Since the beginning of this world (assuming it came into existence at a particular time – maybe true, maybe not), ambient sound might have been a major imperative to start off everything. Supposing everything was silent before creation then what would have been the first sound to come after that silence? If we accept the theory of Big Bang, then the word itself suggests that the universe came into existence with a literal ‘bang’, which could be defined as the first ambient sound.
When we observe and try to hear our surroundings we come across a wide range of sounds intermingling with each other. Sounds could be either created by nature, by human beings, or by objects created by human beings. The peculiar hubbubs of wildlife or the sound of rainfall and thunder. The distinct chatter and noise created by us. The sound of cars scurrying around the streets. The helicopters buzzing over the tops of buildings. These are all ambient noises and sounds from the atmosphere in and around us.
The Birth Of Ambient Music
The supremely talented musicians of the ’60s and ’70s didn’t hold back in inventing an unusual form of music – ambient music inspired by the ambient sounds. The extensive usage and wide popularity of the synthesizer in that era brought numerous groundbreaking innovations into the world of music. Ambient music stands different among its contemporary peers because it usually does not follow the customary musical style, rhythm, and structure. Prominence is given to the tone and mood it creates.
…the true pioneer of ambient music is Brian Eno. With his album Discreet Music, released in 1975, he brought ambient music into the limelight.
Musicians such as King Tubby and Erik Satie were the pioneer of this genre. Erik Satie was well known for his minimalist and often repetitive music which laid the ground for musicians in the ’70s to create and enhance the ambient genre. Tubby was a master sound engineer and brought a rather interesting style of creating atmospheric sound with a diverse mixing and merging of vocals and effects. His sound was known as ‘dub’ and it made him famous within the Jamaican music scene in the 70s. But the true pioneer of ambient music is Brian Eno. With his album Discreet Music, released in 1975, he brought ambient music into the limelight. Since then, Brian Eno has released a large number of albums with interesting experimentation in tones and compositions. His album Ambient Music For Airports creates a rather enthralling mood with a continuous loop and gives a feeling of spaciousness.
When the listener listens to any of the ambient tracks from these artists they get a peerless gaze into the subconscious emotions of the artists and their own. The terrific evocation of hidden memories and subtle, relatable feelings spring up when the tones and unusual compositions of ambient music fall onto their ears.
The ambient genre also has a large number of derivatives such as ambient dub, ambient house, ambient pop, ambient rock, space music and dark ambient. In the ’90s artists such as Aphex Twin gained extensive commercial success with his ambient albums. Artists such as The Future Sound Of London, The Black Dog, Boards Of Canada, The Orb, Stars Of The Lid and Tangerine Dream created a niche of this genre and cult following in the ’90s. When the listener listens to any of the ambient tracks from these artists they get a peerless gaze into the subconscious emotions of the artists and their own. The terrific evocation of hidden memories and subtle, relatable feelings spring up when the tones and unusual compositions of ambient music fall onto their ears.
Some films have also tried to incorporate the ambient genre into their background scores. Vangelis was the music composer for Blade Runner. He subtly touches a few instances of ambient music which gives it a lugubrious feeling in the film’s soundtrack. Hans Zimmer also skillfully taps into the ambient genre for his soundtracks in Interstellar and Inception.
All Around Us
The ambient music scene is definitely not mainstream. But whether the sounds are created in the form of music through synthesizers or whether by nature we can definitely agree that ambient sound plays a vital role in our lives. Right from the moment we are born until the moment we die, we have undoubtedly experienced and heard a wide spectrum of ambient sounds. We are never away from the subtle influence of these sounds. Even if you are in a closed room with silence around, do you not hear the sound of blood flowing in your veins or your heartbeats? Just look around, observe and listen. What ambient sounds are you able to recognize? It will require using the most important part of being a human. Can you guess what? Of course you will say listening and there is no disagreement regarding that, but there is a delicate characteristic of human life which we rarely use and it’s called attention. Being attentive to your surroundings will surely make you more conscious to the ambient sounds around. Truly, the very natural and trivialized form of music in our lives is in the form of ambient sounds.