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Jan Wagner Ambient music in the time of self-isolation

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1. Alphawezen - Wald2

2. Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent)

3. Ryuichi Sakamoto - andata

4. Bon Iver - 8(Circle)

5. Tobias Preisig - Collective

6. M83 - Midnight Souls Still Remain

7. Aphex Twin - #3

8. Sigur Ros - 64 46 43.1 N 14 02 55.8 W

9. Lubomyr Melnyk - Pockets of Light



I believe that music is therapeutic. If you really think about it, it's an experience that only transpires inside your head. You can't see music or touch it, so by its very nature it's something very personal and intimate. When those frequencies wash over your body they trigger emotions that are specific to you and you alone. For me, music is the air I breath. When I don't listen to any for a while, I tend to get nervous and cranky. So I can see the effect that it has on me very clearly, I know that it calms me down and harmonises me. And it's not just ambient music - all genres have this effect on me.

I never really thought of my music specifically as ambient, not until somebody actually called it that. These sounds were just what came out of me, naturally. Over time I started to actively search for more and more space in my music. I wanted to leave this extra room for the listeners and their emotions. I guess, looking at it from that point of view, the transition into ambient territory was something very organic.

One very defining moment for me was the day that I discovered the Juno-60 synth. Somebody brought it to the studio and I just started playing these slow pads on it. I can still recall what that felt like. Everything that I played sounded so soothing. So, I guess, if music makes you relax like that, then by default, it has a therapeutic value. Another thing about ambient, which sets it apart from other genres, is that most of the time this music doesn't come with a predefined story or any fixed narrative. It gives you, as a listener, the time and space to create your own. Often when you listen to an ambient record you start thinking about yourself and your life, and that right there is the first step towards therapy.

This lockdown is something absolutely new for my generation. The impact on musicians is very direct and tangible - we can't play any live shows! So this communal part of the experience is completely gone. Of course. some of this is being offset by digital technologies, mainly streaming. But let's be honest, this is not the same thing as a room full of undulating bodies. I won't try to emulate a concert experience via streaming, but what I would like to share is this short mixtape. Maybe it will help someone deal with the isolation and sensory deprivation a bit better.

The songs that I included in the mix are very dear to me, and all of them help me zone out in the best way possible. I would like to share one story with you, which describes my relationship to this music. When I first heard the song 'Midnight Souls Still Remain' by M83 - from the album Saturdays = Youth - I was away on a surfing trip. It was midnight, I had my headphones on and I was walking through the empty promenade. And I literally blacked out! I forgot everything around me and ended up walking for hours. I couldn't stop! I couldn't take my headphones off. It was like being on drugs, in the best way possible. This experience is what i would like to share with you.

Filed under: Jan Wagner

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