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The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance: The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  186 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
A comprehensive and absorbing look at the music of the twentieth century, with an introduction by Brian Eno.

The 20th Century saw two revolutionary changes in music. First music was deconstructed from its previously strict form, moving from formal constraints to more accessible melodies. Second, the way in which music was generated radically changed as new electronic equip
Hardcover, 498 pages
Published January 24th 2001 by Bloomsbury USA (first published November 20th 2000)
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Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
A thoroughly amateurish and unfocused work which is less an overview of "ambient music" (a term never properly defined by the author) than a series of factually-dubious artist biographies presented in a dull, encyclopedic manner, a format that does little to orchestrate any sense of scope or overarching genre-trajectory. Much of the text is dedicated to artists who could hardly be described as even tangential to ambient—see the weakly-justified inclusion of Schoenberg in the classical section (d ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
A fascinating book tracing the rise of ambient and minimalist music from the classical music at the start of the twentieth century upto the ambient electronica and dance that closed the century. It is split into four 'books':

The Electronic Landscape
A review of the development of 'serious' music in the 20th century. It starts with the symphonies of Mahler, through Satie's 'Furniture Music' up until the work of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho in the 1980s.

Minimalism, Eno and the new Simplicity
Paul Austin
Apr 17, 2009 rated it really liked it

Serious ambient music devotees will find it a bit lacking, but for folks like me who only know the 'big' names, it's an incredibly comprehensive primer, and has led me to dozen CDs I've taken out of the library and listen to regularly now...
João Pedro da Costa
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
There's a lot of criticism concerning this book on the web. Personally, I found it simply amazing: a real-eye opener of the connections between major figures of ambient music from Mahler to Moby.

The fact that the book is more of a practical guide than an essay about ambient music is probably the main why some reader found it disappointing. When I ordered it I was expecting exactly what I ended up reading: a well-written journey through the work and life of key figures of ambient music. I especia
Jul 20, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mark Prendergast's THE AMBIENT CENTURY is an encyclopedia of the biggest names in "ambient music", a style that's never defined, but which might be a) music that the author digs, and b) music that the author doesn't like so much but which lends respectability to later figures.

Prendergast starts off all the way at the beginning of 1900s with innovative classical music figures such as Debussy, Mahler, and Ravel. There is little that these figures have in common with what came later, but Prendergas
Feb 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
Wooden writing and the encyclopedic format of the book make this an absolute slog. I would much rather read Allmusic reviews of these artists and their albums.

This is definitely not an even-handed history of "sound in the electronic age." Readers can easily tell which artists Prendergast favors over others, and some artists which I personally feel have had a profound impact on recording techniques and overall ambience in recorded music--My Bloody Valentine for instance--gets a few sentences.

To m
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally! A must read book for lovers of ambient music!
The focus of this book is mostly on the historical aspects and the development of the concepts and early artists of the ambient world. I found it a bit light on the modern ambient music scene (from about 1990 until it's date of publication), I was hoping for it to delve a little deeper. But that's just my personal taste. This book is a great reader for anyone interested in not just ambient music, but for the exciting possibilities of where mu
Sep 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
I had made a promise to myself only to put up books I love or have found stimulating in one way or another, but this is the only bad review i'll give because I hate the thought of anyone I know wasting their hard earned cash on this piece of shit. dreadful, simplstic, poorly researched, frequently worng (yes, folks.....WRONG!). that in the 20th century music became "ambient" is a completely lame premiss on which to waffle on at length about stuff the author seems to know almost nothing about. th ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Not really a book to be read from cover-to-cover; this feels more like an encyclopedia related-ish to Ambient music. (And yes, the writer does capitalize the word "Ambient" like that.) A good book to browse through, though some sections have aged really badly since this book was published. (His criticisms of the viability of MP3s as a format actually made me smile - that said, the book came out a couple of years before the iPod was created, so I can't fault him too badly for that.)
Brian Criner
Jan 07, 2008 rated it liked it
rather dry, very repetitive, and poorly written. It's saving graces are the truckloads of information and the unique connections made between artists, that connection being their use of ambience.
Andreas Rauh
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional! Outstanding! Great source and reference for practically anything related, even vaguely, to electronic music in the XX century. A clear cut choice for anyone interested in the subject. Highly recommended.
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: critical-studies
This book was not exactly what I hoped for. While I certain case was made for the origins of the idea of ambient, I can't really say that the case was made in this book. Everything the author liked seemed to be termed ambient.
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Not much of a cover-to-cover read, more of an all-inclusive reference book. Main negative is that Pendergast's all-inclusive approach tends to blur the distinction between the ambient and avant-garde approaches to music, which are not the same.
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The definitive guide to the ambient genre and its history. I only hope a second revised edition will be published to reflect the recent rise of modern classical and music for films.
Matthew Langley
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
great book, for a certain musical interest
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ambient lovers
A good history of the orgins of the ambient music scene. From where is started to where it is now. Many good references, and and awesome way to find out about legendary bands.
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
the one reference book you should have for music that works in the background and is still exciting
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Aug 16, 2009
Alec Binyon
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Oct 11, 2011
Dan Sostrom
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Aug 14, 2017
Jeff Rooks
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Aug 25, 2011
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Feb 22, 2014
Lewis Davison
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Howard D Vitkus
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Jun 02, 2016
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Aug 22, 2007
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MUSIC COMPENDIUM FROM (rather than circumscribed by) A FOCUS 1 1 Jun 02, 2015 03:07AM  
  • Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds
  • Modulations: A History of Electronic Music: Throbbing Words on Sound
  • Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond
  • Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture
  • Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound
  • Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music
  • Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age
  • Krautrocksampler
  • Incredibly Strange Music, Volume II
  • Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey
  • Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King
  • On Some Faraway Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno
  • The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way
  • Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music
  • Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music
  • A Year With Swollen Appendices
  • Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music

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