last updated December 17th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
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ambient (àm´bê-ent) adjective
Surrounding; encircling: ambient sound; ambient air.
[Latin ambiêns, ambient-, present participle of ambìre, to surround : ambi-, around.]
ambiance also ambience
(àm´bê-ens, äN-byäNs´) noun
The special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment: "The curriculum and intellectual ambiance are virtually identical" (Robert Kanigel).
[French, from ambiant, surrounding, from Latin ambiêns, ambient]
Term coined circa 1978 by Brian Eno to describe his forays into drifting instrumental composition. Beginning with the 1975 album _Discreet Music_, Eno began producing a series of records partially influenced by the piano music of early-century French composer Erik Satie; intended as background music, the discs highlighted tape loops and "treated sounds." The combination of fast-paced electronic dance music and Ecstasy that began to dominate clubs worldwide in the late '80s paradoxically created an appetite for soothing sounds and still surroundings. Ambient music made an ideal soundtrack for "chill out" rooms in clubs; the word became a catchall label for spacey variations on numerous established forms, including house, techno, and dub. The "textural soundscapes" and "rich timbral explorations" of name-brand groups like The Orb andAphex Twin rework the socially acceptable elements of progressive rock for the rave generation, and for proprietors of New Age-y restaurants and boutiques.
"Walter Benjamin's concept of 'Rezeption in der Zerstreuung,' originally conceived for film, is as valid for radio and records. According to Benjamin the mass reception of art is accompanied by a steady decline in the attention given to the individual work of art: music has become environmental sound, the radio produces ambience, the quality of which can be measured by the ease with which it goes in one ear and out the other.
Continuous and omnipresent, radio generates habituation and demands no more than an absent minded attention. With radio it's often less a matter of what there is to hear than that there is something to hear. The radio is on. The question is whether artists are satisfied with this and, imitating Brian Eno, will make 'ambient music' ridiculing the dispersal of attention." Max Bruinsma, Talking Back to the Media, Amsterdam, 1985.
On Karlheinz Stockhausen c. 1956 -
"Using a pulse generator, volume meter and feedbackfilter, Stockhausen spent six months breaking down every element of human speech and matching it to every conceivable sound from sine tone to white noise...The debut performance of _Song of the Youths_ MP3...caused uproar and applause. Electronic music was here to stay..."
From _The Ambient Century_ - Mark Prendergast