Can anything intrude on Ambient music?

by Jeremy Evans

I am listening to Fripp and Eno live in Paris 1975. It is an amalgamation of bootlegs and Eno’s backing tapes. On listening I think, I would like to have been there. In 1975 I was too young to understand music of this kind. I was still quite glam, particularly Bowie, punk had not happened and anyway punk would have been difficult for a 12 year old. As it was, it was pretty manageable for a 14 year old but that is for another time.

There were some comments on Amazon from people who were not happy. They didn’t like the audience noises. The first piece has a lot of whistling and whooping from the audience. Apparently they were expecting some sort of King Crimson / Here Come the Warm Jets hybrid.

As I started listening I was also a bit put out by the audience noises, I was thinking how much it was disturbing the mood of the piece. Then I stepped out on to my balcony to put some washing out (washing on the balcony is in direct contravention of my lease but I like to think that my washing is nice to look at).

As I was putting the washing out I heard a magpie making a bit of a din, some part of the boiler system kicked in with what was approaching white noise and a siren went off from a nearby passing emergency service vehicle. Then I thought of the liner notes for Ambient #1 Music for Airports and remembered the closing line (not word for word, I had to look it up) “Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”

I wondered whether the audience, magpie, boiler room and siren were part of the music? I’m not an expert on John Cage but I get the gist of 4′ 33″ – that all sound is music – so I am wondering whether the additional sounds of the audience as they now exist on the record are a part of the music and that my local neighbourhood sounds are improvisations?

Can anything intrude on Ambient music?