Please educate me on ambient & drone music

Most of my understanding of drone comes from listening to Eliane Radigue’s work:

Trilogie De La Mort
Jetsun Mila


Thanks for all your replies! Given me a bit to think about.

I think the idea of this sort of thing being just as much a tool as any kind of art form might be the missing piece. As someone who generally tends to approach music from an active listening stance, the idea of it intentionally being deployed as background support hadn’t really clicked until now; despite having previously been introduced to Eno’s ideas along with my own experience of using stuff like Biosphere’s Substrata for that very purpose!

So with the idea of functionality in mind, how do y’all find the idea of crossover genres? Uninspired derivative shite, useful in its new form, or something in between?

On a side note, had a feeling I might risk muddying the waters a bit by lumping ambient and drone together, so appreciate the restraint with replies in that regard so far.

It’s on the astral plane.

Depends on the creativity of the artist in question.

I don’t love overly ‘woo’ stuff, but I have no objection to music/sound for people who are into that. Similarly, ‘world music’ is a cursed genre of cultural appropriation. Taking recordings of someone else’s sacred music and setting it to the beat du jour is not cool. Taking inspiration from sacred music to create something novel is cool.

Eliane Radigue describes her process with her ARP 2500. She went from Pierre Henry synth assistant to Tibetan Buddhist nun and back to synth enthusiast again.

Pete Namlook’s vast FAX catalog is an essential counterbalance to Eno’s ideas about ambient music.


For this listener, drone music has succeeded when I am content. The sound is there; I enjoy it; I don’t need it to go anywhere.
In this way it is more like a painting or sculpture. It’s static. I can walk around it, look at it closely or from further away. It might get better the longer you pay attention to it. A different state of mind to most music, where there is an element of progression and time.


Badum tish.

This is one of the things that annoys me about a lot of drone and ambient stuff, especially the more meditationally minded areas. Way too much cherry picked, pseudo-spiritual bollocks attached to it. I don’t need some lentil farmer whispering affirmative bullshit at me, it’s actually pretty counter-productive and it puts a lot of people off.


Dicking around with a sound source that doesnt appear to change much very quickly at first glance, but is captivating and enjoyable if you get into it, (almost intoxicating) = Drone.

Background meandering sounds all round and fluffy with no real noticeable anything = ambient.

As for the new age yoghurt weaving crystal fiddler stuff, erm, piss off.

As for meditation. Do it how ever you think you need to do it, with what ever forms you think help.

Just my thoughts.


Thank you @waftlord for sharing this artist. You might enjoy the work of Brian Grainger if you’ve not listened to his work before.

Coppice Halifax is one of his monikers along with Milieu.

Genre aside for the moment, one of the things I really like about Kraftwerk was how they went about finding inspiration/influence from their own culture (i.e western classical) rather than the culturally appropriative rock n roll surrounding them.

Back on genre, always found western new age twats grabbing on to eastern mystical affectations to be effing weird (not shit talking meditation, buddhism, etc here). On the other hand, found some really interesting “spiritual” stuff in the realm of catholic art and multimedia every now and again.

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I’ll take a run at addressing the OP’s question—the “why” of drone.

The conceptual foundations of modern “western” drone—the La Monte Young school that emerged in the 1960s—connect directly to non-western musical traditions, particularly North Indian classical, but also less drone-y forms like gamelan. The critical distinction between these forms, in contrast to most western music, is that they are focused on eliciting altered states of consciousness in the listener rather than directly expressing emotion. As some posters suggest above, drone is a tool, a means to an end, rather than an end unto itself.

To some extent, this distinction applies to other forms of ambient music as well. For example, Robert Rich explores this quite a bit in his music and has discussed it extensively in interviews. His sleep concerts are focused intentionally on activating lucid dream-like states in the listener by manipulating the boundary between sleep and wakefulness.

I know this sounds dangerously close to some of the new age claptrap described above (which I loath as well), but there ya go.


The best drone-ambient show I’ve been to in recent memory was when I walked by Notre Dame Paris just before Sunday Mass and decided to sit through it.

I have a few CDs of contemporary Buddhist “pop” music from the PRC that a friend picked up for me. I was rather taken aback at how musically similar it was to evangelical pop. (I suppose turnabout is fair play and the target market is basically similar). :joy:

Both the Monomachine and Virus TI are good for making sounds that play in the same space as didgeridoos and throat singing while distinctly being it’s own thing. The Wiard or Richter Noisering is not at all similar to a vocal synth, but plays nicely with a few slow LFOs and a high quality reverb like Space.

Get a cheap pair of protective glasses from the hardware store and some gaffer tape or black paint (if you have a well ventilated place to paint). Black out the lenses. When you have a good drone like texture going on your headphones, adopt a comfortable and stable posture and put the dark glasses on. If you usually enjoy some herb with your music making, don’t combine the two unless you are ready for a particularly intense experience.

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Whispering Lentil Farmers :joy:

Shimmering as one into the universe, probably.


Or find a sensory deprivation tank…for most vigorous lentil growth.

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Two important things to know about float tanks

  1. You can often provide your own music as an MP3 file.
  2. Some people react very very badly to float tanks, similar to how I react to glass bridges over canyons.

You can make blackout glasses for < $20, and floats are usually > $50 / session.

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Pulsing… ( fucking best pun of the day) Stirring the chakra cleansing Dahl of light


Well, the “ambient” and “drone” music is one of the main things I am listening to.
So many thoughts. Apologies in advance for being a little bit chaotic on topic.

  • The main conceptual thing behind this music is definitely the specific state of mind, as already was said in the thread. Hashtags like meditation, concentration, introversion, minimalism, deep listening. There could be multiple ways of getting into such territories. The meditation practices naturally lead to such sound (because any other music just distracts the mind).
    If you currently tend to create more structured and rhythmical music, maybe there is the answer - this is what your soul desires :slight_smile:
  • The ‘drone’ (and to less extent - ambient) music is sort of proto-music. Not a surprise every generation and many cultures discover and rediscover it again and again. Just to name a few - in 60-s and 70-s - the psychedelic rock and krautrock scenes and also impact of Brian Eno’s works (who gave the name for the style). In 80-s - Glenn Branca’s orchestra, rise of New Age and all sort of experiments of “industrial music” which transformed in the 90-s into dark ambient and isolationism. In 2000-s - metal scene discovers things like “drone-doom”. There are links and inter-connections from everywhere. Influences from Indian and Asian music. Academic minimalism. Ex-punk musicians, discovering droning sound.
    So the result - are multiple definitions what is ‘drone’ and what is ‘ambient’ (I tend to use it in broad way and don’t like the strict definitions here).
  • ‘Drone’ is also the easiest music to make and there is incredible amount of production. Thousands releases daily.
  • There are just dozens of ways of creating it. Traditional instruments. C-sound. Guitar pedals. Synthesizers. Paulstretch. Granular clouds. Bowed instruments with reverberation. Tape loops with many effects. No rules really.

If talking about the links, you can check the back-catalogue of (well, it was obvious) Drone Records. Their series of 7 inches are sort of legendary:

There is a huge selection of many, mostly obscure projects here. Not all the records are strictly “drone”, rather all sorts of deep and dark atmospheric sounds. Projects from many countries.
Their later releases are vinyl compilations [Drone-Mind // Mind-Drone], I have only the first one but it’s excellent.

Of course, the host of the label - duo ‘Troum’. Their classical works like Ryna, Sen, Tjukkurpa 1 & 2 (all available online) are a standard of ‘drone music’ to me. Very deep, beautiful and emotional music, created without synthesizers and computers, mostly on the guitars and acoustic instruments.


Just started on a few of his recent albums.
What a back catalog!
Thanks for the tip-off.

Lots of good points raised in the thread and whilst I agree that ambient/drone can be a very functional sort of music for relaxation, meditation etc, I also enjoy it for active listening like you would for more traditional forms of music. The key difference is that I’m hooking onto different aspects of the music - harmony, melody and rhythm are not the main focus anymore and I find myself digging into the texture, timbre and how the structure evolves. That’s not to say that harmony etc can’t play a part or feature - @Dava mentioning Stars Of The Lid and how they create a huge contrast by bringing in these elements from time to time is a great example of this can be really emotive.

A challenge with drone/ambient is that it is such a relatively new form of music - traditional music has multiple hundreds of years of context that gives our appreciation a subcounscious short-cut to figuring out if we like a piece of music. Ambient/drone then almost becomes more personal as we can decide what works for our enjoyment with much less context that can make us prejudiced.

Anyway, that was some blethering…


I agree, there’s an enormous and deep Western tradition of mysticism going back to the Dark Ages. “The Cloud of Unknowing” is as far out as it gets, and Christian too.

That’s how reforms work, by reaching back to the roots, uncovering the true meaning and showing up the modern day imposters, who are always numerous.

Really, you want the roots of Drone and Ambient, you have to go back to Perotin!