Encountering Ambient Music

By nature, ambient music is not created to entertain in the popular sense of providing the highs and lows of melody to which we are accustomed, if not addicted. Ambient music creates an atmosphere that mimics the behavior of incidental sounds that surround us, even though they are often carefully orchestrated by an ambient sound artist. It is a surprisingly poetic genre that encourages introspection as well as a curiosity to push the limits of personal perception through the sonic medium. Such a genre opens the opportunity to spontaneously find magic in moments that are not explicitly constructed  to bring you pleasure, in a manner much like catching notes of a bird’s song, finding comfort in the echoing rumble of the distant subway, or tracing the path of the wind across long grass.

Ambient musician Masayuki TAGUCHI is from Niigata, Japan. Among other genres, he performs in this realm of music, which is not particularly widely known or appreciated by audiences and which is often quickly dismissed. Taguchi agreed to an interview and shared some of his experience and insight regarding the subtleties of ambient music production.

“In its original definition, ambient music was meant just for specific places,” he explains. “The current definition, however, seems to be wider, including meditation music or experimental work. But it’s okay, because genre is a matter of convenience. My work also does not apply to the first definition of ambient music. And I have not stuck to this genre.”

Although ambient music can tell a narrative that is unique to each listener, Taguchi says, “I think it is not the role of ambient music. It might be able to decorate the stage of a story.” In this way, ambient music becomes an experience that is very individual to each listener in a way that cannot be realized through music commanded by melody and vocals.

Most recently, Masayuki Taguchi released an ambient sound album entitled Cave. Were there images or narratives around which he sculpted the album’s form?

“There were some vague images,” he explains, “The horizon that is seen from inside the cave, the sunrise from the horizon, for example. I’m glad if listeners have various images from the sounds of this album.”

For a good introduction to ambient music, Taguchi recommends Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, which was released in 1978 as Eno’s sixth solo studio album.

Listen to Masayuki Taguchi’s track “Canvas”:

Influence and Inspiration

The ambient music genre infiltrated the work of Masayuki Taguchi rather unexpectedly. Growing up, Taguchi hadn’t considered becoming involved with ambient sound art. “I didn’t think much about my future,” he says, “but I wanted to be involved with music in any way.”

The serendipitous discovery occurred as he began to explore music production. “At first, I got interested in electronic sound synthesis. After that, I started making electronic music using Max/MSP. Sounds in which I was interested were like “ambient music” by chance. But this is not the only genre I will care about in the future.”

His transition into the genre, despite being unpredictable for him, begins to make sense when considering the music that influenced him most as he was growing up. “In my high school days,” he explains, “I was listening to Radiohead intently. In particular, the Kid A album.”

Taguchi explains that influences on his work today include weather, topography and crowds. In a more cerebral sense, inspiration comes from art, literature, science, and technology.

“I’m inspired by the experimental or unique works, not limited to music.”

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