Ambient Music is a very calm, atmospheric type of music that often contains no perceptible beat.
It arose at the time of the New Wave movement that was influenced by meditation practices from India.
It makes use of sound textures to create an environment of sound often involving a subtle mood, and can be found in so-called ‘chill-out rooms’ in some clubs.
It should be able to be enjoyed if you want to listen, or ignored if you do not.
Music to Float in
The goals of Ambient Music are to create an atmosphere that blends with the natural surrounding environment, creating a calm space.
Brian Eno, one of the pioneers of Ambient Music, described it as:
“music to swim in, to float in, to get lost inside”
Ambient Music developed in the 1970s as synthesisers became available. These instruments allowed composers to experiment with long and slowly shifting sound textures.
This is an ambient style piece, 'Pjanistic' (pronounced: pianistic) by Thierry Gauthier.
What Does This Music Involve?
Ambient Music usually focuses on timbre/sound quality rather than rhythms or gestures.
It is usually minimal, designed not to draw attention to itself.
Often it seeks to completely enfold the listener and explore a sense of space.
Common manipulation techniques in Ambient Music might be:
DelayA process in which an input signal is looped and repeated.Delay – can be used to duplicate sounds and create loops (asymmetric or irregular delays might be especially interesting).
PanningThe placement of sounds left and right between a stereo pair of speakers.Panning – can be used to spread sounds across the space, between left and right, enveloping the listener.
ReverbThe multiple short reflections of sound that give humans an immediate impression of space. Reverb effects can be used to impart a sense of space onto recorded or generated sounds.Reverb – can be used to provide a sense of sounds in space, and to place sounds further away (more reverb).
Time-StretchingA manipulation in which the Duration of a sound is altered. Time stretching can be used to make sounds longer or shorter.Time-stretching – can be used to extend sounds and create interesting textures, which could then be layered, panned and have delay or reverb applied to them.
Cox, C. and Warner, D. (2004) Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Continuum: New York.