: The qualities of "ambient"  (Read 3148 times)
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Andrew McIntosh
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« Reply #30 on: August 25, 2021, 11:50:49 AM »

Arguably ambient music demands a certain kind of listening that, whether concentrated or not, can be defined simply as relaxed. Falling to sleep listening to music is an old habit for many people, and while there's going to be a change between consciousness and unconsciousness the whole accepted state is one of physical comfort and mental relaxation.
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« Reply #31 on: August 29, 2021, 12:58:01 AM »

ps
remembered another one i really enjoy: Popol Vuh - In den Gärten Pharaos
not sure how much stretching of one's imagination is needed to count that as ambient though

This is one of my favorite albums, my go-to for "ambient", and the most expensive CD I own...

I generally consider music "ambient" when its elements occupy space with a light presence and intentionality as opposed to the heavy presence and forward momentum of "drone"(which I strongly prefer). I generally don't really care for ambient or dark ambient for the same reasons mentioned in the OP, general cheesiness or just actually boring. A lot of times ambient is too busy -telling- you it's ambient or dark ambient with its timbre/themes for it to actually serve its purpose, in my opinion. Lustmord was my introduction to dark ambient and by extension a lot of other industrial music, but I strongly prefer his earlier less digital / more industrial material. The only dark ambient album I revisit is Atrium Carceri's Cellblock, and I don't even know if that really counts as dark ambient because it's such a badass noir album with a lot of fucking gun sounds.

My concept of and preference for ambient is almost exclusively based on kosmische musik. Popol Vuh's Affenstunde and In Den Garten Pharaos and Tangerine Dream's Phaedra and Rubycon could be the only "ambient" albums I listen to for the rest of my life and I'd be ok. My favorite contemporary album I consider ambient would be Huerco S. "For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)". Warm, organic, wandering, etc. The unifying factors here, that make me feel at home in my mind. Alessandro Cortini's Risveglio album is in the same vein, another perfect one. I tried to enjoy a lot of the ambient tape music stuff like Ivory Trade and all those other artists who love rose bouquets and swimming pools and beautiful Scandinavian women but overall it did not do it for me. Way too much "simulation" in the presentation... ambient needs to exist naturally in its environment. Some of these artists, I get the impression they're utilizing various timbres/tones in order to convince me that they're making ambient music... obviously this is my personal read on the music, but IMO if the music is distracting me from the natural ambience of the present moment, it's not great ambient. I could not care less about Eno or other academics.

A lot of Skullflower's recent material could qualify as ambient when it isn't drone or psych jams, it's definitely gotten some heavy new age elements in it lately but it ticks all the boxes for me. Won't skip an opportunity to talk Skullflower, haven't been able to get enough of it lately, old stuff and new.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2021, 01:01:43 AM by Lysergikon137 » Logged

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« Reply #32 on: August 31, 2021, 04:02:41 PM »

Arguably ambient music demands a certain kind of listening that, whether concentrated or not, can be defined simply as relaxed.

You'll get no argument from me, but when you put it that way, in the context of the topic, it sets up an interesting dialectic. I mean, maybe I'm in the wrong groups, maybe I should be subscribed to New Age Interests or whatever... Crystal Power Now Playing... but it is rare indeed to encounter a critical review- that is, from a critic who listens critically, actively, attentively- that would critique the sounds on their ability to relax.

Which leads me to wonder if the whole of music criticism is up to the challenge of unironically* critiquing "ambient" qualities.

* edit intentionally or otherwise
« Last Edit: August 31, 2021, 04:06:30 PM by Bloated Slutbag » Logged

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« Reply #33 on: September 01, 2021, 08:13:21 AM »

on former ambient topic, I posted the Brian Eno's original ambient manifest. It could be done here:

Quote
AMBIENT MUSIC
The concept of music designed specifically as a background feature in the environment was pioneered by Muzak Inc. in the fifties, and has since come to be known generically by the term Muzak. The connotations that this term carries are those particularly associated with the kind of material that Muzak Inc. produces - familiar tunes arranged and orchestrated in a lightweight and derivative manner. Understandably, this has led most discerning listeners (and most composers) to dismiss entirely the concept of environmental music as an idea worthy of attention.

Over the past three years, I have become interested in the use of music as ambience, and have come to believe that it is possible to produce material that can be used thus without being in any way compromised. To create a distinction between my own experiments in this area and the products of the various purveyors of canned music, I have begun using the term Ambient Music.

An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.

Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) 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 levelling 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 accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.

BRIAN ENO
September 1978

Arguably ambient music demands a certain kind of listening that, whether concentrated or not, can be defined simply as relaxed.

You'll get no argument from me, but when you put it that way, in the context of the topic, it sets up an interesting dialectic. I mean, maybe I'm in the wrong groups, maybe I should be subscribed to New Age Interests or whatever... Crystal Power Now Playing... but it is rare indeed to encounter a critical review- that is, from a critic who listens critically, actively, attentively- that would critique the sounds on their ability to relax.

Which leads me to wonder if the whole of music criticism is up to the challenge of unironically* critiquing "ambient" qualities.

* edit intentionally or otherwise

Eno above concludes conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) 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 levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

For example, dark ambient, at the best, one can of course call it relaxing - but not necessarily. I think its quality to add stimulus, add space to think, might not be matter of relaxation, but possible intriguing level of mysticism, menacing horror, vast pitch black unescapeable space, and so on. This could be easily critically evaluated. Does artists remind of MUZAK, that has merely quality of relaxing keyboard tones void of any artistic merit, or perhaps something completely different.
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« Reply #34 on: September 01, 2021, 05:24:26 PM »

It's quite funny that a lot of ambient artist in the 90's would see their album as new age, i.e. by Robert Rich but also more underground artists, and that is is now rarely used, and if so, mostly in a dismissive manner.

Anyway, I like quite some ambient but most of the time I go for something more active. I don't think there is an 'ultimate' ambient album or that the genre has to 'sound so and so', that's an absurd statement. What I do like is what I am listening now, Radikale Akzeptanz from Belia Winewisser, which offers a lot of different sounds and structures. Not all ambient per se, there are some tracks one could say are more IDM-ish or techno-lite, a varied piece of work but overall encompassing it really is an ambient album. Varied, but still very much within the theme.

But I also really like more glacier/'pure' ambient albums as something from I.Corax (who remembers them?) or drone pieces like the Organum works.

And what about Altar of Flies or artists that uses a lot of ambient set an atmosphere in between tracks or as transitional pieces?

(Previously I posted something dismissive about those that dislike ambient but do like it when made by black metal artist, and however I still think it's an strange way at looking at things, I really worded it too strongly)
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« Reply #35 on: September 01, 2021, 05:27:49 PM »

Does anyone here really care what Eno concludes? I want too LISTEN to music, be captivated by it, not reading an analysis and be bored to death.
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« Reply #36 on: September 01, 2021, 05:46:20 PM »

Does anyone here really care what Eno concludes? I want too LISTEN to music, be captivated by it, not reading an analysis and be bored to death.

I would guess, that forum where people discuss sound in depth, has people who are interested in artists or other fanatics views and opinion. Those who only want to listen music, has this thing called cd player. You just push play and enjoy.
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« Reply #37 on: September 01, 2021, 06:10:38 PM »

Does anyone here really care what Eno concludes? I want too LISTEN to music, be captivated by it, not reading an analysis and be bored to death.


So I wouldn't recommend "In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-cochlear Sonic Art" - by Seth Kim-Cohen.


;-)
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« Reply #38 on: September 02, 2021, 05:05:01 AM »

It would be difficult for me to say anything more without going in circles, assuming that hasn’t happened already. Fortunately (or not), that never stopped me before.

I was hesitant to start drawing lines, but I think prefixing ambient with “dark” is probably a good start. And leads me again to question whether the qualities we are discussing would be better affixed to experimental industrial whatever. And not necessarily to criticize or question really, what I’m inclined to read here is a potentially bottomless spiraling process of feeding different qualities into each other and learning more than what otherwise might be thought possible.

We learned from Endo (or maybe Whitehouse a la New Britain) what silence can do for harsh noise, and the endoist influences only seem more palpable every day (he writes, taking stock of some of his faves in recent months).

Talking ambient qualities, I keep thinking back to Kojo Tano’s ND interview, in which the stated goal is to induce people to “sleep most of the time”. If MSBR’s Ultimate Ambience isn’t quite doing it for you may I heartily suggest Incapacitants Quietus. Would admittedly have a tougher time with Boom-Boom Roppongi but hey can’t hurt to try.
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« Reply #39 on: September 05, 2021, 11:44:45 PM »

Does anyone here really care what Eno concludes? I want too LISTEN to music, be captivated by it, not reading an analysis and be bored to death.

I would guess, that forum where people discuss sound in depth, has people who are interested in artists or other fanatics views and opinion. Those who only want to listen music, has this thing called cd player. You just push play and enjoy.

I simply meant abandon all rules.
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