Saturday, February 10, 2018

Now to Prod Us Toward the Past, Our Ruinous Nostalgias?

Ambient is a music of lived moments.

Ambient recognizes control must be forgone with respect to how the music is encountered (but not how it is composed).

Ambient is experientially discrete, but not musically so.

Ambient acknowledges the deceit that is the promise of repetition.

Ambient is never only music for escapism. It is a zone for participation in a pursuit of musical listenership that acknowledges sound’s potential values in broader spheres (the social, political, cultural etc). It is a freeing up, an opening out and a deepening, simultaneously.

Ambient pulses; it courses. Rhythm is a rare friend to this music.

Ambient is never only music. It is a confluence of sound, situation and listenership; moreover it’s an unspoken contract between the creator, listener and place, seeking to achieve a specific type of musical experience.

Ambient is about the primacy of listening (for audience and creator). The music and the spaces and places (interior and exterior) it occupies are critical to how it is appreciated, understood and consumed.

Ambient is transcendent but does not seek some higher plain. It is not new age music. Rather ambient music’s transcendence is within, and invites us deeper into the lived experience of the everyday.

Ambient is never a documentation of somewhere or sometime. Instead it creates an individuated, impressionistic and imagined place. It is realized in-between our internal and external selves.

Ambient is a music of perspectives. It is never fully knowable, in that the music seeps between perspectives (micro and macro) and dimensions of listening constantly. It maintains a sense of the eerie (as Mark Fisher noted).

Ambient is friend to noise, to volume, to physicality. It is however, an enemy of uncalculated dynamism.

Ambient is never finished. It is an experiential process of becoming – for listeners, for creators and more broadly as a musical philosophy.

Weldon Kees


  1. So long ago: in the 80s, I stumbled across Music From The Hearts Of Space, an hour-long syndicated radio program broadcast Sunday nights by two Bay Area radio staions -- all Ambient. Each station played a different episode so if you played it right you got two hours of it. Eno, of course, but a long list of other composers. Steve Roach is the one who took; not everything he's done hits the mark but the sheer creative pulse in Ambient can be a great imaginative doorway.

    1. HOS changed my ears as much as any one thing.

      It's still on, and the archives are wonderful:

  2. Replies
    1. I know of them - and I remember hearing them cover *Black Metallic* on Mary Wing's WFMU show x years ago, she was doing a set of them, a different song each week, it was her trademark - but no, I don't, it's not them I just only have two ears and one brain. If you think I should, where's best to start? I'm happy to try.

  3. Can't say I share English's puzzlement re. the ambient ethos that it should be as ignorable as it is interesting. The spectrum that does not dictate mode of attention would allow for the possibility of the music's being entirely unobtrusive. The first album after all was created out of a belief that the crap playing in the airport could not be avoided. At any rate, that sentence has influenced my thinking about what, for me, constitutes ambient music since the first moment I read it in the liner notes.

  4. The Cleveland Clinic plays ambient music in its labyrinthine corridors. I wonder what you would think if you were there for your eyes or your ticker.

    1. Ticker is stupid good according to heart doc who says if I'd had the heart of a mid 30s guy like I do now when I was in my mid-30s we'd never have met.

      My fucking eyes, however.

      Should I worry you know what music is played in the Cleveland Clinic?