Author Topic: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music  (Read 2308 times)

drone on

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I watched this tonight on YouTube, and while I found some of the information very interesting, the guy came off as an arrogant wanker.  He kept saying so and so is "the greatest ambient musician since Eno" (he said this about Biosphere!! Come on, really???) and such and such is "the greatest ____ in the history of this planet."  He spent the first hour talking about classical music and early synthesizers, which was a bit much.  The most interesting part was the end where audience members got to ask questions.  The first person asked why Klaus Schulze was merely mentioned once.  He said he didn't have time.  Well why the hell did you waste an hour on Debussy and Satie and early dinosaur electronic instruments like the trautonium and theremin???  But the BEST question was by Mr. Loren Nerell, who so eloquently nailed Mr. Prendergast with his glaring omission of the Southern California (and Northern as well) ambient giants like STEVE ROACH, ROBERT RICH, MICHAEL STEARNS, both in his "comprehensive" book and in the lecture.  He said he "wasn't familiar with all ambient artists."  WHAT?? He mentioned a San Francisco DJ named DJ Shadow, and called Geir Jenssen the greatest ambient musician since Eno, but had never heard of Roach and Rich???  He talked about the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix and wasted 10-15 minutes playing their music, yet couldn't even mention the above.  What an IDIOT!  God, I'm glad I didn't attend that lecture, I would've had a fit.  No Tangerine Dream???  At least he paid tribute to Pete Namlook, but the glaring omissions were just unforgiveable.

ffcal

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2013, 10:18:19 AM »
I'm not a big fan or Prendergast, David Toop and others of his ilk, either.  They seem to think that all or most electronic ambient started in the mid-90s.  And then pretend that most American ambient musicians (or at least the ones prior to 1995) simply don't exist.  Good luck with that.;)

Forrest

drone on

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2013, 12:59:09 PM »
Well prendergast acted like ambient's heyday was in the 1800s, listening to him go on about Debussy an Satie.  He barely touched on the 90s.  Future Sound of London got no mention and the Orb got one second of coverage.  He also devoted 5 min to his nobody wife because she once did an ambient album.  Next time Mark should stay home in London.

Scott M2

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2013, 06:36:34 PM »
I tried not to make any snarky comments here when I read he'd be presenting at Ambicon, though I have always refused to buy his book after reviewing the index and finding no Roach, Rich or other of the many significant US ambient artists - just rock bands and Miles and such. I was really not interested in supporting such uninformed writing presented as a proper overview.

I also found it kind of crazy that he'd present amongst the very artists he ignored!
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 10:29:42 AM by Scott M2 »

drone on

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2013, 09:23:02 PM »
Exactly!!  He could have done some much-needed "research" too before his trek to northern CA.

DeepR

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2013, 03:39:07 PM »
Unforgiveable indeed. Who in their right mind would write a book called the Ambient Century without even knowing these artists..... that's like writing a book about 19th century piano music and not mentioning Chopin and Liszt........ Some of the other stuff that is covered can only be (very) remotely associated with ambient music.... I'll avoid anything by him like the plague.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 03:42:02 PM by DeepR »

Castleview

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2013, 03:57:27 PM »
The sad thing is that somebody is going to buy that book and think that Prendergast actually knows what he's talking about.


chris23

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2013, 08:00:58 PM »
At the risk of poking the hornet's nest here:

The term "ambient" is often used to reference music that is rooted in disparate traditions, using diverse kinds of instrumentation and techniques, and based on a non-uniform set of principles.

I think it would be impossible for someone like Prendergast to be familiar enough with all the niches to be able to speak with authority on all of them. He definitely seems to know his music history--and I learned a lot from listening to the video of his presentation. But I can hardly fault him for failing to cover every nook and cranny.

Nonetheless, I think Loren's question was a good one. I do consider it an omission that Prendergast didn't tip his hat to some of the ambient legends who were in his presence. Perhaps he's more familiar with this end of the genre now. My guess is that the ambient musicians that we often celebrate on the Hypnos forums (e.g., A Produce, Oophoi, Robert Rich) have a greater following in North America than they do in England. I could be wrong about that, however. Regardless, it seems quite reasonable to me that someone like Prendergast would be more familiar with and focused upon, say, club/DJ-driven ambient music rather than, for example, the desert-inspired soundscapes of Steve Roach.


Bill Binkelman

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2013, 05:38:15 PM »
While I see your point, Chris, I think if one is going to present oneself as even somewhat of an authority on a subject, one is obligated to do a modicum of research. Or one must qualify the extent of one's expertise. E.g. some folks might say "I am an expert on early 60s rock." But that person may know next to nothing about 80s new wave or 90s grunge, etc. So that person should not say he is an expert on ROCK music per se. To elevate yourself as someone who can address something as broad as the history of a music genre, even a genre as "new" as ambient (as compared to classical), one must have a strong academic background in that genre and that REQUIRES doing research beyond listening to and reading about music the person LIKES. The omission of absolutely undeniable pivotal ambient artists such Roach, Rich, et al. completely undercuts the viability of a person as a HISTORIAN and reduces the person to nothing more than a critic (like yours truly). A better title for his talk would be "A Selective History..." or "My Personal History WITH Ambient music..."

It's why I will never write a book, despite being told to do so by many folks. After 15 years of reviewing, I realize I am aware of just a fraction of the releases (and artists) in both the ambient and new age genres. I just got a CD from an artist with 14 PRIOR releases and I had never heard of him before this!
May the odds be ever in your favor.

dreamin4ever

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2013, 07:12:39 PM »
Ouch.
I haven't listened or watched the lecture yet. Maybe I should after listening to Steve Roach's Live Transmission album I just got. Or not.

drone on

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2013, 05:18:27 PM »
I agree 100% with Bill.  The presentation was by a "critic" instead of an "authority" and it really comes down to what he LIKES.  I agree also with Chris' point that "ambient" had a broad range of meanings; it isn't just "spacey electronic music."  So I can see why he didn't just focus on electronic music; however, like I said I think the audience probably wasn't keen on sitting through several pieces of classical music, regardless of the fact it, in many ways, could be viewed as the starting point for ambient or "impressionist" music.   

But I do think it was unforgiveable not to discuss Tangerine Dream's huge influence on ambient artists over the years, particularly on many of the techno/ambient artists that emerged in the 90's like Future Sound of London, et al.  Same goes for Klaus Schulze.  Although he did play a piece by Namlook and Schulze (from Dark Side of the Moog 5), KS should have received a fair chunk of time.  And it was especially unforgiveable to be presenting at a festival and not even mention the performers there, and use the excuse he wasn't familiar with their work.  Ouch!! 

Although I love Jimi Hendrix as much as the next guy, I think devoting about 15 min. to him and the Grateful Dead just took up time, and I'm sure people in the audience who were ambient conoisseurs were bored to tears by this segment.  If I wanted a history of rock I'd read one of the Rolling Stone books about the subject. 

betawave31

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2013, 05:28:29 PM »
Pendergrast who?

Never heard of him.

But then again I have very little time for a downwind of sulphur gas........from across the Atlantic!

chris23

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2013, 05:38:00 PM »
For those who were there: Did he fly in and out for his presentation? Or did he get to spend some time with the artists who were present? Maybe he's now the newest Robert Rich fan in London???

dreamin4ever

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2013, 07:39:56 AM »
 ???  WTF! No segment on what Edgar Froese or Tangerine Dream had in the role of ambient/electronic atmospheric music. And he's from the UK? The UK is what put Tangerine Dream on the map back in the late 60's. Sure they started in West Berlin, but it was the UK fans and bbc radio that really launch the band. And Edgar/TD is still putting out albums and touring. TD is still huge in the UK and the rest of Europe. Not so much here in America these days. But still take note Mark. Even if you don't care for TD these days they had a major role in the 60's and 70's. I've briefly started watching the youtube lecture. . . . .boring. But I will finish or get through it.


LNerell

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2013, 10:42:26 PM »
For those who were there: Did he fly in and out for his presentation? Or did he get to spend some time with the artists who were present? Maybe he's now the newest Robert Rich fan in London???

He was there for the entire event, he even promised to talk to the artists there and to write a large article in The Wire magazine about it too. But he pretty much stayed away from all the artists up until the end, at which point I helped to trick him into coming to an after event party in one of the hotel rooms with most of the artists. And even then he stayed away from most of them, we had to force them to get together by creating a photo op with him surrounded my all the artist so he couldn't escape.  ;D  He finally started talking to them but it was pretty weird.

I had some pretty funny reactions from some of the people in attendance about my question. One person gave me a hug as a joke and said something like "we all love you here." Another guy came up to me and said "who the hell are you? I've never heard of you so why should he write about you?"  I tried to point out that I was talking about all of us on the west coast and not really about me. He said "well  I think your question was just rude, you should have asked him in private."

After the talk I gave Mark some of my CDs, thinking since he said he didn't know any of what was going on here that maybe he would like to listen to at least some of my little contribution to the scene. He got really defensive like I was trying to bribe him or something. It was really strange I didn't even ask him if he would review them or anything, I just wanted him to hear them.

Oh and if he's the newest fan of anyone, my guess would be Tim Story, he seemed to really like him the most from what I could tell and from I heard him say.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Julio Di Benedetto

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2013, 08:34:15 AM »
Seems to me if I were a electro ambient journalist/critic/fan with published writings and I was invited to another country to talk to a gathering of serious ambient fan and a handful of some of the best names in the genre hosted by probably the longest running radio show of electronic ambient music dare say it in the world,  I would do some home work.  I find it hard to believe Roach & Rich have not crossed the Atlantic with enough force to show up on this man's radar.  There was a history of american avant garde being openly excepted and support by cites in European countries.....Paris comes to mind.  Times may have changed over the years.   

ffcal

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2013, 09:31:29 AM »
Seems to me if I were a electro ambient journalist/critic/fan with published writings and I was invited to another country to talk to a gathering of serious ambient fan and a handful of some of the best names in the genre hosted by probably the longest running radio show of electronic ambient music dare say it in the world,  I would do some home work.  I find it hard to believe Roach & Rich have not crossed the Atlantic with enough force to show up on this man's radar.  There was a history of american avant garde being openly excepted and support by cites in European countries.....Paris comes to mind.  Times may have changed over the years.

My guess would be that Pendergrast wasn't exposed to ambient musicians from this hemisphere because it wasn't covered in academia.   Unlike, say DJ Spooky, this stuff comes without a lot of pretension and doesn't have a toehold in the NY downtown school.

Forrest
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 10:02:23 AM by ffcal »

Julio Di Benedetto

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2013, 05:55:04 PM »
Yes Forrest.....Academia; wonderfully specific, geographical  & focused but can sometimes miss the big picture......still just going by Loren's imagery, the man seems somewhat unfortunately removed and thus missed a great opportunity to broaden his ambient perspective, or note.

Now I'll go and watch the youtube interview......just love speculation.

LNerell

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2013, 12:11:50 AM »
From what I understand Mark is not an academic, although he kind of talks like one. I believe he is a writer originally from Ireland, and has mostly done music reviews for various newspapers and magazines over the years. As for why he says he didn't know anything about the music scene over here my guess is the real answer is something Forrest eluded to before, David Toop's huge influence in the music press over in the UK would be my guess. Maybe I give him more credit for something he doesn't deserve but Toop always seems to have had it in for us over in the states with the occasional slight in one of his books or a bad review of just about anything from this side of the pond ambient wise.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

drkappa

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Re: Mark Prendergast lecture at AMBIcon on History of Ambient Music
« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2013, 11:44:22 PM »
While not defending the glaring omissions and missing research, our kind of music is
hard to find in the UK.  There was no national radio broadcast or station playing
ambient, space, or electronic music.  I only learnt of Messrs Roach, Rich, Stearns...
when I came to work in the US in 1999 and a friend pointed me to Hearts of Space.
Internet radio has helped, but mostly if you already know the music exists.  There's no
equivalent of Hearts of Space.  I wish it could be syndicated to the BBC Radio or
Classic FM.  Yes John Peel did introduce we Brits  (me included) to Tangerine Dream,
but that was forty years ago.

Are there any good writers out there in ambientland who could write a more
comprehensive history of ambient or electronic music?
Malcolm Currie
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