Vague Terrain 20: Ambient

[Little Oak Animal / video sketch screen capture]

In recent years there has been increased discourse surrounding ‘ambient’ technologies and awareness. The latter half of the 20th century has seen the public and private spheres become increasingly mediated and our notions of environment, awareness and presence have been irrevocably altered. ‘Ambience’ is also a term connected to musical composition – from Erik Satie’s passive “Furniture Music” to Brian Eno’s late 1970s experiments in process-based work this creative milieu has formed the foundation for entire genres and working methodologies. Vague Terrain 20: Ambient aspires to peel back the veneer of contemporary environments and art practices to explore place, atmosphere and performance.

David Kristian is a landmark figure in the history of Canadian electronic and ambient music. His work In your sleep is music intended to breath and evolve on its own, it simultaneously occupies lived space while making space more livable. Little Oak Animal presents a series of audiovisual works that can perhaps be best described as digital naturalism: where digital audio meets an organic photographic process. Scott M2, better known as one half of the ambient duo dreamSTATE and organizer of the world renowned Ambient Ping music series presents an audiovisual work titled Cloud Painting which draws heavily on Eno-inspired image and sound paintings. Andrea-Jane Cornell is a sound artist who explores the phenomenological dimensions of sound in an intuitive and iterative way; her piece Basin / Bassin is representative of this working methodology and documents the process through which the piece was created.

To round out this issue of Vague Terrain we’ve commissioned a series of texts that explore ambience in relation to various disciplines and creative practices. Game designer Michel McBride–Charpentier carefully considers the intersection of soundscape studies and level design in ‘City 17’ within Valve’s classic first-person shooter Half-Life 2. Veteran music and sound art writer Marc Weidenbaum has penned a sprawling meditation on ‘non-musical’ sound and the practice of criticism as noted during his annual vacation from recorded music. Jim Bizzocchi discusses his artistic practice of ambient video and explores connections between cinema, video art, music, generative art and painting. Leonardo Rosado, founder of the experimental music label FeedbackLoop, discusses what it is like to curate within the ambiguous and amorphous ‘genre’ of ambient music. Interaction designer Andrew Lovett-Baron weighs in with survey of recent developments in interface and sensor design in order to demonstrate how our expectations of objects and environments are about to be radically transformed. Finally, media and performance artist Michelle Teran sits down with Vague Terrain’s Greg J. Smith to discuss how her work playfully problematizes our everyday experience and perception of the city.

We present this work to you as a survey of approaches for considering time, space and duration.

Corina MacDonald, Neil Wiernik and Greg J. Smith, Montreal & Toronto
October 2011