Niche it!
BobbyGs Info


Ambient music

Music Sound

Ambient music

Ambient house | Ambient industrial | Ashtorath | Dark ambient | Illbient | Lowercase | New Age music | Psybient

Back | Home | Up | Next

Ambient / Space music
Stylistic origins: 20th century classical music, Electronic art music, Krautrock
Cultural origins: 1970s
Typical instruments: Electronic musical instruments, some ambient artists use traditional instrumentation of almost any variety
Mainstream popularity: Low
Derivative forms: Ambient house - Ambient techno - Drum and bass - New Age
Dark ambient - Dronology - Lowercase
Fusion genres
Ambient house - Illbient - Psybient - Ambient industrial

Ambient music is a loosely defined musical genre that incorporates elements of a number of different styles - including jazz, electronic music, new age, rock and roll, modern classical music, reggae, traditional, world and even noise.

" Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting. "

— Brian Eno (Music for Airports liner notes [1], September 1978)



The earliest electronic soundscape music and theories come from the work of Pierre Schaeffer who followed the futurists in classifying music into categories such as man made, natural, short and long. He made some of the first electronic music using record players and natural sounds, and cutting up tape, making the first experimental music use of recording and magnetic tape. Even his work can be seen as preempted by Shopenhauer's ideas of 'soundworlds', literally worlds made up entirely of sounds. Karlheinz Stockhausen created pioneering electronic musical experiments later in 1955, and these two (amongst others) lay the groundwork for ambient music to appear decades later when music technology had developed.

The term "ambient music" was first coined by Brian Eno in the late 1970s to refer to music that would envelop the listener without drawing attention to itself, that can be either "actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener" (Eno, who describes himself as a "non-musician" termed his experiments in sound as "treatments" rather than as traditional performances). Hence, Brian Eno is considered the father of ambient music: his 1978 release Ambient 1: Music for Airports includes a manifesto describing this music. Although having coined the word "ambient", he is also quick to reference the works and influence of Erik Satie. Eno coined the term in an essay to distance his work from elevator music and Muzak, it is more often similar to mood music or an ambient background in movie and radio sound effects. Often listeners will forget they are listening to ambient music, which is one of the biggest attractions of the genre. It can be any musical style, including jazz, electronic music and modern classical music.

Some of the works of the 20th century French composer Erik Satie, today best known for his Trois Gymnopédies suite, can be regarded as predecessors of modern ambient music. He referred to some of his music as "Musique d'ameublement" ('furniture music' ,or more literally, 'music for the furniture' and 'music to mingle with knives and forks', referring to something that could be played during dinner and would simply create an atmosphere for that activity rather than be the focus of attention. Similarly some of the works of the French composer Edgard Varèse, who used the theremin extensively in his compositions as well as atonal techniques and non-standard time signatures, can also be viewed as predecessors of ambient music. John Cage created the ultimate ambient work with his 4'33", three periods of silence first played on the piano, which make the audience listen to the ambient sound surrounding them. Cage inspired minimalist composers such as La Monte Young, Morton Feldman, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass also influenced Eno's groundbreaking style, and ambient music can be seen as a kind of minimalism.

Early albums by Pink Floyd (such as Ummagumma and Meddle) and by the "kosmische music"-oriented krautrock artists, like Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, and Cluster have greatly influenced the genre. Among the first electronic ambient albums were Affenstunde (1970) and In Den Garten Pharaos (1971) by Popol Vuh. Another important album was Sonic Seasonings (1972) by Wendy Carlos. Other early artists such as Klaus Schulze (a former member of Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel), Jean-Michel Jarre, and Kraftwerk in the 1970s and 1980s were influential. In the 1970s, some ambient, krautrock, and other musicians who were influenced by new age spirituality created the eclectic genre known as New Age music, selling millions independent from the mainstream music industry by direct order or new age shops. By the 1980s, New Age music had become so much better known than ambient music, that ambient was taken as a synonym for "New Age", and many ambient musicians deliberately took on new age themes to market themselves to this audience.

Beginning in the 1980s, Ambient music influenced some pop bands (examples can be found among instrumentals by New Order, Simple Minds and U2). Later, electronic dance music and synth pop merged in many artists' works with the dreamy, meandering sound of Eno-style ambient music. Under the guise of various styles, this new genre sometimes referred to as ambient house, ambient techno, ambient dub, IDM, ambience, or simply "ambient" in common use, saw the birth of a new wave of artists like The Orb, Aphex Twin, the Irresistible Force, and Geir Jenssen's Biosphere.

Early Warp records artists, (as well as later ones such as Aphex Twin), FSOL Future Sound of London (Lifeforms, ISDN) Autechre, (Incunabula, Amber), Boards of Canada, Massive Attack, Portishead, and The KLF all took a part in popularising and diversifying ambient music. There are now a dizzying array of different sub-genres, festivals, websites, discussion lists, clubs, labels and artists making new, interesting, original music.

Derivative forms and sub-genres

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, James Johnson, Loren Nerell, Numina, and Tuu.

Some works by ambient pioneers such as Brian Eno, which use a combination of traditional (such as piano) and electronic instruments, would be considered organic ambient music in this sense. In the 70's and 80's 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 ambient. 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.

Dark ambient

Main article: Dark ambient

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 a relentlessly gothic feel. Lustmord's collaboration with Robert Rich Stalker epitomizes this sub-genre. Related styles include ambient industrial and isolationist ambient.

Ambient industrial

Main article: Ambient industrial

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 a such 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 and/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.

Among the many artists who work in this area are Coil, CTI, Lustmord, Susumu Yokota , Hafler Trio, Nocturnal Emissions, Zoviet France, PGR, Thomas Koner, Controlled Bleeding, and Deutsch Nepal. It is important to note, however, that many of these artists are very eclectic in their output, with much of it falling outside of ambient industrial per se.

Isolationist ambient music

Also known as isolationism. 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-techno streams of ambient, such as Autechre and Aphex Twin.[2] The Sombient label is now the primary purveyor of isolationist ambient, in particular with the "drones" compilation series. Some of the artists known for this style of ambient music include Robert Fripp.

Other 'less ambient' ambient styles

There are many other styles which identify themselves as ambient music. There is information on these styles on other pages, but many artists who are not in the new age world of music making produce albums which mix beatless ambient music with downtempo electronica, so the categories have blured edges. Chill out (music) is generally linked to club culture and is sometimes used as a term which includes ambient music as a subset of itself. UK techno developed in particular at Warp Records in Sheffield, where previous electronic pioneers such as Cabaret Voltaire and Autechre laid the groundwork for ambient techno to develop, and for Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada to develop later. From this scene developed ambient dub and ambient techno. Intelligent Dance Music is another term synonymous with this scene. Electroacoustic and acousmatic music are 'classical' art music forms that use electronic sound creation instead of or alongside acoustic instruments. Glitch music is a subset of this work. Some club groups have made live ambient music, mixing dub techniques and styles with ambient textures and dance grooves, for example artists such as Sonic State, Junkielover, the Orb, Chillage People, H.U.V.A. Network, Solar Fields, The Starsound Orchestra, and the Kuma Mela Project.

Notable musicians and works in chronological order

Erik Satie
1917 - Furniture music (1)
1920 - Furniture music (2)
1923 - Furniture music (3)
Edgard Varèse
1934 - Ecuatorial
Pierre Schaeffer
1948 - Etude aux Chemins de Fer
Terry Riley
1964 - In C
1968 - A Rainbow in Curved Air
Miles Davis
1969 - In A Silent Way
1974 - Big Fun for "Orange Lady"
1974 - Get Up With It for "He Loved Him Madly"
Popol Vuh
1970 - Affenstunde
1971 - In Den Garten Pharaos
Pink Floyd
1971 - Meddle

Tangerine Dream
1971 - Alpha Centauri
1972 - Zeit
1974 - Phaedra
1975 - Rubycon
1975 - Ricochet
1976 - Stratosfear

1999 - Mars Polaris
2000 - The Seven Letters from Tibet
Wendy Carlos
1972 - Sonic Seasonings
Klaus Schulze
1972 - Irrlicht
1973 - Cyborg
1975 - Timewind
1976 - Moondawn
1977 - Mirage
1977 - Body Love Vol. 2
1978 - X
1979 - Dune
1995 - In Blue
— With Pete Namlook:
1994 - Dark Side of the Moog I - Wish you were there
1994 - Dark Side of the Moog II - A saucerful of ambience
2002 - Dark Side of the Moog IX - Set the controls for the heart of the mother
2005 - Dark Side of the Moog X - Astro know me domina
1973 - Future Days
1974 - Soon Over Babaluma
1973 - Flying Teapot for "The Octave Doctors and the Crystal Machine"
1974 - You for "A Sprinkling of Clouds"
Fripp & Eno
1973 - No Pussyfooting
1975 - Evening Star
1975 - Radio-Activity
Brian Eno
1975 - Another Green World
1975 - Discreet Music
1978 - Ambient 1 / Music For Airports
1980 - Fourth World 1 / Possible Musics (with Jon Hassell)
1982 - Ambient 4 / On Land
1983 - Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks
David Bowie
1977 - Low (with Brian Eno)
1977 - "Heroes" (with Brian Eno)
Steve Reich
1976-1978 - Music for 18 Musicians
Steve Roach
1984 - Structures from Silence
1988 - Quiet Music
1988 - Dreamtime Return
1993 - Origins
1994 - Artifacts
1996 - The Magnificent Void
2000 - Early Man
2002 - Darkness Before Dawn
2003 - Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces
2005 - Possible Planet
1984 - How to Destroy Angels
1995 - Worship the Glitch
1998 - Moon's Milk
1998 - Time Machines
1999 - Music to Play in the Dark Volume I
2000 - Music to Play in the Dark Volume II
2004 - ANS
1990 - Chill Out
The Orb
1991 - The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
1992 - U.F.Orb
1991 - Microgravity
1994 - Patashnik
1997 - Substrata
2002 - Shenzhou
2006 - Dropsonde
Aphex Twin
1992 - Selected Ambient Works 85-92
1994 - Selected Ambient Works Volume II
Pete Namlook
1992 - Silence I
1993 - Air I
1994 - Air II
1996 - Outland 2 (with Bill Laswell)
Moby aka Voodoo Child
1993 - Ambient
1996 - The End of Everything (as Voodoo Child)
Global Communication
1994 - 76:14
1994 - Amber
Future Sound of London
1994 - Lifeforms
1994 - ISDN
1996 - Dead Cities
Richard Bone
1998 - The Spectral Ships
1999 - Ether Dome
William Basinski
2002 - The River
2003 - Disintegration Loops III

Notable filmmakers and works in chronological order

Frank Capra
1934 - It Happened One Night Cricket sounds in the background were dubbed in later - reportedly the first time that ambient sounds were added in after a shot.
Stanley Kubrick
1968 - 2001: A Space Odyssey (film) "A cutting edge ambient, multimedia accomplishment...the ambient revolution, now and for the past couple of decades, owes much of its impetus to the achievement of 2001." -- D.B. Spalding (
George Lucas
1969 - THX 1138
David Lynch
1977 - Eraserhead
David Lynch
1980 - The Elephant Man
Ridley Scott
1982 - Blade Runner
Carroll Ballard
1983 - Never Cry Wolf
Francis Ford Coppola
1983 - Rumble Fish

See also

External links and references

Major FM and satellite radio shows

Online streaming audio

  • OverXposure.FM Streaming site featuring downtempo, nu-jazz, brokenbeat, trip-hop, ambient pop, and deep house.
  • The Buzzoutroom 24hrs a day Chilled-out Ambient Downbeats
  • Chill Zone One Radio chillout, ambient, downtempo, soundscapes, atmosphere
  • SomaFM Listener-supported, commercial-free, underground/alternative internet radio. Has a strong focus on ambient music.
  • AmbientMusic-Radio An online ambient music show.
  • StillStream Ambient music mixed by DJs and streamed live, 24 hours a day.
  • Urban_D RADIO - A weekly podcast of ambient music by independent artists.


Home | Up | List of electronic music genres | Ambient music | Bhangra | Breakbeat | Breakcore | Computer and video game music | Drum and Bass | Electronica | Eurodance | Futurepop | House music | Industrial music | Noise music | Synthpop | Techno music | Technoid | Trance music | Acousmatic music | Balearic Beat | Electronic art music | Gamewave | Grime | Hard dance | Hi-NRG | Hipstep | Indietronica | Krautrock | Musique concrète | Shibuya-kei | Spacesynth | Trance fusion

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

Music Videos
Select Interface Language:

English French German Hungarian Italian Norwegian Spanish
Shopping Random Product
Shopping Search

Emporium Contents
Gallery Most Viewed
Gallery Most Viewed
Recommended Software Sites

Montego Scripts - Home of HTML Newsletter

Totally Nuked Mods

EZ Communities - Custom PHP/MySQL Scripts and Solutions

RavenNuke(tm) Test site

Codezwiz Your #1 Help Resource

CSE HTML Validator Helped Clean up This Page!

PC Sympathy - Your Source for PC News and Technical Support

Mantis Bugtracker

Nuke-Evolution - Home of Tricked Out News Mod, FaceBox and SlimBox RavenNuke(tm) mods