About Ambient Music
The roots of ambient music go back to the early 20th century. In particular, the period just before and after the first world war gave rise to two significant art movements that encouraged experimentation with various musical (and non musical) forms, while rejecting more conventional, tradition-bound styles of expression. These art movements were called Futurism and Dadaism. Aside from being known for their painters and writers, these movements also attracted experimental and 'anti-music' musicians such as Francesco Balilla Pratella of the pre-war Futurism movement and Kurt Schwitters and Erwin Schulhoff of the post-war Dadaist movement. The latter movement played an influential role in the musical development of Erik Satie.
As an early 20th century French composer, Erik Satie used such Dadaist-inspired explorations to create an early form of ambient / background music that he labeled "furniture music" (Musique d'ameublement). This he described as being the sort of music that could be played during a dinner to create a background atmosphere for that activity, rather than serving as the focus of attention. From this greater historical perspective, Satie is the link between these early Art movements and the work of Brian Eno, who as an art school trained musician, had an appreciation of both the music and art worlds.
Alongside these early developments, more conventional forms of music began to take note of such experimentation and in turn gave rise to future influence of ambient in the work of modernists composers such as John Cage and Morton Feldman as well as minimalist composers such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Douglas Leedy's Entropical Paradise, released as a three LP set by Seraphim in 1971, consisting of six, side-long, compositions of "environmental music", in which single modular synthesizer settings were allowed to play out without further intervention.
Brian Eno is generally credited with coining the term "Ambient Music" in the mid-1970s to refer to music that, as he stated, 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". Eno, who describes himself as a "non-musician", termed his experiments in sound as "treatments" rather than as traditional performances. Eno used the word "ambient" to describe music that creates an atmosphere that puts the listener into a different state of mind; having chosen the word based on the Latin term "ambire", "to surround".
Types of Ambient Music
Organic ambient music
Organic ambient music is characterised by integration of electronic, electric, and acoustic musical instruments. Aside from the usual electronic music influences, organic ambient tends to incorporate influences from world music, especially drone instruments and hand percussion. Organic ambient is intended to be more harmonious with nature than with the disco. Some of the artists in this sub-genre include Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana, O Yuki Conjugate, Voice of Eye, Vir Unis, James Johnson, Loren Nerell, Atomic Skunk, Tuu and Robert Scott Thompson.
Some works by ambient pioneers such as Brian Eno, Laraaji or Popol Vuh who use a combination of traditional instruments (such as piano or hammered dulcimer or hand percussion, though usually processed through tape loops or other devices) and electronic instruments, would be considered New Age / organic ambient music in this sense. In the 1970s and 1980s, Klaus Schulze often recorded string ensembles and performances by solo cellists to go along with his extended Moog synthesizer workouts.
Nature-inspired ambient music
The music is composed from samples and recordings of naturally occurring sounds. Sometimes these samples can be treated to make them more instrument-like. The samples may be arranged in repetitive ways to form a conventional musical structure or may be random and unfocused. Sometimes the sound is mixed with urban or "found" sounds. Examples include much of Biosphere's Substrata, Mira Calix's insect music and Chris Watson's Weather Report. Some overlap occurs between organic ambient and nature-inspired New Age. One of the first albums in the genre, Wendy Carlos' Sonic Seasonings, combines sampled and synthesized nature sounds with ambient melodies and drones for a particularly relaxing effect. Transformation by Suzanne Doucet and Christian Buehner and the album Second Nature by Bill Laswell, Tetsu Inoue, and Atom Heart are ambient album that use processed nature sounds, with reverb and echo to create a hypnotic environment.
Dark ambient is a general term for any kind of ambient music with a "dark" or dissonant feel, but often involves extensive use of digital reverb to create vast sonic spaces for frightening, bottom-heavy sounds such as deep drones, gloomy male chorus, echoing thunder, and distant artillery. It has an eerie feel; the term "isolationist ambient" could be used interchangeably with it according to the listener or artists perspective. Some artists and releases that epitomize the style could include Bass Communion's Ghosts on Magnetic Tape and Vajrayana, Lull's Cold Summer, Controlled Bleeding's The Poisoner, and the Robert Rich/Lustmord collaboration album Stalker. Related styles include ambient industrial and isolationist ambient.
Ambient house is a musical category founded in the late 1980s that is used to describe acid house featuring ambient music elements and atmospheres. Tracks in the ambient house genre typically feature four-on-the-floor beats, synth pads, and vocal samples integrated in an atmospheric style. Ambient house tracks generally lack a diatonic center and feature much atonality along with synthesized chords. Illbient is another form of ambient house music.
Ambient industrial is a hybrid genre of ambient and industrial music; the term industrial being used in the original experimental sense, rather than in the sense of industrial metal or EBM. A "typical" ambient industrial work (if there is such a thing) might consist of evolving dissonant harmonies of metallic drones and resonances, extreme low frequency rumbles and machine noises, perhaps supplemented by gongs, percussive rhythms, bullroarers, distorted voices or anything else the artist might care to sample (often processed to the point where the original sample is no longer recognizable). Entire works may be based on radio telescope recordings, the babbling of newborn babies, or sounds recorded through contact microphones on telegraph wires.
Space music includes music from the ambient genre as well as a broad range of other genres with certain characteristics in common to create the experience of contemplative spaciousness. Space music ranges from simple to complex sonic textures sometimes lacking conventional melodic, rhythmic, or vocal components, generally evoking a sense of "continuum of spatial imagery and emotion", beneficial introspection, deep listening and sensations of floating, cruising or flying.
Space music is used by individuals for both background enhancement and foreground listening, often with headphones, to stimulate relaxation, contemplation, inspiration and generally peaceful expansive moods and soundscapes. Space music is also a component of many film soundtracks and is commonly used in planetariums, as a relaxation aid and for meditation.
Isolationist ambient music
Isolationist ambient music, also known as isolationism, can be differentiated from other forms of ambient music in its use of repetition, dissonance, microtonality, and unresolved harmonies to create a sense of unresolved unease and desolation. The term was popularized in the mid-1990s by the British magazine The Wire and the Ambient 4: Isolationism compilation from Virgin, this began as more or less a synonym for ambient industrial, but also inclusive of certain post-metal streams of ambient, such as Final, Lull, Main, or post-techno artists such as Autechre and Aphex Twin. It may be less appropriate to call isolationist ambient a genre than using it to describe the style or "feel" of particular works by an artist working in an ambient mode. This is because many artists better known for other styles of work can occasionally create pieces that "sound" isolationist.
Of late there has been an influx of progressive metal artists who have clear ambient influences. Bands such as Cult of Luna, Isis, Devil Sold His Soul, Porcupine Tree, and Between the Screams have pioneered the genre and are largely credited with popularizing the sound. These bands are largely known as post-metal.
Ambient dub is a phrase first coined by the now defunct Beyond Records from early 1990s in Birmingham, England. Their defining series of albums Ambient Dub 1, 2, through to 4 inspired many, including sound engineer and producer Bill Laswell, who used the same phrase in his music project Divination, where he collaborates with different musicians on each album (though sometimes the same ones are on more than one of the albums such as Tetsu Inoue and others). Laswell also presented ambient dub and ambient house music on albums by his collaboration project Axiom Dub, featuring recording artists The Orb, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit, Scorn and DJ Spooky.
Ambient dub involves the genre melding of dub styles made famous by King Tubby and other Jamaican sound artists with DJ inspired ambient electronica, complete with all the inherent drop-outs, echo, equalization and psychedelic electronic effects. As writer and performer David Toop explains in an early Beyond Records newsletter, "Dub music is like a long echo delay, looping through time...turning the rational order of musical sequences into an ocean of sensation."
Drone music is a minimalist musical style that emphasizes the use of sustained or repeated sounds, notes, or tone-clusters – called drones. It is typically characterized by lengthy audio programs with relatively slight harmonic variations throughout each piece compared to other musics. La Monte Young, one of its 1960s originators, defined it in 2000 as "the sustained tone branch of minimalism".
Source - Wikipedia