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  • Ambient Philosophies and Theories

    I think we could use a thread broadly discussing ambient theory that is not related to the actual production of music. That is, I'd be interested in the theoretical side of your mental "engagement" with ambient. While I enjoy the freedom I feel in producing ambient, I'm fascinated by some of its "theoretical" backgrounds, and possible philosophical questions created by ambient music. Just one example, Eno's liner notes seem to have been immensely influential...and I have to admit, I yet have to take a closer look. Or I could imagine talking Debussy, Satie, Varèse, etc and their influence on ambient. I just started reading David Toop's "Ocean of Sound. Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds" -I will report back when I have read a bit more. Anybody read it? Opinions? -phoenstorm Edit: Perhaps this is better moved to Ambient Chat - depends on our understanding of theory
    Last edited by phoenstorm; 12-10-2012, 09:48 AM.
    www.soundcloud.com/phoenstorm

  • #2
    I've read most of Toop's work, and while entertaining and interesting, I didn't find it all that revelatory - still absolutely worth reading though. I do think that Eno made some significant observations and was able to articulate something incredibly powerful in laying out the conceptual profile of "ambient music" nearly forty years ago - almost like he uncovered some great sonic axiom that was just lying there waiting to emerge.

    For my own ambient work, specific to the Phase47 material, there is a discrete intent to any given collection: focus, awareness, lift... there's a determined interaction with the sonic environment. Turn it up loud, and to the initiate (or the impatient), that pure electronic tone // drone may be quite static and sterile and possibly even irritating. But. Turn the volume down so that the music is hovering in the background, filling the shadows and corners of a room, or drifting through the light coming in through a window... and the world changes.

    The music // sound informs the space and vice versa. The person (listener) in the space responds, sometimes in a quite emotional way, from that interaction between sound and space. There can definitely be some kind of great sonic alchemy at play when sound and space align to create a "third" environment for the listener.
    Ascendant Bandcamp // SoundCloud // FaceBook // Twitter

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    • #3
      Brilliant topic Phoenstorm!!! Yes, we'll probably move the thread. But until then... For example, just this morning I was asked by a listener on SoundCloud if my "artworks" aka photography had any influence on the music itself. The answer was no, I always compose my images after the music is finished...but the question itself begs to discuss what types of images have influenced the music or better yet, where DID the music come from?

      I find myself turning to science for a correlation with my music now more than I ever have in my entire life. I find myself connecting with theories of biology, molecular biology, astronomy, and physics to the music...the parallels between science and art are outstanding and I think the more we as human beings evolve the more we will begin to discover how related they are to each other.
      Synphaera Records
      Space | Time | Matter

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      • #4
        Originally posted by S1gnsOfL1fe View Post
        but the question itself begs to discuss what types of images have influenced the music or better yet, where DID the music come from?
        Great topic, re: visual inspiration. For Transponder material, we almost always start with a "look-book" that ties together conceptually the vibe and atmosphere we're going for. Then I use that simply as a jumping off point to get to the emotional core of trying to capture a certain mood, or time and place or, most often, a feeling. Then the transduction occurs and (hopefully) all of that makes its way into the music.

        For Phase47, there is nothing like this at all, where (as described above) the intent and act of composing is on a different level entirely where the notion of physical space is involved, though certainly there are inspirations there of a visual nature, but they're all imaginary.
        Ascendant Bandcamp // SoundCloud // FaceBook // Twitter

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        • #5
          I started buying up Eno albums and Harold Budd albums and pretty much everything I could find from Editions EG, back in the day, when I read an article on Eno in Electronic Musician. This was probably 1985 time frame.

          His ambient series were always very visually evocative for me.

          As for duplicating his vibe from some of those works, I find that if I use this signal chain:

          Filter with automatable cutoff and resonance --> tape delay plugin with automatable parms -->ariesverb, I can knock off the visually evocative stuff with guitars and other noise makers going into the signal chain. At least I enjoy listening to it!

          Here in CO, we have more cloudless than clouded nights. I see the constellation Orion often and while I'm not into astronomy that much, it is a bit of a comfort to look to see if Orion is standing, laying down, etc. I probably could figure it out just based on a star chart, but many nights I simply just check before heading in to go sleep. A few years ago, upon seeing that he was 'laying down', I went in and recorded this mainly bass-guitar solo ambient piece, "Rest Ye, Orion". https://soundcloud.com/rockstar_not/...-rest-ye-orion

          I did use my main 'crutch' that of putting guitar through a filter, then delay then a dreamy reverb.

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          • #6
            The question I wrestle with is what can be included within ambient and still call it ambient For example are funk bass or glitch guitars part of a good ambient soundscape, or is it just ambient in service to something else. I know that ultimately it is in the ear of the beholder, but I am curious as to what people think the boundaries of ambient are.

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            • #7
              I'll try and come up with some more thoughts soon, have been pretty busy these last few weeks, unfortunately not making music As for the boundaries of ambient music, the first problem really seems to be that Ambient is a pretty "soft" concept to begin with, that is a pretty large category. But once I let go of a need to classify, I like to think it's handy that atmosphere and space are such central concepts...ambientland is big, once in a while you cross borders and at first I don't realize it...That grey area where it's not clear what is in service of what exactly - but things still clinging together -...that's an exciting place to me. Hm I haven't thought this out, but - would you agree that ambient, in contrast to other genres maybe, is often defined ex negativo...say as in NO(t too much) drums/perc, NO(t too much) melody, NO(t too much) dynamics and so on....?
              www.soundcloud.com/phoenstorm

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              • #8
                i try to come w/ something well thought out and meaningful but i never actually intended to b an ambient artist. i take alot of influence from metal and stoner rock which led me to boris' absolutego which is just amazing to me still years later and of course anything from earth and sunno))) and then on to many of the drone/experimental artists in whatever genre that is.i actually tried to attempt this in a drummer less capacity- just me and my guitar but lack the studio knowledge needed to do these influences justice and basically got into ambient goofin off w/ my lil studio software and boss gt-3 tryin to make something i could trip out to and just throw my headfones on and drift away.when i found soundcloud i discovered a ton of other ambient artists and now i spend way to much time w/ my headfones on and driftin away from real artists (many of u actually). i basically just luv listenin to music all the time and this genre just fills a hole for experiment...
                https://soundcloud.com/sleep-data

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                • #9
                  I have tended to interchange ambient with experimental. I call most of what I do ambient, because although it probably is closer to experimental, I am not really testing any theory, or developing some system, but just seeing what happens when I press this button or turn that knob. The result is usually something ambient, but not always.

                  Perhaps I should create a new genre: Noodling.
                  Last edited by aoVI; 01-04-2013, 09:04 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ontol View Post
                    Perhaps I should create a new genre: Noodling.
                    That would be Jazz-Rock ;)
                    Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                    • #11
                      Rouse the beast
                      Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                      • #12
                        Is "The Girl From Ipanema" ambient music?

                        You know what I'm talking about

                        Ultimately, is the definition/categorisation of a track the responsibility/duty of the author or the prerogative of the listener?
                        Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                        • #13
                          Ok...here we go. :listening:

                          Another question of course behind all this is: what IS a genre? What is its function? Etc. As to your question. Personally, I would say Girl from Ipanema is not Ambient music. Whatever the exact definition of ambient, to me it involves a high degree of technological involvement and certain techniques, it is a form of electronic music. Girl from Ipanema is a thankful example because it is not. Obviously there are many organic ambient artists, etc. and that creates massive problems for that sort of definition.

                          There is no duty or responsibility on the musician's side to label his music. If she or he does, certain conventions of public discourse may apply. Promoting a grindcore album as the next big thing after Justin Bieber (to go to extremes) speaks to my sense of humor, but may create a (much-desired) negative reaction from the public - clearly, genre is also there to structure listeners expectations, etc. An artist who never goes beyond these expectations, on the other hand, will begin to bore me. Once the track is released, however, I believe the artist is out of the picture, effectively losing control over his creation. A lot of pop music is "used" by listeners the way Ambient was defined by the pioneers in the field. I remember a few critics had it out for the early Nora Jones stuff - no edges whatsoever...creates a mood, recedes into the background, becomes inobtrusive, invites this "utilitaristic" listening. - Now if Nora had intended otherwise, there's not a lot she could have done to prevent this abuse of her music. Then, I believe she didn't really mind

                          Was that a start? Hard to discuss these things without sounding pompous...
                          So besides noodling, there's easy listening to reckon with. Oh and what about "elevator music"?
                          www.soundcloud.com/phoenstorm

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                          • #14
                            Good start, phoenstorm :highfive:

                            I just threw that out there hoping to get a reaction, but you saw through my heavy-handed attempt at trolling

                            I first saw the Blues Brothers in 1980, I think. That elevator scene stuck with me since then as a great example of the use of cliche in modern cinema. Although "Ipanema" is not the type of music I normally listen to, I think the song is extremely well written and I love the melodies.

                            So, it (or works similar to it) weren't conceived as ambient music, but they later became ambient (or elevator/foyer/restaurant/boutique muzak). I guess this is saying more about choices made by the listener (who in this case may be the marketing department of a multi-national corporation).

                            I agree that a musician should be under no pressure to categorise his music, and, as you say, once that music becomes visible (audible) to the listening public, it will be out of the artist's control anyway.
                            Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by seismic1 View Post
                              I agree that a musician should be under no pressure to categorise his music, and, as you say, once that music becomes visible (audible) to the listening public, it will be out of the artist's control anyway.
                              +1 in every sense. I am quite aware of this now...and it gets more important to remember it the more people listen to your music. During the creation if you don't let a track form on it's own it could suck the life out of it before it even reaches the ears of your intended audience. Gotta be careful of those labels...they turn into expectations on both ends!!!

                              Thanks for reminding me Tim. :tu:
                              Synphaera Records
                              Space | Time | Matter

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