May 25, 2022

How to Listen to Ambient Music

Many years ago, I had a college pal who changed into an evangelizing devotee of the summary painter Marc Rothko. I take into account her gushing over a catalog of Rothko’s paintings, even as I turned into wondering that I have to be aesthetically challenged; I simply didn’t “get” it. After all, maximum of the paintings had been nothing however massive rectangles of coloration, with mild irregularities and a contrasting border or stripe. All of the acquainted reference points of line and shape, attitude and shadow, have been long past. I ought to appreciate them as “design,” but now not as “art.” While they were pleasing sufficient, I couldn’t see why each person would rhapsodize over those abstractions… Till I first noticed them for myself in person–a completely specific enjoy! When I encountered them at the Museum of Modern Art, they literally stopped me in my tracks, subverting aware idea and plunging me without delay into an altered country. They have been now not just flat canvases on a wall, but appeared more like residing things, pulsing and throbbing in resonance to a wavelength that had a fundamental connection to the Source of things. I became stunned. They did not “explicit” a sense–they had been more like feelings themselves, and that they seemed like nothing personal to me, or Rothko, or all and sundry. When I later looked at the reproductions Rothko’s works in books, they reverted to flat swatches of shade. There changed into a recollection, but no undertaking of my enjoy. This become an revel in that depended on the presence of the authentic artifact (art: a reality).

A Tune is Not a Tone

I spent my early musical life operating ordinarily with track that used-like representational art–some set of familiar musical conventions to create its impact. There are many vocabularies of melody, counterpoint, rhythm, concord, and shape that vicinity tune in a context of form that makes it comprehensible to listeners. “Comprehensible” isn’t exactly what I mean–it suggests that track communicates only intellectual thoughts, while SINGLE COVER DESIGN in fact, it conveys and expresses a whole range of thoughts, emotions, sensations and institutions. But there’s an element of “intelligibility” to standard styles of song that depends on a shared formal vocabulary of expression. There are familiar elements that listeners use to anchor their real-time revel in of a composition, formal or sonic elements which can be borrowed from different pieces created and listened to within the beyond. When I locate myself buzzing a song from a Beethoven symphony, or invoking one of its feature rhythms (dit-dit-dit-DAH), I reduce a complicated sonic tapestry to an abstraction, a shorthand that is without difficulty recognizable to others acquainted with the tune. I can be able to share a musical concept with other musicians the usage of the abstraction of notation. But a “music” isn’t always a “tone,” and a “observe” isn’t a “sound.” It is an concept, even a effective concept, but when I locate myself buzzing the track, I understand that I even have in some way “fed on” the track, decreased it to a subset of its conventions, deconstructed and reconstructed it for my very own functions.

Ambient tune, and particularly, the form of ambient track I will confer with as “soundscape,” abandons, or at the least loosens, lots of these conventions. There is, in preferred, usually no hummable melody, regularly no recurrent rhythmic sample, and if there may be a larger “form,” it’s miles more commonly not anything familiar or identifiable, even to astute musicologists-it is probably absolutely idiosyncratic to the composer. Even the MUSIC SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING vocabulary of “instruments” is fluid and too enormous to maintain in mind. With the profusion of sounds which might be electronically-generated or sourced and manipulated from field recordings, it is rare that separable and recognizable devices or sounds can be recognized-that is, “named.” Late nineteenth and early twentieth century classical composers labored hard to try to erase the familiar boundaries of person instruments, the use of uncommon instrumental combinations and prolonged instrumental techniques to blur sonic lines. Ambient song takes this even farther. The sound palette of ambient composers is extra diverse and much less challenge to “naming” than that of composers who use ensembles of conventional contraptions to give their compositions. While the savant can be capable of become aware of a valid source as belonging to a particular method of generation (analog, FM, sample manipulation, and so forth.), diffuse mixing and morphing of sounds can confound even experts.

The Irrelevance of Virtuosity

To a notable volume, the virtuosity of the musician-frequently an important element in other song genres–is replaced, within the ambient music global, through the skill of the composer in crafting and shaping the sound. Slow tempos are not unusual, and arpeggiators and sequencers obviate, to a huge diploma, the want for ambient musicians to expand state-of-the-art keyboard abilities. Complex and fast sequences can be generated that defy the abilties of even amazing performers. While it’s far actual that many ambient musicians do carry out in actual time, maximum do no longer. Even the notion of “overall performance” disappears to a big volume. Most soundscapes are recorded works; they are not normally reproducible in real time with the aid of performers on level. More technical information of sound-producing hardware and software is vital, but in the end, this becomes invisible to the listener, subsumed by using the sound artifact of the track itself.

The blending of sound within the studio allows ambient composers to manipulate and location sounds freely inside the stereo field, unencumbered through any need to spatially constitute a digital acting ensemble. These elements turn out to be part of the composition, while in different musical genres, the combination–wherein it can be controlled–is greater of an enhancement or special effect than a compositional feature. Some ambient composers don’t even separate the mixing system from the composition. I, for one, generally tend to mix as I pass, since the dynamics, effects, and location within the stereo area are all indispensable features of my compositions.