Monday, September 9, 2013

Post 1980 canon #5: Ambient: Biosphere's Substrata

Post 1980 canon #5: Ambient: Biosphere's Substrata.

Ambient doesn't start with Biosphere, of course. The really canonic work in this genre is Brian Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports from 1978, but as a genre ambient was detracted by synth pop and EDM throughout the 1980s. In the 1990s ambient reemerged, and mysteriously Norway was one of the major actors. This is why I have chosen "Silence" from Biosphere's Substrata as example work. The album was released in 1997, and this coincides pretty well with my own discovery of ambient.

Ambient is interesting because it grew out of electronic pop music, but sees itself sort of as a prolongation of the tradition from the electroacoustic music of the 1950s and 1960s. It also draws heavily on John Cages writings on silence and environmental sounds and Steve Reich's process pieces like Drumming or Music for 18 Musicians. Biosphere's "Silence" can be interpreted as a direct allusion to Cage's influential book.

Ambient is also a very technology driven music. It emerged out of young kids playing around with early samplers and digital recording equipment, establishing what was in fact a completely new aesthetic. Long surfaces, ear candy sounds, slow movements. Atmosphere music. Very nice to listen to in a dark room alone.

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