Many people have probably heard ambient music a couple of times already but they may not have realized what it’s really called. They have probably called ambient music as mood music mainly because of its sound and its distinct effect on our mood.
Dictionary.com defines ambient music as a “genre of instrumental music that focuses on sound patterns more than melodic form and is used to create a certain atmosphere or state of mind.” In alternate terms, the said music is actually composed of subtle instrumentals. It is also often referred as background music.
The term “ambient” was coined by former synthesizer performer Brian Eno. In one of his albums called “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” which was released in 1978, he described ambient music with the following words: “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be ignorable as it is interesting.” True to his word, Eno was considered as the pioneer of ambient music and made this kind of music even more popular worldwide.
As what was mentioned above, Eno was the one who coined the term “ambient music.” However, if we go down to memory lane and go back to history, the roots of ambient music can be traced from Erik Satie’s musique d’ameublement. Erik Satie composed this music for parties during the 1920s. He called this as the “furniture music” with a satiric twist.
If we listen to Satie and Eno’s music, they have the same distinct element. It was originally created as just background music, with no formal textures and distinctive lyrics. But Satie’s music had a party vibe and was actually meant to perform live using traditional musical instruments.
Although Brian Eno pioneered ambient music, he considered John Cage as one of his influences. John Cage was an American composer popular for experimentation of using many tools and non-electric musical instruments.
In addition, German musicians namely Edgar Froese, Holger Czukay, Popop Vuh, and Ashra released a couple of compositions featuring experimental sounds using synthesizers, electrical instruments, and acoustic tools. Their music was called cosmic music. These musicians experimented with their works between 1968 and 1973 and were considered as few of the many influences of Eno.
Eno’s experimental explorations in music paved the way for the coming of ambient music. With his works, he was able to influence the creation of new-age music genres. New Age music was further developed by musicians and artists namely Jon Hassell, Cluster, Jah Wobble, Laraaji, and Robert Fripp.
Other names include Mike Oldfield, whose album Tutular Bells was considered as one of the first albums referred as the description of new age, Terry Riley and Steve Reich with Indian music influence, and Tony Conrad who used drones in his performances in the 1960s.
The Gregorian chant was also considered as a big influence to new age music in the second quarter of the 20th century. Nowadays, ambient music or new age music is flourishing and has definitely branched out all over the world.
Best Ambient Music
If you are a fan or ambient music, this list will surely sweep you off your feet.
Aglaia – Three Organic Experiences (2003)
Aglaia is composed of an Italian duo namely Gino Fiovaranti and Gianluigi Toso. They released their album “Three Organic Experiences” which included their music using natural sounds and exotic experiments.
Harold Budd and Brian Eno – The Pearl
The album was released in 1984, years after Brian Eno named ambient music. Budd and Eno had a collaboration beforehand and it was kind of similar to this album. The track “Against the Sky” was also used for U2’salbum “No Line On the Horizon.”
Carbon Based Lifeforms – World of Sleepers
The band is composed of two Swedish artists namely Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Ringstrom. The album had 11 tracks featuring a 19-minute track entitled “Betula Pendula.”
Substrata was released in 1997 and is considered as a classic ambient album. It had a theme of natural sounds such as running water, howling wind, and suspenseful music.
The Future Sound of London – Life Forms
The Future Sound of London is composed of Gary Cobain and Brian Dougans. The duo is famous for their electronic music and their advocacy on electronic music experimentation.
The Orb’s Adventures beyond the Ultraworld – the Orb
The album is famous because of its ambient house-concept including a two-hour psychedelic trip. It was released in 1991 by the electronic music collective, The Orb.
Music has the Right to Children – Boards of Canada
The album is the debut album of the said Scottish band (duo). The album is popular because of its intense sound manipulation.
Pearly Land – Nathan Fake
Nathan Fake is an English electronic music artist who has released singles with ambient theme. His works were commonly used as background music for television shows and television advertisements.
Surprising Benefits of Ambient Music
Yes, ambient music has benefits and these benefits may actually surprise you.
Ambient Music Increases Creativity. When it comes to doing creative activities, loud music may not be appropriate for everybody. Huffington Post says that “a moderate noise level is the sweet spot for creativity. Even more than low noise levels, ambient noise apparently get our creative juices flowing, and don’t put us off the way high levels of noise do.”
Ambient Music Helps Mental Relaxation. If you just got home after a bad vibe-filled and stressful day at work, it’s nice to just lay down on your bed and take some time to relax your mind from all the stressors. Listening to ambient music will help you release all the anxiety and negative thoughts inside your head.
Ambient Music helps you Fall Asleep Faster. Ambient music provides mood for relaxation and sleeping which will make you doze off to dreamland faster. It helps you reconnect with your inner peace and allows you to have a more restful sleep.
Ambient Music has been popular all throughout the years. However, one doesn’t immediately recognize it as such.
If you want to create a little twist on your music taste and if you are the chill kind of person, ambient music is definitely the best kind of music for you.