Sam Kidel explores the Politics of Ambience

Terre Thaemlitz, David Toop and Adam Harper are among the contributors at an upcoming event in Oxford organised by the Young Echo man.

The Disruptive Muzak album from Young Echo associate Sam Kidel issued on Manchester’s The Death Of Rave last month is one of this year’s most conceptually-satisfying listens, throwing the whole notion of piped hold music on its head. Read up on the ideas behind it and how they are executed in this review from Matt Anniss. For the project, Kidel researched Mood Media, an agency that supplies governments, businesses and shopping centres with background music that ensures employees, clients and members of the public are upbeat and co-operative.

The research obviously stuck with Kidel. Sensing the room for a wider debate on ambient music, how it is coercively used by the state, and whether it can play a role in community organising, Kidel has teamed up with Sonic Arts Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University for an all-day event in late June called The Politics Of Ambience. An open call for contributors has seen musician and author David Toop, Comatonse Recordings founder Terre Thaemlitz and noted music critic Adam Harper among those who have agreed to participate in the free event. Presentations, talks, workshops, and exhibits are promised with the Sonic Arts Research Unit aiming to “reflect on the political implications of past and present work on ambience, and to nurture seeds for future work.”

Speaking to us over email, Kidel had the following to say regarding his motivations for setting up the event: “There have been a number of writers who have identified a recent spike of interest in ambience – not just in music but also in fields like advertising ,design, computing, even literature. This event is an opportunity to focus on that and ask: why ambience, now? Who controls it? Who benefits? What’s it for?”

The Politics Of Ambience will take place from 10am-6pm on Saturday, June 25 at Headington Campus of Oxford Brookes. Further details on the event and all participants can be found at the official website.

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