It's always hard to pin down exactly what ambient music is, and it's usually much easier to point to examples. Much like United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said regarding pornography, "I know it when I see it." One place where I often "see" ambient music "happening" is in the world of film soundtracks and scores. What I want to do today is talk about a film soundtrack that received quite a lot of plays in my library over the course of 2006: An Inconvenient Truth by Michael Brook. I plan on following up with some discussion over the next few weeks of other soundtracks I enjoy, and so I'm going to call this Part 1 in an n -part series.
The thing that strikes me about the record is the way the tracks make me feel like I'm standing on the surface of the moon looking towards an Earth that is facing some particularly difficult and urgent questions. And what's amazing about this is, obviously, that I've never actually stood on the surface of the moon. Brook's ability to provide imaginitive access to this point of view with a few spare chords and swirling melodies is what makes the record really stand out for me. Of course this is all essentially informed by me having seen the movie, and the exact scene I'm talking about is what Gore uses so effectively to underline his point. But for Brook to be able to pull these feelings to the front months after I've seen the film is no small achievement.
The last track (before the bonus tracks begin), "Earth Alone," is really the subtle winner here. It pulls together the urgency and tension of the movie, the sense of awe one has when considering the magnitude of the earth's atmosphere and how in such a short amount of time we've been able to affect its course. But it's hopeful. This is not a depressing record.