What is ambient music ?

Bookmark and Share

what is ambient musicWhat is ambient music ? A friend of mind asked me this question the other day and it struck me as odd that I couldn't find a definition that I found satisfactory for my own mind. In other words, I wasn't happy because I found myself saying "it's this ...but it's also this...it's not this nor this but then again it could be if ... ". So I've decided to open this question up to all psyamb listeners ... what is your own definition of ambient music ?

Is it , as one of the most recognized of ambient artists Brian Eno said, music that can be either "actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener", and that exists on the "cusp between melody and texture" ? I kind of like this definition myself. That line "cusp between melody and texture" evokes an ambient music feel.

With so many sub-genres of ambient music these days including dark ambient, illbient, ambient techno, ambient house, isolational, nature ambient and organic soundscapes is it even possible to come up with an overall answer for what is ambient music ? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think.

Posted on 10.10.11 by PsyAmb TAG : | 9 Comments ( ADD NEW COMMENT )


thatnoone said... @ 10 October, 2011

i am dumbfounded as you are, sorry.
good post though, i have to think really deep.

thatnoone said... @ 10 October, 2011

i have no answer as well. spiritual music?

Anonymous said... @ 11 October, 2011

Many ambient music cannot be described as "spiritual" at all.

It's impossible to create a description that will include every ambient subgenre as well, but the term "ambient" means fitting with the surroundings. From a musical perspective, ambient implies that it is slow and minimalistic, with as much attention to the atmosphere as possible. The different subgenres will define the feel of the atmosphere. Dark ambient focuses on a sinister atmosphere, and ambient dubstep or trance will focus more on the minimalist dubstep/trance music, with a very calming atmosphere.

Cultcinema.net said... @ 12 October, 2011

I was just gonna type: Atmospheric =)

AlexB said... @ 23 October, 2011

Good question ! I would go with the whole Brian Eno thing too. He invented ambient music right ?

Sam Venus said... @ 23 October, 2011

For me it's no beats. Maybe it's just me but as soon as I hear beats I think that it's not ambient anymore.

Schizovision said... @ 12 December, 2011

As far as I am aware..

The term "ambient" comes from the specific atmosphere of a given environment. Typical for the ambient genre is the lack of any hard rythmic samples, vocals, acoustic instruments - ie. guitar (yes, don't get confused between "new age" and "ambient"). Ambient music also focuses (again, in most cases) on bringing a specific environment to the listener (ie. dungeon, space, astral plane) by playing electronically generated tones that have increased attack and delay (digg through "music production" on Wikipedia for reference), so that they slowly shift into each other. A good example for the extreme of that is the style "Drone Ambient". An important point to be made here is that, while samples are being electronically generated, they can often be recorded sounds from a specific environment. For example the sound of industrial machinery.

Make a loop of 5 tones with very high attack and delay, play the recorded industrial sounds from time to time with high reverb and perhaps increased attack and there you have it - dreamy, yet harsh and industrial ambience.

There is plenty more to cover, however I believe this is sufficient for someone, who has not listened to ambient, to grasp the idea behind.


Schizovision said... @ 12 December, 2011

Hey, by the way - in my previous comment I was referring to "attack and sustain", not "attack and delay", please excuse me :)

Anonymous said... @ 04 May, 2013

I've been listening to ambient music now for a few weeks every night while I'm sleeping, I've noticed that since I've been listening to it I have been have these strange dreams but they feel so real. Could this be because of the type of music I'm listening to?

Post a Comment