Take A Trip Through The Ambient Music Garden And See What All The Fuss Is About.

I asked a friend the other day, “what is your favourite piece of ambient music?”

If I had known his reaction to this very simple question, I might just have not asked it. His reply was simply “Ambient Music…who listens to that rubbish, not me!”.
Well I just had to smile and put him right, so where shall I begin.

Ambient music is all around us these days, you do not have to own a single CD, but nevertheless you will still hear it. Why? Well it gets played on just about every media you can think of, Radio and TV, its there in the adverts and jingles happily playing away in the background. You can also find it in films, plays and kids TV as well. Walk into a clothes shop and its normally playing away from the ceiling speakers, easing the customer into a buying atmosphere. In fact its just everywhere, you only have to stop and listen to recognise it.

I did a quick Google of the phrase “Ambient Music” and I was amazed at the countless websites now selling it, Ambientmusicgarden, Amazon, Ambient Sounds, there is even a website for a Ambient Music Chart as well. So you see there is no real way one can say that I have never heard any Ambient Music, simply because it is all around us.

So this begs the question for newbies, “What is Ambient Music and where can I get it?” well here goes, this is as I understand it anyway.

Ambient music is a strange genre in which sound is more important than the music that is being played or they’re a bouts. As I have already said, Ambient music is used in many television programmes and movies and what’s more it is notable for contributing to the atmosphere of the program material, which we know is very important and integral to its dynamics. In this mode it is also known as soundscapes, where layers of ambient sounds are recorded together to produce the final sound.

The initial philosophy behind Ambient music was described as an open system of organising audio sounds, which when listened to, can stimulate a resonance in the listener, thereby inducing a trance-like state. Very similar to Relaxation Music and music used in Hypnotherapy and Meditation etc.

Ambient music is usually recorded in the form of instrumental music, any additional vocals are there as either an angelic accompaniment or taking a lead vocal as a song normally would be sung. There are many types of modern religious music which is classed as ambient music, and even Gregorian Chant can have the ambient label slapped on it and sold off to the public as the latest thing.

So used as background music, ambient music can also exist in its own right as a bona fida CD to sit down and listen to and to relax to, but hey is that then not called relaxation music?
Well in my opinion the two are intertwined, first I think its the composers description that labels it primarily, then secondly its the retailer who may pigeon hole it to be able to slot it into a category to sell. This of course makes it easier but can be a little confusing to the dear old consumer, maybe.

Ambient music’s popularity rose from the ashes of early electronic music, throwing away the vocals and drums, and leaving in place the atmospheric bits. The electronic genre became very big in the seventies with bands such as Tangerine Dream and notably Kraftwerk, who are still seen as the formidable inventors. Note that they are still going strong to this very day. However the Internet tells me that Brian Eno is generally credited with coining the term “ambient music” in the mid-1970s.

Ambient music later was reincarnated with the addition of natural sounds, like rain or a distant thunderstorm, and dare I say it, whale sounds. All are very popular and these churned out CD’s are to be found everywhere, note even I can tell which ones are mass produced and not. Later on they then decided to include the drums and bass again, relabelling it Chill-out music. You will find this genre very popular for commercial radio as unlike ambient, it sets a groove/pace that can be easily listened to either at work, or in the car for instance. The Ibiza Chillout series was the biggy for a period of time. Again a slight twist and it went on to become New Age Music, as well as Dark Ambient, which I believe is Ambient Music that can frighten you, nice.

So, what does Ambient Music do?

Well in short, you could say that it is intended to produce a calm atmosphere and a space to stop and think, again others may say its simply annoying. However in general it is the latter and its popularity in today’s manic society, proves why it is so popular, it lets us stop, relax and think. Its now become a very important part of our lives, to take a breather and believe me there is no better way to disappear into your favourite space, maybe take a good book as well or even a very nice set of headphones.

You will find words associated with the description of Ambient Music as spatial imagery, sonic soundscapes and spiritual journey. So Ambient Music also has its own vocabulary as well, to describe not only the sound it will produce, but a journey that a listener can be taken on if used for meditation for example.

The sound is simple, yet in some circumstances, very complicated because of the layering and the studio effects used. However one should let it flow through you without noticing this,
the idea being, again you relax and take in the sound and not the music, tempo or notes, you could say you are at one with the music. However, nevertheless in a lot of cases it is still something to be put on in the background whilst reading a book, which, why not? You bought the music because you liked it so why not use it your own way.

To end, Ambient Music is used by people for both background enhancement and foreground listening, sometimes with headphones to stimulate relaxation, but generally it is used to create peaceful moods and atmospheres, whatever the use.

If you want to explore Ambient Music further, again a quick search with Google for instance will help by bringing you the many websites that sell CD’s such as Ambientmusicgarden and Amazon for example.

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