With finals approaching, ambient tracks are the ideal background music for studying

Alex Brinkhorst

With exams slowly approaching and students spending more time studying, ambient tracks can help provide a more calming focus than more traditional albums.

Ambient music is a genre of music that isn’t traditional in many senses. It focuses on slow development to create an atmosphere for the listener. However, like traditional music, ambient music has well regarded artists who are still popular enough to produce new songs.

Ambient has its origins with Brian Eno, a famous musician and music producer who pioneered the ambient genre with his album “Ambient 1: Music for Airports,” which provides a very soft melody throughout all four parts of the album.

Eno is perhaps most well known for developing the “Microsoft Sound,” the startup music for the Windows 95 operating system. He is also known for working with well known musicians and bands such as U2, David Bowie and Coldplay, according to an article about the creation of the Windows 95 sound from Mentalfloss.

One major con of ambient music is that, overall, the individual songs themselves are very long. Arctica’s “Annuminas Pt. 1” is 54 minutes long and is the first out of four parts to the album as a whole. However, with a single track roughly the length of a standard lecture, the track has plenty of time to develop and set a scene.

Ambient tracks lend themselves well to be played in backgrounds, and they can be quite ideal for studying, writing or even sleeping, given that there is typically no sudden change in tone and pace. The longer track run times also allow for a listener to stop where ever they would like, without missing too much.

With such a wide genre, there are quiet a few subgenres to explore. Dark Ambient lends itself to create suspense, or an overall tenser situation. Ambient Drone is similar, but features typically a singular tone throughout that is a baseline in a way for the track.

Each piece feels significantly different, even if it is in the same subgenre or even in the same album. With that, there is a piece for everyone to enjoy. Whether it’s in a setting where you are traveling through space or walking through a dark snowy forest, there is a little something for everyone to listen to. 

One ambient album that I have found to be my personal favorite is Arctica’s Annuminas Extended Edition. The album as a whole has an otherworldly winter feeling to it, like the album cover suggests, with each track having a different tone and the final track feeling as though it is the resolution or grand finale.

However, if you are just getting into ambient music, Carbon Based Lifeform’s Hydroponic Garden is a good starting place. The tone of the album is light and optimistic and is more inline with a traditional electronic/trance album.

With much shorter run times of roughly ten minutes each rather than Annuminas’s hour long songs, the album overall has a very soft futuristic tone to it and feels as though it would be at home in a science fiction movie soundtrack.

Both albums are available on Spotify and the ITunes Store and would be great additions to your next study session before finals.