The history of ambient music goes way back. We all have heard of Erik Satie before. But for me it started somewhere around the introduction of analog synthezisers in the world of popular music. In the seventies there had been Klaus Shulze traveling through analog seas. And Brian Eno made undisputabel masterpieces like 'Music For Airports'. The soundtrack for 'Koyaanisqatsi' from Philip Glass still is stocked in my cells as well. But it was only in the early ninetees when I first heard The Orb and a little bit later Biosphere and Pete Namlook that I knew what music I really wanted to make. So I switched my guitar for an atari ste 4mb and some boxes of audiohardware and midi-cables. In the last twenty years musicmaking was hugely influenced by technological evolution. At some point any soundcombination was possible by anyone and doubts started to arise about musical identity. At the same time making weird music was no longer about pushing bounderies but more about the existentialism of them. That's why, one morning I threw the next new 'Autechre'-album out of my carwindow after realising it was skipping in my player only after 10 minutes. At that time I started playing guitar again. But this doesn't mean there's no good electronic music made in the meantime. Now and then I hear fantastic things, only did I stop scanning the internet for the next buzz in ambient or experimental tune at bleep.com.
Ambient music has an extensive range of styles and approaches. There's realism of fieldrecordings, the classical approach (Max Richter p.e.), computing with C-sound, Pure Data etc... , soundsynthesis 'the oldskool way' with Moogs, Nordleads, etc..., or plain experimental nihilism...
There's drones and glitches, endles waves of reverberation, samples of sound plucked from the very air in between us or obscure movies, and people messing with instruments in any other way than thought in the average music-academy. People build structures and machines or hack existing electronics just to make a sound they have in mind.
Some people try to trigger emotions from outer space or under the sea and others just limit themselves to allmost scientific experiments in producing harmonics that accidentaly are defined as aesthetic by listeners with unlimited fantasy. All over the world there's people who choose to spend their time doing such things over anything else.
And I'm one of them...
At The Office
This piece features a colleague typing on a computer keyboard and a copier at the office where I work. It was recorded live using Sam Aaron's sonicpi software and mastered at home.
Things to listen to
It's hard to make a list because it will allways be incomplete but if you start there and hear those artists' backcatalogue and collaborations it might lead you to the now and here of ambient music.
There's an ambientmusicguide website where you can waste some time as well.
Things to read
Allthough it's not the type of book you'll find in the average pulp-store on the corner of the class-B shopping-lane, there has been written about ambient music. If you start off with the wire you will find out soon that there's a world going on underground. They have a books department in their eshop that offers much reading about all sorts of obscure or underground music.
Before you ask. Underground music is all music beyond mainstream cultrure. It's what the rats make because they don't want to become like the pigs in 'Animal Farm'. It's music you'll only hear when you look for it.