Ambient music is a genre of music and includes forms of music that put an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. Ambient music is said to evoke an "atmospheric", "visual" or "unobtrusive" quality. To quote one pioneer, Brian Eno, "Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."
As a genre it originated in the United Kingdom at a time when new sound-making devices such as the synthesizer, were being introduced to a wider market. Ambient developed in the 1970s from the experimental and synthesizer-oriented styles of the period. Mike Oldfield, Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis were all influences on the emergence of ambient. Robert Fripp and Brian Eno popularized ambient music in 1972 while experimenting with tape loop techniques. The Orb and Aphex Twin gained commercial success with ambient tracks in the early 1990s. Ambient compositions are often quite lengthy, much longer than more popular, commercial forms of music. Some pieces can reach a half an hour or more in length.
Ambient had a revival towards the late 1980s with the prominence of house and techno music. Eventually, ambient grew a cult following in the 1990s. By the early 1990s artists such as Aphex Twin were being called ambient house, ambient techno, IDM or "ambient" by the media. Genre offshoots include dark ambient, ambient house, ambient industrial, ambient dub, psybient and ambient trance.
- Though drone is now classified as a subgenre of ambient, early drone music influenced the origin of ambient: see the other note from Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music (Cook & Pople 2004, p. 502), and the note from Four Musical Minimalists (Potter 2002, p. 91).
- Prendergast, M. The Ambient Century. 2001. Bloomsbury, USA
- Eno, Brian. Music for Airports. Retrieved on July 8, 2013.