I got this from the Space Music List firstname.lastname@example.org
An amusing article appears in the New York Times about unsuspecting patrons subjected to Brian Eno’s CD length opus, Thursday Afternoon
This link might work as well.
I also enjoyed this comment relayed by JC Shanahan on the same list:
A friend of mine used to say to me, “The problem I have with ambient music is that I keep waiting for it to start.”
Comment posted by
at 6/22/2006 9:44:26 PM
Eric Satie’s music makes popular the origins of what we call Ambient music today. Im sure there probably other musicians in those days were making similar stuff, i dare to make a paralell “Fripp & Eno” – ” Debusy & Satie” in that order. Debusy’s accomplished compositions can be caompared to those whimsy and ironic Fripertronics; Satie’s delicate ethereal and charming sonic abstractions. Now, many people say that Brian Eno is not a musician. includin his former pal from Roxy Music Brian Ferry, he said that Brian Eno is a very smart fellow but not a musician at all. I heard many people asuming that John Cage was a musician when he still was playing at the orquestra,but not later when he started with “all that stuff” some friend of mine call Derek Bailey as “thief” i make other people listen to Derek Bailey’s music and none can stand more than three minutes( i personally like his music very much )
So i go back to my question: If today in 2006 people recognize that Jackson Pollock’s textures are PAINTING then why people deny that Brian Eno’s sonic experiences or Derek Baileys or so many others including me is not music?
The problem with my music( if there’s any) is in my opinion a matter of environment: In an Ambient environment my music is too jazzy or melodic. in a Jazz environment my music is too abstract or too ambient or too electronic.
Anyway, here’s what happen today as an ilustration for the subject.
I had an awfull experience this afternoom: We went to play with my partner, he
plays bowed bass and me, guitar and electronics at a coffe shop in the “artistic and bohemian neighborhood of Williamsburg”. My partner opened the scene with some “pizicatto” kind of line, then gradually he was playing very long sustained notes with the bow. I played some Jazzy streight guitar over that and then sat volume to the synth of my guitar and some sort of androginous choir started over the row guitar lines, i was beautiful. Inmediatly everyone in the coffe shop left. Only a girl working in her mac with earphones stayed and two german girls friends of mine. Before we started the owner of the venue an (old hippie loking guy ) he ask us to play very low as a background music; then he went into a ridiculous monologe trying to define wht’s ambient, what’s experimental, etc. after a while i sayed to him “ok, we gonna keep it low”
The owner left and we started playing, Right after the first piece my partner felt the limits of playing low so he stop playing at the very begining of the second piece and the guy at the counter (a mexican or so) he put the radio on and Bob Dylan shows up singing something from Blonde on Blonde that i dont remember the tittle. I’d could not believe it. In mediatly i found myself in an ocean of confusion and completly lost in what i was playing. so in the middle of random notes i thought ” should i stop playing and ask ther guy why is playing the radi when we are making music right there or should i rise the volume of the amp? so i looked at the guy behind the counter who was smiling with some sort of satisfaction (with Bob Dylan in the background) and the i say to myself “rise the volume of the amp!) and i did it at the same time i asked my partner why don’t you go back to playing? he did not answer me and he put the cello horizontally on the floor. Then i realized thet i was playing really loud and tense and the music went to some kind of screaming punk jazz a la John Zorn. In the middle of the event my two German girl friends left and the only audience in the place were that girl working on the mac with theearphones ignoring the totallity of the situation. I finished the piece with certain dedication and started packing my equipement back. inthe middle of packing i asked the guy why heput the radio on when we were playing music; the guy said what? so i repited the question then he laugh ha, ha, ha,,,and that was his answer. i felt my blood burning of fury and Bob
Comment posted by
at 6/22/2006 5:09:08 PM
Good question-why are the concerts so testosterone laden? I’ve been to one Gathering, but besides the date I brought and somebody else’s date, not many women were there either. But if more guys listened to ambient music, ECHOES might not get played in the graveyard shift in New York, and John might feel a little freer to play longer, “driftier” ambient pieces.
This is on topic but also a plug, so here is the disclaimer: I represent musician Al Gromer Khan in the U.S. But here is a thought provoking essay that may answer some of your questions, Damien:
On Ambient Music
By Al Gromer Khan
It is true that the term ´Ambient Music´ was coined by Brian Eno. It is also true that Eno is often not all that original. The idea of music representing an interior, for instance, goes back to the French composer Eric Satie. John Cage – a strong influence on Eno´s work, and one who is often quoted by him – frequently worked with ideas concerning the environment as ´music´. However, Eno did more or less represent the Ambient Underground in the mid-nineteen seventies. His purpose-designed record label, Ambient Records, and the classic releases Music For Airports, On Land, Plateau Of Mirrors etc., all stem from the social core of painters, authors and musicians who surrounded him at that time. Home made music cassettes with self created sonic spaces were sent out to friends and colleagues, everyone trying to surpass the other in terms of eccentricity. When Eno released his first Ambient album in 1978, the English music press had a field day in ridiculing him: ´impressionist´ and ´bore´ were the more generous terms used here. On the other hand, no one could deny Eno´s capability for creating sounds that had never been heard before, his ´musical instrument´ being the recording studio. The fact that his compositions corresponded with highly specific archetypal human states of mind was never mentioned by him. Either he did not look at it that way at all, or the discretion of the English gentleman and his good taste were responsible for not using this sort of vocabulary; about this we can only guess. At the same time, there is a strong religious feeling, a contemplative and sublime mood in much of his early Ambient work. This new type of contemplation stands in utter contrast to conventional methods of worshipping a ´personal God´, and to a large degree appears to unmask the hypocrisy of the latter. Could it be that modern art is about to replace religion in the new age we are apparently about to enter? In that case, a high standard of thinking and responsibility should be required from the participants.
I understand an ambience to be a defined space containing a specific atmosphere. In which kind of ambience had I been the happiest? What were the important components? Perhaps when the apartment lingered in an improvised, unfinished state with a feeling of nonchalance about it? Yes, very likely. Personally, I also like one or two beautiful objects, antique perhaps, and patinaed. This could be anything from an old chair, a drinking glass for less than a dollar from the flea market, or a piece of Ming porcelain. Their beauty doesn´t wear off, but they too need space to breathe. Despite its hermetic condition, an ambience also needs a view, even if it is only a tree and a bit of open sky.
There are traps lurking in ambient music. One observes with bemusement musicians falling victim to them, while busy making commercial use of the genre, content with merely using the outer form. A disco style named ´Ambient´ came and went. At first sight, participation of the less gifted Ambient artist might not be obvious, since the industry enthusiastically supplies all the hardware and software for it. Obvious criteria of judgement are not available. Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol, and their idea that in this new age everyone shoul
Comment posted by
at 6/19/2006 9:17:34 AM
It is sad and shameful not having an Ambient Music scene in NYC being or has been the nest of avant garde in other better days. We have Tonic, but what a musician should do to get a gig in Tonic this days, spend a night in bed with some of the curators? or be recommended by other “established” musician? I don’t think that even Tonic is an Ambient Music venue. It use to be a cool club years ago. Now each time i read the Tonic’s calendar i see always the same people playing over and over. We have great musicians in this city that nobody knows them, but worse is that and nobody wanna know them… because we don’t have an Ambient Scene.(!?), becouse we loosing that sence of challenge that takes perceiving art as a work of conciousness and not only an entertainment.
Remember when Brian Eno use to live in NY? then also Fripp moved to NY, then the magic of those days put together a bunch of artist that created a place called “The Kitchen” Or the “Knitting Factory” today in this Britney Spears age no one gives a damm about it, not even the curators of those clubs, they only think in making money and keep the things going, so a lot of musicians are ignored, neglected and confined to darkness of anonimousity
I know that for non-Ambient consumers, Ambient Music sounds all the same, meanwhile, for me at least, that i stop listening David Bowie’s albums other that “One Outside” or “Low” and any other Rock music, (i still Love Blondie)
only Ambient or ECM records spins in my player, what i mean is that for my ears today Rock and Rap and Hop sounds all the same and i do not find any signal of art in it. and when i said art i’m talking of something that is a matter of life or dead.
I have a question for music listeners: if in the 50’s Jackson Pollock’ stained canvases where recognized as a masterpieces and even today people love and accept abtract painting, why Ambient or Abstract music is considered no music in NYC in 2006? I saw Robyn Guthrie from Cocteau Tweens last year in the Knitting factory, they were about no more than 20 people in the audience.and let me tell you something: Robyn gave us a lesson of Ambient.
Other question: Why the hell the audiences of Robert Fripp are 95% male? where’s women sensitivity and receptivity? are they all listening Britny and Madonna? where’s the sense of magic and mystery that makes life interesting?
Comment posted by
at 6/7/2006 4:36:42 PM
John, I saw the article in the Times, and then again on the Spacemusic Newsletter with comments. One of the comments was “this is too funny,” which is think is very naiive. This is the 21st century, and nobody gives a shit if they walk into a bar and hear “Freebird” for the 5,487th time, but God forbid someone plays “Thursday Afternoon” and the bar was on the edge of an insurrection.
This is NOT good news for people who love ambient music. I mean, this happened in sophisticated Manhattan, not Podunk, Wisconsin or something.
I used to wonder why New York didn’t have an ambient music scene, while a comparative hellhole like Philly does. Part of it has to do with the fortuitous existence of Star’s End on WXPN, which was a show that (I think) John started, but which I also DJed among other people, and which has been cared for zealously for the past several years by Chuck van Zyl, an ambient musician himself. But while that may explain why there is a scene in Philly, it does not explain why there is no such scene in New York, or why when Robert Rich played the Knitting Factory, nobody showed up, and he could barely be heard over the bar noise (then again, since the Knit has done away with chairs, so it’s just an ambient venue by default.)
I think the crux of the problem is that we don’t have an ambient music program on the radio. ECHOES, which plays some ambient music, is carried on WFUV, a great sounding, 50,000 watt station. The problem with WFUV has always been that their antennae is in the Bronx, near the Botanical Gardens, and it simply isn’t high enough to get through all of the skyscrapers, so nobody in the CIty can hear WFUV. Unless they can locate their antennae on the Empire State Building, which all of the other stations have done since 9/11, WFUV will never be heard in Manhattan. That’s 8 million potential listeners down the drain.
The only other alternative station for ambient music is WNYC, a public radio station which now only plays music at night, and has a show called “New Sounds,” hosted by a nice sounding, former classical announcer named John Schaefer. The ambient content of “New Sounds” is fairly low, Schaefer can sound a bit pedantic, and “New Sounds” is only carried for an hour a day. About a year ago, NPR dropped their only bona-fide space music show, “Music From The Hearts Of Space,” whch can now be heard in this area only via the Internet.
So, since people are generally afraid or hostile to “new things,” and since even Brian Eno’s music (as opposed to his production clients like U2 and Paul Simon,) is still a “new thing” even twenty years after its release, people act all sorts of stupid when someone spins “Thurday Afternoon” in a bar. Sad