Author Topic: An article on Ambient Music  (Read 445 times)

SourceCodeX

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An article on Ambient Music
« on: May 24, 2020, 04:40:31 PM »
Ambient Space: An InnerView
By John W. Patterson

Take a breather. Kick off your shoes. Set down the backpack and gaze now across dusk-hazed valleys of the past. Reflect, breathe out fatigue and adjust your soul's perspective. Listen.

In this silence is ambience. Beyond those sunset-dappled ridges is infinite space. Between those respiratory rustlings of breathing and the invisible churnings of mountain thermals lifting the soaring hawk, is ambience. Within each moment's malleable measure is space, ambient space.

Sense and sensations, time and timelessness, conscious thought and unseen filtering grids of perceptive experience all flow together. They are fused, in a matrix, stored, altered, processed, and recycled. Layered, looped, lilting, and sometimes "lost" our life experiences are a miasma, a mosaic that we define as being alive -- being aware. We each attempt to modify our personal ambient space in a multitude of ways for diverse purposes. It may be for comfort, relaxation, and excitement, for pleasure, for inspiration, healing or even walking "the valley of the shadow of death".

So we buy yet another CD, yet another piece of music. Will this be the one? We each know that no single piece of music will ultimately satisfy our cravings for what music can provide for our preferred ambient space. That "head-room" we seek to fill is infinite and constantly changing. For years it was pop rock for many, then maybe you found jazz or jazz fusion. Perhaps you immersed yourself in classical music, art rock, or reggae. Whatever worked to satisfy, to give that certain rush of brain chemistry, you would listen to -- you were your own expert on yourself. Whether you were a musician doing it or an avid fan you made your ambient space as you wished.

But how often did you buy a piece of "music" or a sonic experiment that confused you because it was so amorphous? Maybe it lacked rhythm, had endlessly droning tones, or was arranged in patterns of sound that lacked predictable norms. If you are like most people, this at first is a bit unsettling. Such creations require a certain psyche -- an openness to "let go".

Beyond jazz, apart from rock, in a whole separate genre to itself is a "music" or an aural experience called Ambient Space. It may incorporate noise or near-silence. It may approach musicality with sparse rhythms and vagaries of melody. This is a music that induces imagery and feeling, alters mood and thought, and somehow generates a sense of expanded personal "presence" and opens inner spaces beyond their typical horizons. Ambient Space music may be airy and light, simple and pristine or it can be dense, heavy, and dark. Ambience as an art form has its history and heroes. Allow me to take a look now across the "valley of the past".

I digress into a "possible" pre-history of ambient music. Sometime in our extended pasts, we well-brained hominids found certain sounds pleasing  -- they spoke to us. Environmental, organic sounds communicated feelings. Sounds soon became tools. We imitated and augmented nature's song. We hummed and shouted, sang and danced -- we discovered ways to evoke sound from silent objects. We answered the Creation. Heightened awareness of ambient sound generated a semi-structured music. Patterns, tones, textures, rhythms and sonorities became associated into a schemata of "song". In ritual, ceremony, revelry, battle, and to pass the time we used sound as a tool to modify ambient space. Sound was power. Sound opened inner realms, groomed our consciousness, changing us forever.

And after so many millennia various artists have sensed that need to listen to the original spaces between "song" again, to return to hearing what Man first listened to before song. How does one do this? How do we re-create primeval ambience and reproduce that pre-music sense? This is the challenge of creating quality and power-laden ambient space "visual musick".

I sit here writing this article, immersed in the ambient spacescapes of Brian Eno. The current "mood" I have chosen is Eno's The Shutov Assembly, set on endless loop. Eno is considered by most to be the one of the first pioneers, the "forefather", and knee-jerk name associated with ambient music. His '70's ambient releases, his Music for Films volumes, the tribute to the Apollo space missions, and other releases are some of the finest ways to begin adjusting your head for ambient works. Be it Wendy Carlos' Sonic Seasonings, Klaus Shulze's non-sequenced, synth fugues and expansive organ drones or Harold Budd's minimalist keys, each nudged opened the way for Ambient Space to return.

Tape loops, processed "found sounds", organic nature samplings, synthesized voice, electronic winds and waves all made their way to vinyl and were cast upon the whims of record labels' marketing stratagems. Ambience made its ripple in a select group minds. Most fans of electronic eclectica wanted trippy complexity, layer upon layer of tracks, more structures, intricate sounds, hurried flurries of notes beyond human capacities, positive feedbacks, and overdriven mayhem. Minimalism was too easy, placidly boring, and if used as a "space-out" break, most groups kept it at a minimum. Tangerine Dream used this effect early in their career but cut back on such "wide open drifting moments" almost completely. The masses wanted more "song" and less "scape".

In the '80's the New Age music explosion allowed a renewed platform for artists seeking Ambient Space creations. Out of this explorative and introspectively experimental decade survived and thrived a certain group of artists that had finally carved a deep niche, etched new petroglyphs on the stone of pre-music and best of all -- their music was selling. It was gaining a foothold. Some of these ambient artists leaned towards inner space works, others effectively evoked a sense of outer space. That sense of seeing alternate dimensions, entering timeless voids, and a journey into the Meta-world was strong in these releases. Standing now as the '80's and '90's pioneers of Ambient Space "music" or pre-musicks we have Steve Roach, Jonn Serrie, David Parsons, Michael Stearns, Robert Rich and others. The late '‘90s has been very good for a re-birth of great Ambient Space releases. New labels and artists are coming on the scene each month it seems. Vir Unis, Vidna Obmana, James Johnson, Stephen Philips, Richard Bone, Darshan, Ashera, Richard Tyler, Robert Carty, Zero Ohms, and many, many more are all giving the world some truly fine ambient works.

Synthesizers, samples, loops, voices, midi, and an ever-evolving computer tweaking of sound is allowing some of the most fascinating listening experiences I have ever heard. Some composers have even found ways to sample visual data, digitize it, and turn it into sound -- ambient signatures that echo visual information. You have to hear it to see it.

What excites me so, is that these artists are on a pilgrimage to find, unlock, and stimulate deep areas in the human psyche. In doing such, they are explorers wandering across uncharted lands. Each shares what is discovered along the way with the listener. We then are allowed to retrace their treks into Ambient Space.

We can never replace the truest effect of "being there" -- in the desert vast, sinking 'neath ocean depths, standing on frost-covered hillsides or entranced enroute to walk the red-oxide terrain of Mars. We each should seek out such realities if at all possible. Yet in between such finer moments of reality, between songs, whether at home, at work, or on the road, with Ambient Space "music" the luxury of "inner travels" is available. Doors are opened. It is as simple as pushing a button or inserting a compact disc. This is music that not only gets inside you but you can also walk, fly, soar, or drift inside this music-space.

I end with saying this, Ambient Space is not an art form for people in a hurry nor is it music for the narrow-perspective'd, the nonvisually-oriented, and unimaginative listener. Ambient Space music can both be an ignored listening experience or you can fully immerse yourself in its power. Some will claim it heals, relaxes, transfixes or alters the psyche. Well it shifts this author and music reviewer's mood and inspires creativity. Best of all it allows me to enter a space all my own -- an Ambient Space beyond the music and back to the Source.