Ambient music is a genre of music that puts an emphasis on tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. A form of slow instumental music, it uses repetitive, but gentle, soothing sound patterns that can be described as a sonic wallpaper to complement or alter one’s space and to generate a sense of calmness. Intended to relax, the genre is said to evoke an “atmospheric”, “visual”, or “unobtrusive” quality.
Ambient music focuses on creating a mood or atmosphere through synthesizers and timbral qualities, often lacking the presence of any net composition, beat, or structured melody. It uses textural layers of sound without prevalent musical tropes, rewarding both passive and active listening. Nature soundscapes are usually included, and the sounds of acoustic instruments such as the piano, strings, and flute, among others, may be emulated through a synthesizer.
As a genre, it originated in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, when new sound-making devices were being introduced to a wider market, such as the synthesizer. Ambient music may have elements of new-age music due to usage of (synthesized) instruments, and drone music, as some works may use sustained or repeated notes.
Ambient did not achieve large commercial success, being criticized as having a “boring” and “over-intellectual” sound. Nevertheless, it has attained a certain degree of acclaim throughout the years, especially in the internet age. Due to its relatively open style, ambient music often takes influences from many other genres, ranging from classical, avant-garde music, folk, jazz, and world music, among several others.