Ambient Music: From Eno to Boards of Canada

August 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Ambient Music, News - Nouvelles

Do you know Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, Robert Rich, Aphex Twins? Outside of its creators and fans, “ambient music” is often thought of as mere background music (for example, meditation or yoga).  In a worst case scenario, some people may bring to mind elevator Muzak when considering the meaning of ambient music.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Ambient music is in the now but of course, it’s all a matter of tastes.

So, what is ambient music?

Ambient Music: More than Background Music

Ambient Music: Not Background Music (image from lepiaf.geo on Flickr)

The term ambient, connotes more than a background or backdrop.  It literally means “to surround,” from the Latin word, “ambire.”  The person credited with coining the phrase “ambient music” 30 years ago, Brian Eno, reflected that this genre was of a type that could put its listeners in a different state of mind.  Whether that new state is one of relaxation, inspiration, decisiveness or even just peacefulness, ambient music can transport you away from the present issues you face in a way that mere background music cannot.

Another misconception that should be put to rest is the idea that ambient music is simply comprised of soft melodies, with chimes, and/or electronic or nature sounds mixed in.  Of course, those of us more familiar with the genre know that song lyrics are often included, tempos may be upbeat, and you may even hear influences of pop rock, soul or jazz.

I love the encompassing genre that is ambient music.  So much less limiting than background music, or even the related chill music genre.  Perhaps the best aspect of ambient music is its ability to help the listener tap into a new state of mind.  For this reason, its not surprising that ambient music is frequently used to create moods in cinema releases…. adding to the drama in ways that the mere scenery or acting cannot.

What is Ambient Music to you?  (image from prakhar on Flickr)

What is Ambient Music to you? (image from prakhar on Flickr)

Of course, ambient music can be used in meditation and yoga, particularly to help achieve a state of relaxation and good health.  But, its best not to limit one’s perceptions of the genre.  It is definitely not just for spas! Here is a video from Aphex Twins.

I would not define my music as ambient as it’s maybe too melodic and organized but I love to introduce nature sounds in airy soundscapes and layers of voices.

I hope you have a new appreciation for ambient music – what it is, and is not!  This special genre definitely should not be relegated to the elevator as background music!

Do you have a favorite ambient artist?  Who is it, and why?

 

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Other posts you may like: Uplifting quotes about music and life, Treat your body like a Temple, Enigma, Fantastic New age music Singers.

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Other posts you may like: Uplifting quotes about music and life, Treat your body like a Temple, Enigma, Fantastic New age music Singers.

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Comments

10 Responses to “Ambient Music: From Eno to Boards of Canada”
  1. andreas says:

    Steve Roach is one of the very great artists of ambient atmospheric music. Also, take a listen to Max Corbacho, similar to Steve Roach, but with his distinctive personal touch.
    Greetings,
    andreasm

  2. Mark Bao says:

    I really like Eluvium – his melodies are really relaxing. Brian Eno, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros (kinda, they get very… dramatic), Mogwai. Hmm, some blurring of lines between ambient and some post-rock?

  3. Sara says:

    Hey, would The Moody Blues be considered Ambient?

    • marcome says:

      Apparently, the ambient music style should have almost no percussions and no voices.. it really depends on your definition! Have a great day Sara!

  4. Chuck says:

    Ambient music is for me a way to relax and daydream. I know that for some, artists such as Steve Roach or John Hassel and Brian Eno sound like noise to their ears. I say it’s a matter of opening up your musical horizons. I personnaly enjoy classic music from which has emerged most of what we know now in all kinds of musical styles. If you carefully examine Yes, you’ll hear the classical harmonic progressions, it’s just in a different arrangement. I would like to thank you for bringing all those interesting music articles to us and please, tell us more about your own musical tastes…I’m curious.

  5. What a great blog article ! Thanks for the Pink Floyd and Brian Eno references ! Fantastic examples of ambient sounds !! I’ve always loved Brian Eno’s music with Bryan Ferry’s voice. As I’ve stated before, I’ve always loved ‘elavator’ music. And as IT IS music, I’ve always refused to refer to it as ‘musak’. To me, Ambient music is simply a state of mental well being. Everyone in the world has different chemistry. That is what makes us …. well …. ‘US’ .. I guess …! Some are ‘relaxed’ by ‘punk’, or ‘metal’, or ‘country’, or music from a ‘didgeridoo’. I’ve always liked quiet new age, ambient, instrumental, etc etc. Not sure how to put it into words. It is the music that allows me to focus on myself, my memories, and my surroundings …. does that make sense ? Thanks again Marcome. I very much enjoy getting away from the highway and reading your posts. Best to you and yours. Pat The Trucker.

    • marcome says:

      “New age: It is the music that allows me to focus on myself, my memories, and my surroundings …. does that make sense ?” Totally! I use it the same way.
      What a passionate man you are Pat! Don’t know if you ears were buzzing but I was on the 20 recently following a van and I thought of you! My father showed me the courtesy toward truckers on the road so I have much respect. You write about music in a very flowing manner so plz, realize you have an ability with words! I’m grateful to you sweet Pat, say hi to your wife and boys! xxMarcomé

  6. This is a great article. Kudos!

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