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I don't really like the bird/oceanic type noises some physiotherapists / massagers play. I prefer almost anything that has songs in it.

Ambient is the opposite of songs , not just in practice but in principle. But most of it doesn’t have natural sounds.

"as ignorable as it is interesting"

The ambient music I tend to like leans more towards the 'interesting' side and less the other way. I don't necessarily have to have melody, but I find that I'm not attracted to music that doesn't have chord progressions, irrespective of style. So while I'm not a fan of the Eno type of ambient music, I like things like Hammock and Slow Meadow a lot.

I was never a great fan of New Age music, but it's probably telling that my favorite Windham Hill musician is William Ackerman, who does a sort of ambient/folk guitar thing. His early records Passage and Past Light remain faves.

I like Ackerman, too,but I wouldn't apply the word ambient to his music. What I know of it is definitely compositions,little instrumental songs without words. My favorite of all those Windham Hill artists,or at least favorite album, was Alex di Grassi, an album called Causeway. Somewhat similar to Ackerman but more complex. Definitely not ambient.

Right, not really ambient, but the type of music that works equally well as "wallpaper" or as music one can actually consciously pay attention to. I think a lot of baroque music kind of works like that, actually, and of course that's far from "ambient."

Yes, you can use almost any kind of music that's fairly uniform in texture and volume that way. That reminds me of an interview I read with Robbie Robertson many years ago. He was talking about taking time off from touring and recording and said he wasn't even listening to music, "just stuff you don't really have to listen to, like opera."

Grumpy mentioned music heard at massage places and the like. Judging by the stuff I used to see offered at eMusic, there is a sort of very low-grade subgenre of ambient music, or maybe ambient sound, that's meant for spas and yoga salons (or whatever the right word for a place where they do yoga is). I think that's more or less just manufactured.

One cool thing about the best ambient, like Music for Airports, is that if you turn it up to a decent volume and really listen, especially with headphones, you hear all sorts of little details that you could easily miss or ignore.

There's tons and tons of stuff like this:


Just listened to some of that first part of Music for Airports. Way too intrusive on my subconscious, or something. :) Also made me think of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the dying watching movies in Soylent Green.

"Way too intrusive on my subconscious..." Hmm, can you elaborate on that?

Sorry -- a very imprecise way to express it. It's just that the music makes me feel it's aiming at a place deep within me, tapping into primal stuff. That's imprecise as well, isn't it, but best I can do. Maybe more a sign of my own nuttiness than anything else. :)

Eno would probably be pleased.

Once when I was playing some kind of ambient music at work the woman in the next office stuck her head in and said "Does that music change your brain waves?"

That's getting there -- very good way to put it.

I think she was disappointed. Maybe wanted to try it herself. I vaguely remember that there was some sort of fad years ago, maybe back in the '70s, about some sort of brain-wave feedback thing that was supposed to make you calm or something.

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