Ambient / Space music....long tracks or short.

Started by Julio Di Benedetto, June 23, 2016, 04:09:16 PM

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Julio Di Benedetto

personally I have always enjoyed long tracks that develop over time, how much time is a matter of preference.  A cd will give more or less 72 minutes of time to use.....downloads presumably infinite.

recently a good deal of my listening has been rather short track a way snapshots, not fully developed or refined but more here it is now....this is not a criticism or a slight on musical quality and production, on the contrary it is all superb. perhaps when I say not fully developed Im referencing myself who enjoys taking the music I make and really working it outwards to see how far I can go.  early eno ambient for discussion sake has always been on the short

an album of snapshots can make up a unique whole...a deep immersion of limited change is another experience and maybe monotonus to some.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

perhaps this has more to do with our changing listening patterns and attention span as we (the world) is bombarded from without in our everyday life.

your thoughts are most welcome.
"Life is one big road, with lots of signs, so when you ride to the Roots, do not complicate your mind, ... "  Bob Marley


Yes, it is an interesting topic.

Personally, I don't see anything being set in stone for duration, listeners may prefer a longer piece if they want to fall asleep to it or use it for meditation / ritual use etc. As an example, 'Drone ambient' tends to be long-form. I've done both shorter and longer 'formats', it's whatever seems appropriate for a particular track, in my view.


Good music is good music - whether short or long.

I do like long tracks that I can drift off with and into - but I enjoy listening to short tracks as well.

There is a pressure of time with everything that needs to be done so I don't get to listen to whole albums as much as I'd like to.

judd stephens

I think a lot of it depends on what the artist is wanting to express, also on the type of artist, or the subgenre.

Shorten Mathias Grassow's drone works down to under 5 minutes and they probably would lose the power of the gradual build up and enveloping of your mind/ earspace.  Same goes with some of the sequencer pieces from Tangerine Dream or Steve Roach- they would lose the effect if shortened up to the extreme.

On the other hand, there are some beautiful short pieces as well as albums composed of unforgettable trakcs that are mostly under the 10 minute mark.  Brian Eno's On Land, Budd and Eno's The Pearl, and endless other examples where had the one track extended indefinitely, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to paint a "grander picture", given fewer elements to express.

I have more to say on this, but alas, time is not on my side at the moment... ;)

judd stephens

take these 2 "shorter" tracks for example, both with Bruno Sanfilippo.  These are probably my 2 of my favorite from the artist...

these two represent a good example of what stargazer was referring to as "sparks".  They express something beautifully, succinctly, and there really isn't much need or sense in them going on for much longer.  I guess the track "Pulsum Sancrum"  (second video posted) could be extended or looped a lot longer, but it's not necessary.  These 2 tracks' power is in the brevity, and the fact that the "hook" if you will, is found early and extended often... and that's all you need for a perfect short burst of ambient genius  :)

But when I think of Alio Die for example, generally his work tends to be a slow burn.  Like Grassow and others, its power is the length of time and the effect it has on the listener.  You don't discover the real genius in those works without that longer time span, IMO.


I like listening to both long and short ambient pieces.  But for longer pieces, I want them to morph over time.  Otherwise, they might work better as short pieces.  I find that shorter pieces work better as a part of larger group of pieces that have a variety of textures, like Eno's Music For Films.


Julio Di Benedetto

Great perspectives from everyone.....good in depth thoughts Judd.

A lot may have to do more with states of mind than actual track length.  It is how it works for me I feel.  An example of  this would be this piece of music from William Basinski.  At times I can leaving it play all day and also times that I turn it off because its just annoying and nothing seems to change as my attention needs to latch on to more solid sonic shapes and changing form.

Of course ambient / space music is there to assistant in resolving stressed states of mind much like meditation which is what happens when I am listening to the long form pieces of music.  I am meditating.  I cant say the same for shorter pieces and perhaps thats the point....the form suites the purpose. 

Could it be that short tracks are more ambient pop....And Im not saying this negatively just that the form is more.... intro - verse - chorus - verse - bridge etc.

I once tried to compose pieces of music that had to be no more than a minute in length.....interesting challenge but it did not work.

"Life is one big road, with lots of signs, so when you ride to the Roots, do not complicate your mind, ... "  Bob Marley


I also produced an album consisting of 22 short tracks (each being 2-3 minutes) called Macro.
It was a fun project that allowed for a lot of experimentation.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye