"I have no technical ability and I know nothing about music" aka lean-back listening
a reservoir of ambient & instrumental music, part one
Today is my birthday. So, here is a present...for you. What can I say, I’m a weirdo. I live a life of plenty and need no gifts. If you want to get me something, consider upgrading to a paid subscription of this mixtape delivery service. Every little bit helps support my very unlikely career in music. Ergo:
Enough promo, now is about time for this month’s mixtape….
# of Tracks: about 200 recordings
Length: about 17 hours
Themes: ambient music with bite ~ that bite is created with the tooth of rhythm & tongue of melody ~ this is my subjective edit of the ‘best’ recordings from my much much (much!) longer ambient reservoir playlist which is linked at the bottom of this post
When I think about ambient music, I think about the passing of time. At the moment,2 I’ve been meditating on this beautiful bit of writing on the topic from my pal Leah Kelly.3 It’s called The Approach: How Time Feels. An excerpt:
BODY CLOCK: You measure time. You are both the keeper and record, the extraordinary consequence of synchronies in series, a symphony of coordinated rhythms and loops: proteins polymerize, ions flow, spindles align, cells mitose, hormones surge, vesicles fuse, alveoli inflate, heart beats, neurons fire, gait steps, fingers tap, wounds heal, hair grays, telomeres shorten, perceptions prime, behaviors habituate, and memories form and fade. The pace of life means you rarely attend to its cycles. Periodically your origins interrupt; you are humbled by jet lag, stubble, menstruation, death.
If I were to sum up the music I’m sharing in this edition of my mixtape delivery service, it is sound that expands one’s sense of scale, and reorients one’s understanding of how time passes, just like the life events Leah mentions in her list.
Why do we need a different kind of music for these things?
Pop music does excitement or humor or rage or sex really well. What it does less well is make entire sectors of your brain turn off, lose track of things, and alter your perception. I think the technical term for this is “tripping balls” and, well, as a descendent of addicts, I’ve made a point of letting music take me there rather than fungi- and plant-induced chemical reactions. I use music like this to moderate my emotions. I use it to humble myself the way chanting a mantra is supposed to.
At times, I literally sing to myself—often that lyric from John Coltrane, the words dissolving like a phrase written in air with smoke: A love su-preme / A love su-preme. Or I try to remember the chant which Tina Turner says saved her life: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.4 But really I more often get stuck on a suburban version of this incantation more in keeping with my modest roots: Meka Leka Hi Meka Hiney Ho. If you know you know:
Anyway, ambient music has become trendy in recent years. Usually what people mean by that are lazy washes of sound. Synthesizer + Reverb = Transcendence. My playlist is not that.
Rather my selections mostly draw inspiration from the adjacent worlds of minimalist composition5 and and experimental (yet accessible) electronic music. Thank you for diving into this world with me. I appreciate all of you who take the time out of your day to dive into my thought stream. It's a lot. Even for me. But, like this music, I try to make the river of words and sound both useful and kind.
Apple Music version
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The playlist includes songs such as…
^ Arvo Pärt: “Spiegel im Spiegel”
^ Mazzy Star: “Into Dust”
^ Irena and Vojtěch Havlovi: “Malé Modré” (translation “Little Blue”)
^ Richard Youngs: “Soon It Will Be Fire” (excerpt)
Ambient Reservoir: full version
# of Tracks: 2,500+ and growing
Length: 200+ hours
Themes: ambient textures ~ chill vibes ~ primarily instrumental music