mvuent

Void Dweller
about half of all the electronic music made during the last 50 years was ambient. obviously i made that up but the point is that if you take ambient not in the brian eno sense, but as a catchall label for the billions of hours of harmonious floaty synth music people have recorded from the 70s to now, you have an entire planet on your hands.

yet compared to dance music aren't there considerably fewer subgenres, considerably fewer formal distinctions debated? it's as though there's a prevailing assumption that, even though it's been a thing for arguably longer than electronic beats, ambient is all kind of the same. it's never meaningfully evolved and never will. but i don't think this assumption can be right. so why not fly lower into the planet's atmosphere and survey the terrain, just to check.

admittedly, this might be my problem. maybe there's already more than adequate documentation of this music and i'm just searching for a kind of appraisal that other people aren't interested in. a formalist (and gear-conscious) history insensitive to cultural distinctions. a map informed more by close listening and phenomenology than interviews and oral histories. ambient from the perspective of its audio animation.

to give an idea of what a formalist mapping approach could mean, here are a few parameters one might organize what they're hearing by:

arpeggiated, MIDI grid movement <------> free movement

rigid sounds <------> malleable sounds

frozen <------> hyperkinetic

discrete chord structures <------> blended textural harmony

my interest in revealing the ambient map stems from the feeling that most of it is boring to the point of offense and some of it is amazing. i want to be able to better sort the wheat from the chaff. as some of you know, i think electronic music should not sound like "music" but rather a sci fi environment come to life. that's basically what i mean by audio animation. with ambient, there's the added hope that this environment will be, to use afx's favorite word in the 90s, lush. a cozy and magical "super docile" headspace.

you don't need to share my taste to post in this thread. the stipulations above are just suggestions. it'll just be a space to close listen to specific releases with an eye on the big picture.
 

mvuent

Void Dweller
on ambient history

thought this was an excellent overview:
if the key term here is 'groundbreaking', then the technology that was used to create a lot of this music has to be investigated too.

the technology hit the market around the same time as the late 60's youth movement. stockhausen had been on the scene for fifteen years, loudly showing kids how to make music with science lab gear. when the young musicians grew up and hit the scene in the late 60's at the precise moment the gear started showing up, the germans were ready to make music with them.

the 80's did show kind of a dry patch for synth music; FM digital synths weren't as intuitive or spontaneously programmable, most users never got beyond the presets. none of the old analog pioneers really figured out what to do the new machines either, many of them stopped. weirdness returns with analog modelling synths & affordable home studios in the 90's.

the 80's did bring sampling. Hiller was one of the few people adopting samplers to the german aesthetic, I like his records a lot and think people could wake up to them in a big way at some point, though they're not all stunning and the one that received the widest distribution at the time ('as is') probably isn't the best.

or as william kent even more succinctly put it:
the switch from analogue to FM synthesis resulted in the Berlin School churning out some right shite from 1980 onwards

interestingly milton parker ends just where things start to get really good, in my opinion...
 

mvuent

Void Dweller
one of my favorite formalist myths is that of music being more or less "advanced" at different points. so if we play that game, what's the most "advanced" ambient music ever made? when was it made?
 

william_kent

Well-known member
maybe not the most "advanced" ever, but for it's time ( 1956 ) the Forbidden Planet soundtrack was groundbreaking - the first electronic score for a film, based on custom electronic circuits ( some which self destructed ) and grounded in "cybernetic" theory

1668413030908.png

Louis and Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet

We design and construct electronic circuits which function electronically in a manner remarkably similar to the way that lower life-forms function psychologically. There is a comprehensive mathematical science explaining it, called "Cybernetics", which is concerned with the Control and Communication in the Animal and Machines. It was first propounded by Prof. Norbert Wiener of M.I.T. who found that there are certain natural laws of behavior applicable alike to animals (including humans) and electronic machines. In scoring FORBIDDEN PLANET - as in all our work - we created individual cybernetics circuits for particular themes and leit motifs, rather than using standard sound generators. Actually, each circuit has a characteristic activity pattern as well as a "voice".
Most remarkable is that the sounds which emanate from those electronic nervous systems seem to convey strong emotional meaning to listeners. We were delighted to hear people tell us that the tonalities in FORBIDDEN PLANET remind them of what their dreams sound like. There were no synthesizers or traditions of electronic music when we scored this film, and therefore we were free to explore "terra incognito" with all its surprises and adventures.
 

woops

is not like other people
there's a synth technique invented for that soundtrack known as the krell patch invented for the krell aliens language or soundtrack.

in technical terms it varies note length and timbre in a sequence as well as pitch, it's an early example of so-called "generative" music.

its a bit like learning to play stair way to heaven if you're into modular synth, one of those difficult show off things your "supposed" to be able to do

nothing to do with the thread though sorry @mvuent

 

WashYourHands

Cat Malogen
boring to the point of offence but transcendental too, maximal minimalism best played twice


unfolding, emergent, sweeping vistas and the title makes me think of curtains wafting while tripping
 

WashYourHands

Cat Malogen
Fujita and Jelinek - bubbling, escalating, soothing, chime runs and decompression fissures venting upwards like released cranial pressure. There’s a fizzing element too that’s extraordinarily subtle and hard to articulate in conventional terminology

 

WashYourHands

Cat Malogen
From the same pair, more dense buzzing offset by glockenspiel type percussive drones and an analog chromatic veneer cutting in and through harmonics. Tremendous

 

WashYourHands

Cat Malogen
leading to release - piano harmonics, reverb rippling and echoing, slightly more upfront (and obvious) but undeniably potent

 

william_kent

Well-known member
BBC Radiophonic Workshop tried their hands at various sci-fi & space environment sounds

these two examples are from the soundtrack to Blake's Seven ( a low budget 80s TV series about escapees from a penal planet )


Elizabeth Parker - Space Bells of Ceremonial Room


Elizabeth Parker - Dawn of Emptyness

I imagine space to be cold, and these capture that feeling
 

WashYourHands

Cat Malogen
Mirror are as if a sheen descends in some pieces. Situated at an intersection of British productions. Dribble attack could waffle on, solo Andrew Chalk too. You could/should include Colin Potter’s influence, worked with a huge range of different people with diverse flourishing touches






There’s a lot packed into such discographies so to condense it’s the play of presence/absence, pushing beyond attentive listening into ineffability. Yes, drugs have been involved in such listening rites, not the central tenet of experiencing by any means though - transformative art effects change in different states of mind regardless of drugs

Chalk is excellent bike riding and listening as an example, gliding at a decent speed becomes transformative. Walking too. If I have to get a shake on, focus, get around and burn calories with it, even driving, bpm’s aren’t needed. From my ltd theory ears these releases contain arpeggiated, MIDI grid movement <------> free movement, rigid sounds <------> malleable sounds, frozen <------> hyperkinetic, discrete chord structures <------> blended textural harmony, Zoviet France jizz stains
 

william_kent

Well-known member

Eliane Radigue - Adnos I - III

for years I was searching for the perfect drone, and then I found it in the work of Eliane Radigue - a genius ahead of her time

this wasn't released until 2002, but was recorded between 1974 and 1982, on an ARP 2500

Eliane has this to say about Adnos I:

Listening alone is required, like an absent and twofold gaze turned towards a suggested outer image yet whose reflection echoes the inner world
 
Last edited:

woops

is not like other people
Mirror are as if a sheen descends in some pieces. Situated at an intersection of British productions. Dribble attack could waffle on, solo Andrew Chalk too. You could/should include Colin Potter’s influence, worked with a huge range of different people with diverse flourishing touches






There’s a lot packed into such discographies so to condense it’s the play of presence/absence, pushing beyond attentive listening into ineffability. Yes, drugs have been involved in such listening rites, not the central tenet of experiencing by any means though - transformative art effects change in different states of mind regardless of drugs

Chalk is excellent bike riding and listening as an example, gliding at a decent speed becomes transformative. Walking too. If I have to get a shake on, focus, get around and burn calories with it, even driving, bpm’s aren’t needed. From my ltd theory ears these releases contain arpeggiated, MIDI grid movement <------> free movement, rigid sounds <------> malleable sounds, frozen <------> hyperkinetic, discrete chord structures <------> blended textural harmony, Zoviet France jizz stains
Soviet france were unbearably boring at the Barbican a few weeks ago but i wasnt cycling i was sat in a theatre seat
 

blissblogger

Well-known member
yet compared to dance music aren't there considerably fewer subgenres, considerably fewer formal distinctions debated? it's as though there's a prevailing assumption that, even though it's been a thing for arguably longer than electronic beats, ambient is all kind of the same. it's never meaningfully evolved and never will. but i don't think this assumption can be right. so why not fly lower into the planet's atmosphere and survey the terrain, just to check.

Droid has loads of terms for subdivisions of ambient - including "manbient" for noisy imposing unsettling ambience

I think in a certain sense it hasn't evolved to the extent that dance-oriented electronic music has - perhaps because there aren't that many ways of physically expressing stillness as there are ways of responding to music kinesthetically?
 

droid

Well-known member
Yeah, I was gonna say, 'ambient' has a shit ton of formalised sub-genre distinctions depending how you define the term. Everything from the multiple strains of avant garde minimalism through kosmische, 70s's synth, tape loops, new composition, field recording, isolationism, modular synth, japanese environmental and several varieties of new age to name just a handful - and many of these have multiple sub genres of their own.
 
Last edited:
Top