Ambient Music, Deconstructed
I recently stumbled upon the most awesome
musical machines I had ever found. On Stephane Pidgeon's
website, I found several "machines" in software that generate
ambient musical soundscapes. First, I think the musical
quality of these "machines" is incredible! They sound very
beautiful and very relaxing. I contacted Stephane Pidgeon to
ask him if he teaches classes on how to create ambient music, out
of respect and a desire to support him. He declined teaching
me, saying I can just analyze the soundscapes he created for clues
on how to create ambient music.
So I am going to try to analyze his
soundscapes. By the way, I strongly
recommend that you donate
to Stephane Pidgeon's website if you find this document, or his
soundscapes, useful. In fact, consider buying these
soundscapes in recorded audio files.
I love how this generator sounds! This
soundscape is composed of several parts: engine rumble, distant
explosions, low voice, vocal pad, pad, hum, limbus, interferences,
haunting, and shimmer. I will try to analyze each part.
- Engine rumble: this is a very low, constant, rumble.
- Distant explosions: this is about the same frequency as the
engine rumble, but it is a constant "bloom" effect that comes
and goes, with a sharp attack.
- Low voice: this sounds slightly like a voice, and is very low
in frequency. It has a very sinusoidal attack and decay,
with lots of low frequency noise. The vowel doesn't seem
to change much. The range of the note seems outside of
normal human vocals (in how low it is).
- Vocal pad: this is a low frequency (but within the actual
human vocal range). It also has a sinusoidal attack and
decay, and the vowel doesn't seem to change very much. It
also seems to include a synthesizer pad elements, possibly saw
- Pad: this is a high frequency shimmering pad sound that seems
almost constant. Its volume seems to be sinusoidal as
well. It seems to begin gradually in an almost "ooh" vowel
or square wave, but then becomes most of a saw wave. It
does not seem to have much bass range (probably lots of high
pass filter). It sounds like it is a minor third, in terms
of the specific notes, or possibly a minor with a minor 7th
chord. It seems to be more resonant in the higher
- Hum: this portion seems to change chords. It seems to
begin in the higher notes, with almost a vocal-like "ooh" sound
from, say, a female choir. It also contains pad and
shimmer elements. It seems to begin in a major chord with
a major 7th, and then become a minor chord with a minor
7th. It seems to do this by substituting one note for
another. I do not know what key it is in, but the chord
doesn't seem to change the key signature. It seems to
transition from (example: in the key of C/A minor) from A C E G
(A minor 7) to F A C E (F major 7) by alternately fading the F
and G notes in and out. Note that the G seems to be held
longer, possibly because that could make the F chord temporarily
an F2 chord (F G A C).
- Limbus: this word means "edge." This element appears to
be a half-tonal, half-atonal hum sound with lots of noise.
Its volume seems to be sinusoidal. Using the example
above, if in the key of C/Am, it seems to be playing the notes C
and E, with possibly a D note that comes in and out to provide a
slightly useful dissonance. This element also seems to
have some shimmer, and some volume modulation.
- Interferences: this element seems to be almost like a
recording of rain. In volume, it is sinusoidal, coming in
and going out smoothly. However, within the sequence of
noise, there seems to be a raspy percussion-like dissonant
element, like you would hear in various movies in utopian/desert
type sections, almost like a sampled sound of a fly buzzing
around, but modulated and louder.
- Haunting: this seems to be a high pitched sequence of bell
tones, sort of like a bell pad, but the notes have more
attack. So maybe 25% pad, 75% bell sound. Almost
like synth bell patches, or even maybe wine glass or glass
armonica sounds. There are actual notes being played in a
sequence. I think the sequence of notes are all within the
current key the soundscape is written in, without accidentals
(no sharps or flats).
- Shimmer: this is some very high shimmery sounds, as you
probably expected. The notes being used are very high in
frequency, and fit in the current soundscape key. They
appear to contain some elements of ring modulation, and almost
sound like mechanical telephone ringers in some way.