This weekend I introduced a new playlist on YouTube. Titled “Ambient Performances,” it’s slowly amassing a collection of videos of people playing ambient music live. There’s an interesting tension there — several tensions, really. The main one, perhaps, is that ambient music often supposes stasis, while performance suggests activity. The videos I’m focusing the playlist on explore the activity required to achieve a semblance of stasis — the motion necessary to give the effect of immobility, you might say. Now, all music takes place over time, so it’s false to suggest ambient music is truly still. What ambient music is is more still than other forms of sonic expression.
This piece, by the Austin, Texas”“based Amulets, is a great example of what the “Ambient Performances” playlist is all about. To begin with, it adheres to the two main rules of the playlist:
Rule #1: I’m only including recordings I’d listen to without video.
Rule #2: I’m only including recordings where the video gives some sense of a correlation between what the musician is doing and what the listener is hearing.
What Amulets is up to in the piece is engaging, even as the music being produced provides a sense of disengagement. As described in the brief text accompanying the video, what Amulets has done is record four notes that make up a chord, each note assigned to a different track on the four-track recorder. He then effects change on each of those notes separately as the tape plays. The result is, as he puts it, “a droning, evolving, ambient soundscape.” I recommend using the listenonrepeat.com service to, indeed, play it on repeat.