Each time you encounter a piece of ambient music, it shifts and alters ever so subtly as the sounds around you merge with it. Similarly, our capacities to listen and focus or not focus greatly affect our encounters with it. It is by no means exhaustive: plenty of other records have been equally influential, genre-expanding and commercially successful.
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Consider this a way to wade into the foggy wilderness that is ambient music. This record, along with The Pearl , came to epitomise the open musical structures that form the basic building blocks of ambient. Pauline Oliveros remains one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Accordion and Voice captures her creating vast spaces from the simplest of inputs: voice and a single instrument. Indeed at that time, the term was overused to the point where its meaning became opaque at best. Chillout spaces dotted most raves and other underground dance parties, providing music that expressly shunned hard rhythms and fast beats per minutes.
It remains a touchstone for the more accessible end of the genre, a gently sweeping collection of warm harmonic phrases washing over pulsing bass lines and filtered downtempo grooves. In this fresh terrain, a low-frequency heartbeat could pump energy through uneasy clouds of sound and melody. With the literal sound of magnetic materials falling off decaying tape loops, the singular simplicity of this work never fails to astound. Its use of blurry, cavernous spaces, within which Grouper buries her songs, creates a unique realm of indistinct beauty.
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Atkinson is part of a generation of artists whose work is set to push ambient forward into its next 40 years. A square which has two neighbors is going to survive. A square with three neighbors is going to give birth, is going to come alive, if it isn't already alive. A square with four or more neighbors is going to die of over crowding.
These are terribly simple rules and you would think it probably couldn't produce anything very interesting. Conway spent apparently about a year finessing these simple rules. They started out much more complicated than that. He found that those were all the rules you needed to produce something that appeared life-like. What I have over here, if you can now go to this Mac computer, please. I have a little group of live squares up there. When I hit go I hope they are going to start behaving according to those rules.
There they go.
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I'm sure a lot of you have seen this before. What's interesting about this is that so much happens. The rules are very, very simple, but this little population here will reconfigure itself, form beautiful patterns, collapse, open up again, do all sorts of things. It will have little pieces that wander around, like this one over here. Little things that never stop blinking, like these ones. What is very interesting is that this is extremely sensitive to the conditions in which you started. If I had drawn it one dot different it would have had a totally different history.
This is I think counter-intuitive. One's intuition doesn't lead you to believe that something like this would happen.
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Okay that's now settled looking at screen , that will never change from that. It's settled to a fixed condition. I'll just show you another one. I'll show you this one in color because it looks nice. A little treat. At the Exploratorium, I spent literally weeks playing with this thing. Which just goes to show how idle you can be if you're unemployed.
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I was so fascinated, I wanted to train my intuition to grasp this. I wanted this to become intuitive to me. I wanted to be able to understand this message that I'd found in the Steve Reich piece, in the Riley piece, in my own work, and now in this. Very, very simple rules, clustering together, can produce very complex and actually rather beautiful results. I wanted to do that because I felt that this was the most important new idea of the time. Since then I have become more convinced of that, and actually I hope I can partly convince you of that tonight.
Life was the first thing I ever saw on a computer that interested me. Almost the last actually, as well. For many, many years I didn't see anything else. I saw all sorts of work being done on computers, that I thought was basically a reiteration of things that had been better done in other ways. Or that were pointlessly elaborate.
Brian Eno to put out remastered versions of his best-known ambient albums
I didn't see many things that had this degree of class to them. A very simple beginnings and a very complex endings. At the same time as I was working with Life I was also starting to some new pieces of music that used the moire principle, but in a much more sophisticated way. So now I have go back to the overhead screen.
What I started to do was make moires of different types of elements. Not only of single notes or similar sounds, but moires of basically rules about how sounds were made. This gave me some very much more interesting results. As you can see manipulating lines and shapes on the overhead Here's two simple cycles going out of phase, here's a wiggly one going out of phase, and then hallelujah - New Age music laughter for which I am consistently being blamed laughter.
You can start to build very beautifully complex webs of things from very simple initial ingredients. What I would like to do is play you a piece called Neroli which was released five years ago or something which was another version of this way of working. I've only ever had one idea really, and that was this, and everything I'm going to play was a version of this idea.
Can you put on Neroli please. I'll leave this running because it's a very good piece to talk over. Can you now put on this Mac, please. The next thing I ever saw on a computer that really astonished me was a screen-saver by a local lad called Gene Tantra. I don't now if he's here tonight I really wanted to invite him but I didn't have his number. He made a screen-saver for the aptly named Dim company After Dark.
This screen-saver which they only released in one of their files because it's clearly much too good to come out very often was called Stained Glass. Stained Glass unlike almost all other screen-savers looks at its own history. Stained Glass generates images, then it sucks them out, multiplies them, chops them about, collages them together in different ways.
I realized that if you put other screen-savers in the center of Stained Glass, then it would do the same thing to them.
hukusyuu-mobile.com/wp-content/facebook/1450-program-to-location.php What you have is a visual generative piece. I've got three versions of Stained Glass. There's one along the top there pointing to overhead screen , this square is another. And then this oblong is a third. At the center of these two is a different screen-saver called Doodles.
Now someone in a London magazine, when I said I'd spent a long time looking at screen-savers described this as "rather sad" laughter with that infallible cynicism that we English are so good at. But the reason I was looking at them so closely was because again they picked up that thread of something that uses a tiny amount of information, a minute amount of your computer's processing power, and produces something that for me is thirty times as beautiful as anything I've seen off a huge clunky CD ROM. I quickly realized that for me this was the future for computers.
Computers seen not as ways of crunching huge quantities of data or storing enormous ready-made forests of material, but computers are the way of growing little seeds. This piece here, this Stained Glass is a very small seed, in fact I think it's something like 25 K, now for those of you who know what a K is will know that 25 of them isn't very many laughter.
This is the kind of precise scientific language you can expect this evening laughter. I've never actually worked this out.