Friday, 8 August 2008

Robert Rich - Prehistory of Ambient Music

What lead up to modern ambient music - how did it get started - who were it's forerunners - what was your early vision?

I think the stream for this music has flowed parallel to other musical streams all along. Of the many roles that music plays - entertainment, mating ritual, storytelling, news transmission, protest, etc. - there are also the roles of shamanic ritual, medicine chant, devotional music and such which I feel predated our modern forms of "ambient." We can't ignore 20th century mavericks like Eric Satie, John Cage, Harry Partch, Lou Harrison, and other pre-1960 composers who widened the definitions of music and challenged the intellectual traditions of Western art-music. In the 1960's we had the immense influence of minimalism and psychedelia. Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich and others loom very large as pioneers in new tonality and deep listening. After that, of course, came the inrush of psychedelic-inspired spacemusic from Germany and elsewhere. That music was a big early influence on me, along with Brian Eno, who did a good job of synthesizing the ideas of John Cage and Cornelius Cardew into his "ambient" vocabulary.

However I think the composers that influenced me most from the point of view of compositional ideology were the sound environment artists like Annea Lockwood, Pauline Oliveros, Marianne Amocher and Bill Fontana. Their ideas of using rarefied and relocated environmental recording to heighten the listener's attention gave me the inspiration for my Sleep Concerts, as did Terry Riley's all night organ improvisations, and the Wayang puppet plays of Indonesia, fluxus events and other such intense long-form music. I feel that no single person or people innovated this music from a vacuum. We all come from the point of view of "slow art" and Deep Listening.

- Robert Rich


No comments: