Unless you’re my son, who goes to sleep listening to System of a Down, everyone needs a quiet music break from time to time. As I get older, I find I need a quiet music break more often than not, but that’s another matter.
But just quiet isn’t enough – no cheesy Muzak-type easy listening crap trickling cluelessly from the elevator speakers for us, no sir. We want cool quiet music, we want ambient music. For a fairly extensive look at ambient music see here, but in essence, ambient music is called such because it inhabits the room with you. It is quiet music assembled from electronic pulses, throbs, short melodies, mysterious samples, bits of exotica, all with the goal of creating a texture of mental and emotional quietude.
Brian Eno worked with long, minimalistic electronic pieces in the ’70s and coined the term ambient. The style came into vogue in the chill rooms of raves in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a place to take a break from the crazy beat of the rave without reentering the real world. Moby and Aphex Twin have put out perhaps the best-known ambient records, but my favorite of the last few years is William Orbit’s Pieces In a Modern Style.
In Pieces, Orbit has created a ravishing ambient masterpiece out of electronic versions of classical pieces by Vivaldi, Beethoven, Handel, Ravel, and well as more contemporary pieces by Barber, Cage, Gorecki, and Mascagni.
Using virtually no percussion other than a few throbbing pulses, Orbit has interpreted these pieces, recreating the original orchestral sound of some, completely reshaping others, all on his own with electronic keyboards and his trusty computer. He has found a cotton candy heart inside the icy chill of electronic music. Also included on a separate disc is the hit single dance remix of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”
English electronic multi-instrumentalist William Orbit, born William Wainwright, began his career in the early ’80s with a band called Torch Song. Orbit then recorded four moody instrumental albums during the late ’80s and early ’90s, three under the artist name Strange Cargo. He has been an extremely successful remixer, working with Prince, Erasure, Sinead O’Conner, Human League, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Blur, The Cure, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, etc.
Orbit is now best-known for his work with Madonna: he co-wrote and co-produced her great Grammy-winning Ray of Light album, did the same for the “Beautiful Stranger” song from the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, and The Next Best Thing soundtrack, including her version of “American Pie.”