Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ambient: Music for Babies

Three months ago I became an uncle. Yay!

As I was trying to think of something to give my sister for Christmas, ideally something I could make, I found out that they discovered the sleep inducing power of white noise for my nephew. Simply Noise is a great site that I discovered awhile back. I find it great for focusing, especially while writing, and was thrilled they were using it. White noise is essentially a perpetual "shhh" sound, letting the baby know everything is okay.

There was one problem, though. The sound put my sister on edge, much like a television set left on after the cable box is switched off. So, I decided to set out and make something more melodic than the same monotonous sound for her to try. I started making tunes that utilized white noise and other distortion and delay based sounds, along with some binaural beats. It sorta snowballed into an album, which I now call Ambient: Music for Babies. Now that they're trying to move past the noise approach, I figure why not share it with everyone?

"December Windows"

The footage is from the first snow storm of the year, and shows the environment I was putting this together in rather nicely. Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports was a major influence.

"Sleet Pulse"

"Late Evening Haze"

This tune was admittedly not quite baby friendly, at least not very likely to be. I was also influenced to do a few tracks that reflected the sleep deprivation of those first weeks (into months) of having a kid. Namely this track and "Midnight Tap Water" below.

"Gray Meditation"

"Linen Curtains (Tidal Wash Mix)"

The "Tidal Wash Mix" here is a reworking of the original session version. It turns out that trying to compose an album of any kind of music in under two weeks is not very easy. So, for Christmas I gave them a demo CD with a promise that several tracks would be reworked. The original version of this was much more piano oriented and cheery, really cheery, but it mixed wrong and didn't gel with the overall murky ambiance I was going for. I was like a patch in the sky of blinding bright sunlight on an otherwise cozy, cloudy day. As a result I added the more oceanic soundscape making the piano sound like something being listened to from underwater.

"Waiting in Airports"

A spiritual nod to Eno. I think the F@*k Buttons (NSFW only because of the band's name) were another influence on this piece.

"Midnight Tap Water"

"Beneath the Ballroom"

I had a very clear image for this tune, one of being underwater in darkness beneath a hazy surface of ice over which a ballroom dance is being carried out. It's a sort of manatee tune, very dreamlike in nature, the sort of thing my earliest dreams tended to form. I'd credit LIMBO as an inspiration, but I hadn't gotten to the game's climax when I composed it and I feel like those last moments are where it was most like the song and vice versa. It's an odd piece to include I suppose, but the idea of music in other rooms and of sounds out of sight - that those were things my sister and brother-in-law were encouraging their son not to be scared of, inspired the tune. It's a strange mix of darkness and uncertainty but also grandeur and wonder. At least, that's what I aimed for.

"Mumbled Lullaby"

And here is the infamous tune I linked to before while discussing "Into the City, It Cometh at Night," that my friend filled the comment board for with madness. It's a quaint little closing tune, but I'm not entirely pleased with the video. It just didn't come out right and were I ever to present this in some public exhibition, it would likely be drastically redone.

I haven't really discussed the videos much. They were all done on the fly from various footage on my hard drive, mostly assembled from the first winter snow we had. The footage was largely collected to experiment with for a film project I'm working on. Here I choose mostly to modify the footage into black and white as babies like high contrast. Of course, halfway through assembling them (not in order) I realized it would be a terrible idea to actually show any of these to my nephew as showing new born babies videos can lead to all sorts of developmental problems. So I just cobbled imagery that complimented the music to give them something more that a white on black title as they played on YouTube. There isn't much more to them than that. Aesthetically pleasing visual stimulus to accompany the music.


I feel I should close this with some form of disclaimer. While I know a couple of these tracks were just as effective as the white noise, my sister and her husband were already starting to move away from this approach around the time the final version of the album was finished. I have no idea what the long-term effects of my music would be be on a child and am not recommending the music actually be played to babies for long periods of time. So... don't cry to me if you slap headphones on your one-month old and blare this in their ears until their deaf... only to discover it makes them deaf, or into F@*k Buttons, or both. The title of the album is based on what I set out to do, not the final product.


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