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Topic: Good Background Music

  1. #1

    Good Background Music

    Is this idea an oxymoron?

    Music that helps establish the mood and feel of an environment but is not so intricate that it takes you away from your eating, shopping, strolling. Maybe you are conscious of it, maybe you aren't.

    Isn't this a bit like the role of good film music?

    I occassionally get requests for music like this and am always on the lookout for artists (non vocal) whose music is elegant and interesting but ultimately can sit comfortably in the background.

    Does anyone know of any artists that fit this description?
    -not Kenny G

  2. #2

    Re: Good Background Music

    Brian Eno. Brian Eno. Brian Eno.

    Although the term "ambient music" has been stretched and distorted into an impossibly vague, overinclusive term encompassing virtually any beatless music, it was quite an innovative term in the late '70s, when Eno first started applying it to certain aspects of his music...

    As he wrote in his liner notes to "Ambient 1: Music for Airports":

    The concept of music designed specifically as a background feature in the environment was pioneered by Muzak Inc. in the fifties, and has since come to be known generically by the term Muzak. The connotations that this term carries are those particularly associated with the kind of material that Muzak Inc. produces - familiar tunes arranged and orchestrated in a lightweight and derivative manner. Understandably, this has led most discerning listeners (and most composers) to dismiss entirely the concept of environmental music as an idea worthy of attention.

    Over the past three years, I have become interested in the use of music as ambience, and have come to believe that it is possible to produce material that can be used thus without being in any way compromised. To create a distinction between my own experiments in this area and the products of the various purveyors of canned music, I have begun using the term Ambient Music.

    An ambience is defined as an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.

    Whereas the extant canned music companies proceed from the basis of regularizing environments by blanketing their acoustic and atmospheric idiosyncracies, Ambient Music is intended to enhance these. Whereas conventional background music is produced by stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty (and thus all genuine interest) from the music, Ambient Music retains these qualities. And whereas their intention is to `brighten' the environment by adding stimulus to it (thus supposedly alleviating the tedium of routine tasks and levelling out the natural ups and downs of the body rhythms) Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.

    Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.


    September 1978
    Reaching a little further back, you could cite Erik Satie's "Musique d'ameublement" ("furniture music").....
    — alanb




  3. #3

    Re: Good Background Music

    Here´s a link to a short and educative text about the theory of soft and hard profiles (in "background music"). Check it out.



  4. #4

    Re: Good Background Music

    Some friends and I ended up at a party one night. None of us noticed the music at first, because our attention was elsewhere. Later, when there was attention to spare, it filled whatever space your mind wasn't using. It was DJ Cheb i Sabbah's Shri Durga, and half of us bought a copy. Most of it is vocal, and it can handle intensive listening as well.

    I know you want non-vocal material. Is that an absolute requirement, or are vocals OK under some circumstances?

    Thinking about it now, I wonder if that music worked because it was a good fit to the culture of that place at that time with those people. Most retail music seems to pass through most shoppers without a trace, but I usually hate it, passionately. Could it be that it's much harder to make good background music for a wide audience?

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