Ambient and Free-form Music

Composers have for a long time sought to stretch the bounds of compositional style and to enter realms of the avant-garde.  Often bending or even dismissing the fundamental principles of more conventional music, these composers explored whole new ways of expression.

Composers experimented with new compositional structures for conventional instruments, and today we have the likes of Steve Reich and Philip Glass employing conventional instrumentation in refreshingly original ways.  But it was the advent of electronics that really began to open whole new vistas for composers.  To begin with using tuned oscillators, radios etc, they ‘sampled’ sounds from a variety of sources, and they began to build ‘electronic’ compositions using tape recorders with techniques such as musique concrète.

Probably best known for his mastery of new techniques was Karlheinz Stockhausen, who created a vast repertoire of genre-defying compositions throughout his career.  He influenced a young breed of German musicians who started to bring such techniques into rock music, creating a style sometimes termed “Kraut Rock”, which started to emerge at the end of the 1960s and developed from there.  Groups such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Can, Amon Düül, Faust, etc, started to create music using ideas stimulated by Stockhausen and an era of inventive and original music began.

Some time later, Brian Eno spoke of Ambient Music, originally postulated in his album Discrete Music, which featured a composition not intended as foreground but as part of the ambience of the environment, somewhat like sophisticated musak.  It was intended to be there just making a non-intrusive, even unheard presence which enhanced the environment making it more comfortable.  Later this concept of ambient music developed into a form of minimalism, itself an interesting development in musical technique, which could also serve as foreground listenable music.  Later still, the concept embraced more strident and abrasive styles, but the common theme seemed to be the lack of prescriptive structure to the sounds used to create the music.

Here I have tried to explore the wide dimension of ambient and experimental music to create compositions that can be listened to or left as background, while retaining some interest that permits repeated listening.

Originating these unstructured pieces in a surround format means the ambient nature is further explored as the sources of the sounds emerge from all corners of the room embracing the listener more.  This style of music suits a surround realisation.

Mixing any music in a 5.1 surround format poses various challenges as the whole sound stage enters a third dimension. in particular, the replay of surround can be so dependent on the huge variability experienced in different setups. Different balance, speaker and listener positions and the variability of replay equipment means the original mix has to be resilient to many parameters. I hope that these compositions can be realised in such a way that the surround features enhance the listening experience.