The basic premise of this paper is to briefly speculate on a philosophical paradox concerning Brian Eno’s use of the word ambient in relation to his compositional work between 1975 and 1982 and indeed, what ambient has come to mean in a broader cultural sense in 2018.
To begin with, three important definitions of the word are considered for this argument:
1) The Latin root of ambient (ambire) is discussed with particular reference to Eno’s various press statements c. 1978 that Ambient music is intended to produce calm and a space to think.
2) Music for Airports is identified as an example of monocratic composition (one that subtly reinforces borders) within an historical timeline beginning in 1975 and is juxtaposed with Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which is considered as a parallel (albeit unintended) Ambient experiment and identified as a mutable composition (one that subtly annihilates borders).
3) The broader, philosophical implications of ambient are addressed in particular reference to current notions of dark ecology.
With a touch of irony, Brian Eno tells a story about waiting in Cologne airport where awful piped music provoked him to compose Music for Airports. Prompting reflections on mortality, the forcefully happy melodies he heard in the departure lounge and aeroplane comprised music designed to inoculate against panic. “I thought it was much better to have music that said, ‘Well, if you die it doesn’t really matter’ … I wanted to create a different feeling that you were sort of suspended in the universe and your life or death wasn’t so important”.
By playing and discussing vinyl records that attempt the instrumentation of airborne death I will treat Music for Airports as Eno intended—as music to die to. These are examples of ‘bad music’, records whose motivations and sometimes tasteless musical ideas can be hard to fathom. D.O.A. (1972), is Bloodrock’s, first-person narration of dying after crashing. Jupiter Prophet’s 35,000 Feet: Challenger’s Theme (1986), a Terry Rileyesque synth memorial to the Space Shuttle disaster, blithely croons “a candle in the sky … no stopping to let them cry”. On his LP ‘In Search’, Chance Martin features two flight songs, Too High to Land and High Test, singing “747 started to twirl / Out of control / Look out the window at your own dead ready world”. Merrill Womach’s LP ‘I Believe in Miracles’ gives holy thanks for surviving his own plane crash, while the bizarre Flight F-I-N-A-L…a dramatic comparison to death, enacts a trip to heaven on hymn-filled Inter-World Airlines.
Brian Eno’s Music For Airports presents to us the destruction the familiar, the removal of expectations. The album attempted to avoid the classification of Muzak and brought to us another world completely. Background music often adds a stimulus that has a polarising effect. It’s often assumed that, once forgotten, the music should merely exist as ambience ; the quality or character given to a sound recording by the space in which it occurs. The opposing effect is that it offers to us a dislocation or diffusion of the norm; in that it allows to be transported to a place where the mundane is bypassed and replaced by something that’s meditative and completive.
This paper attempts to address such issues while examining the albums role in establishing a forum for the use of ambient music in public spaces. It examines the role of the environment and what musical stimulus can provide within this space.
This set of texts comprises an attempt to analyze some of the difficulties that living composers face under today’s global economy. The author introduces a number of interrelated, speculative thoughts on the nature of aesthetics in order to push the reader to challenge common, reified views of music as nothing more but a tool to perpetuate reactionary means of social reproduction. Ultimately, a metaphor (‘watermelons hitting a wall’) is used in order to suggest that New Music can exist as a projection of future, unknown material realities.
‘GIB SIE WIEDER’ is a series of two political compositions, dedicated to exceptional performers Garth Knox (viola d’amore) and Rhodri Davies (harp). In this project, the central focus is on resonance in both a musical and wider socio-cultural sense. Finding the term closely correlated to the construction of gender, I direct my inner ear to the hidden background noises of the organisation of society. As a woman and composer, I perceive aural patterns of individual and political significance.
This paper examines the topic of sound-image relations in its evolution towards the contemporary context of digital computational audiovisuality and its interactive forms. It addresses the multiplicity of sound and image relations and their different conceptions, and then focuses on aesthetic artefacts that propose interactive experiences articulated through images and sounds.
This article presents an overview of a visual music collaboration between film-maker Dr Nick Cope and electroacoustic composer Professor Tim Howle. The article draws heavily on research for the former’s recently completed PhD by Existing Published Work, Northern Industrial Scratch: The History and Contexts of a Visual Music Practice (University of Sunderland, October 2012). This article specifically addresses the contexts of the collaboration Electroacoustic Movies, which forms one element of a wider body of work addressed in the PhD. With online links directly to the works in question, the critical and historical contexts with which the practice engages are examined and elaborated.
In listening to interviews with the film composer Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Tora! Tora! Tora! and Air Force One) his most musically significant comments are those that reveal the manner of his approach to his work. What comes through very strongly is his desire to priviledge emotion by scoring the underlying, unspoken feelings in a scene, as opposed to the more literal aspects of the narrative. One concept present in film that engenders such emotion is the notion of the “monstrous-feminine”, created by the presence of a deliberate relation between terror and the opposite maternal position or, the traditional, “benign” role of women in our society. A number of recurring compositional characteristics are evident across Goldsmith’s body of work.
Minimalist compositions thwart most attempts at analysis given their remarkable simplicity; their structure is often deliberately obvious. The experience of a minimalist piece, however, is anything but simple. These compositions encourage the listener to ignore the past and the future, memory and expectation, and explore an extended present.