The design of ambience is the shaping of affect, but to what ends?

Brian Eno’s Music for Airports was the first LP to coin the term Ambient Music, providing a calming soundtrack to an environment symbolic of global capital flow. Has Ambient Music since continued to serve the interests of capital?

Did the resurgence of Ambient Music in the chill-out rooms of raves in the early 1990’s constitute an alternative, politically radical setting for Ambient?

Or was this movement’s invitation to “lie down and be counted” an example of what Seth Kim-Cohen later diagnosed as Ambient Music’s tendency towards “nebulous, naive, navel-gazing”?

What role might Ambient Music play in community organising?

How have states sought to create docile subjects by controlling ambience in public space?

Might increased attention towards ambient sound increase our sensitivity to environmental change?


This event, facilitated by the Sonic Arts Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University, sets out to explore the political intentions and implications of projects that focus on ambience. There has been a recent resurgence of interest in ambience in music and sound art, that correlates with a broad spike in interest around other ambient media, with some writers going so far as to posit that the move towards ambience has become a “cultural logic”.

Taking this moment of excitement as an opportunity for reflection, we have invited writers, musicians, field-recordists, musicologists, film-makers, educators, researchers, artists and community organisers to contribute presentations, talks, and workshops, to exhibit art works and to facilitate discussions, in order to reflect on the political implications of past and present work on ambience, and to nurture seeds for future work.

Contributors include:

David Toop / Nina Power / Terre Thaemlitz / Ultra-Red (Janna Graham & Chris Jones) / Seth Kim-Cohen / Adam Harper / Lola San Martin Arbide / Chino Amobi / Mikel R. Nieto / David Prescott-Steed / Kevin Logan / Kris Reeder / Harriet Butler

The event will take place on the 25th of June (10am to 6pm), at the Headington Campus of Oxford Brookes (on the outskirts of Oxford, easily accessible by bus from the train and coach station in central Oxford) and will be free to the public. Although the event takes place at a university, we welcome anyone who is interested.

Places will be limited, so please register your interest as soon as possible by using the form provided. This website and social media pages (twitter & facebook) will be updated with further practical information nearer the time.