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Everyday Ambient Music (MP3)

In praise of the lightly augmented field recording

The term “ambient music” by definition, in our post”“John Cage world, is broad enough to include such a simple, unadorned thing as a quiet raw field recording of daily life — sounds that are loose and transparent enough to pass as background on second listen. That’s the “ambient” part of the equation. The “music” part would be the basic act of framing such a recording as a composition through the election to stop and start the tape at some point, and to subsequently make it available.

But why stop there? Then there is the next stage of field recording, that which is lightly augmented, so lightly that the emendations are nearly invisible. Take, for example, the lovely “Chun,” by Mola CL, which combines rudimentary elements (“Field recording, frog caller, bass guitar, buddha machine, tuning forks, sample,” reads the full text of the accompanying liner note) into something considerably less than the sum of those parts. It’s all small-bore sounds, elegant slices of everyday life and additional noisebits that are barely louder, barely more resonant or intrinsically memorable, than the jingle of change in one’s pocket. And yet the composite takes on the aspect of a sonic hologram, of pieces frozen in space, listened to as time passes as if one is moving around it and observing from various vantages. Just wonderful. It’s listed by Mola CL as a work in progress, but it sounds complete to these ears.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/mola-cl. Mola CL is Chase Lynn of High Wycombe, Britain.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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