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Ambient Music Greats

Every genre of music boasts many high profile artists who have influenced, defined or inspired other musicians and the most high profile ambient musicians are no exception. 

Brian Eno is widely regarded as one of the principle innovators of the ambient musical genre and, is accredited as creating the definition of ambient music: low-volume music designed to modify the perception of a surrounding environment. While Eno initially had a career as a performer, he was in great demand as a producer from about 1973 onwards and his management team now describe his highly sought-after skills as ‘sound landscaping’. His 1975 album ‘Discrete Music’ has been defined as a seminal work for the genre and, this album was followed by some of his better known works including ‘Music for Airports’.  As well as these achievements, he has worked with a large number of commercial artists including U2, Dido and Coldplay, and written several movie soundtracks.

Harold Budd is another high-profile composer, who proclaims that he only got ‘kidnapped’ into the ambient music genre by journalists, and should not be defined as an ambient musician. Despite this declaration, his collaborations with Eno led to the establishment of the ‘soft pedal’ piano playing technique he is known for. In essence this playing technique is just playing in a slow and sustained way, and ambient or not, this approach to music making does align with Eno’s definition.

Similarly, ambient composer Steve Roach is also known in the genre for one particular act, this being advocating for the widespread use of the Aboriginal Didgeridoo in ambient music.  Roach, originally a Motocross racer, has utilised various tribal elements in his music, and travelled to Australia for several extensive time periods to learn how to play the didgeridoo.  His later work, which brought in Mexican ‘pre-hispanic’ sounds, established his position as a founder of the sub-genre, ‘tribal-ambient’.

These composers have all contributed to the ambient music genre in a substantial way, and have undoubtedly left a lasting legacy. Their work has paved the way for up-and-coming ambient composers and allowed the genre to develop into a large number of niche sub-genres.  

Author: G. McDonald for Jamhouse Creative
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