The Second Decade: Hearts of Space Glides into the New Ambient Frontier An interview with Stephen Hill by Sheila Gerzoff
Is spacemusic or new age music changing? Do you think it might change in the future, in the next decade?
I'm pretty confident that spacemusic as a genre has a long lifespan. It's a very old direction, centuries old. Contemporary spacemusic is only the latest restatement of the basic truths of contemplative sound experiences.
The only thing that's come along in recent years is a newer generation of ambient artists who come out of dance mixing and are derivative of techno. These artists have a different concept of the source material. I refer to them in voiceover copy as "the new Ambient frontier."
These people are doing layered mixes with many sound sources, both electronic and acoustic samples in a free collage style. It's actually something I was doing in the early 70s at KPFA, just the same way these people are mixing in clubs, in special chillrooms, quieter environments which are part of the rave scene. Basically I had to do it in a radio station. These people go out and buy inexpensive DJ equipment -- old turntables, drum machines, cheap CD machines, and a little mixer. They've got the equipment at their disposal that I had in a radio station in 1973. Now they do it live in a social setting where they can actually see their audience and can respond to them more directly than I could on the radio.
So this music developed out of the edges of the rave/dance/techno scene -- actually the chillroom scene, public places where people would go to be quiet and relax rather than dance to loud music. The artists coming up out of that chillroom scene are still working with very similar principles -- space creating sounds, repetitive rhythms, natural sound ambiences, concrete sounds, things like that. They're working with new technologies, combined with new ways of mixing and different attitudes about it. They freely intermix multiple genres, acoustic and electronic instruments, to give a different definition to Ambient music. Hearts of Space as a program is embracing these new artists.
The best of the old and the best of the new? The new these days means something a little different, but does the term spacemusic still apply?
Yes. The genre and the program are now moving at an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary pace. If there was a revolution, it happened in the 70s when electronic instruments and cheap recording equipment became available, and artists could take control of the production process. Along with melody, harmony, and rhythm, artists could manipulate imagery as a variable of creativity. This was significant: imagery is the main thing in spacemusic. As audio virtual reality develops, the possibility of creating imagery continues to grow, and the evolutionary process will continue.
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