Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ambient Music and Change Over Time

By Brian Eno's definition, ambient music is "as ignorable as it is interesting".  But he insists, rightly, that it rewards the listener in unique ways, as atmospheric, as distinct from "background" music; as suited to engaging diverse degrees of attention; as harmonious with calm moods and thoughtful occasions and activities.

While in her university's oil painting studio, my wife listened to Discreet Music, and her professor, upon recognizing the music, told her he did the same while painting in his home studio.  In fact, he found it somewhat surprising, at the time, that one of his students was listening to ambient music while painting.  Such surprise should not be unexpected, as familiarity with ambient music, while becoming more prevalent, will not always result in a preference for such music even in the most suitable environments and circumstances.

This is changing, though, as the culture is changing.  Eno himself noted this in a brief essay on the "Death of Uncool", written in 2009.  Rigid, insular ideas regarding what we might call "style" and "substance" in social groups have lost the cachet they have had in the past.  Personal taste is no longer burdened by whether or not something has been deemed "hip" by trend-setters and commercial media, and certainly this is a positive result of the accessibility of culture and information in the digital domain.  People freely follow their own interests and are more unrestricted in their cultural pursuits.

It is quite possible that such a scenario provides listeners greater opportunities than ever before to gain an appreciation and a degree of preference for music they may have previously never encountered, and for ways of listening and engaging with music that they have not experienced before.

This cultural phenomenon creates a greater openness in potential listeners to understand and appreciate a wider diversity of music, and facilitates the process of sharing ones enjoyment of music that is beyond the typical frame of reference.

Those who have a preference for ambient music, whatever its stylistic elements, can certainly find this scenario intriguing, and even useful in bringing the music to the attention of others who might appreciate it.

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