Wellness Tech and the Utility of Ambient Music

Curator's Note

Within the first six months of the pandemic, we saw the largest surge in sales of wellness and meditation apps since they first went on the market in 2015. One app in particular that has been on the advertising offensive through paid influencer promotions on social media is Endel. Endel offers users a variety of sonic experiences of custom durations meant to bring down stress levels, reduce anxiety, and encourage healthy sleeping habits. In more literal music tech terms, the Endel engine is a uniquely synthesized sequencer that translates subjective verbal parameters assigned by the user, such as mood or color, into controlled randomization of Ambient and Drone musical phrases.

While the user interface design of Endel is certainly unique and accessible, the concept of a generative ambient synthesizer app that utilizes data sonification is nothing new in electronic music circles. Brian Eno himself has an entire collection of generative music apps that create similar sonic results through equally unique software designs. But Ambient on its own, even in the interactive software contexts, isn’t a lucrative marketing venture to nonmusicians. Apps like Endel are commercially successful through their ability to market a calming yet equally engaging sonic aesthetic into an anonymous and clean Silicon Valley invention that promotes mindfulness and frees yourself of the stresses caused by mobile technology through their mobile technology.

Use good screen to get away from bad screen.

Suddenly, the average listener who could never have imagined themselves purchasing and sitting down listening to 45 minutes of drone music made by any number of electronic musicians on Bandcamp has no problem creating their own custom synth patch with identical sonic results, so as long as it's marketed to them as a means of improving mindfulness and sleeping habits. What was originally simply an umbrella term for a particular style of electronic music for deep listening has transformed into means of marketing a generative media utility for passing listening. As Ambient music lovers, we can appreciate new developments in generative sound technology while still criticizing its commercial usages that cheapen and anonymize one of our favorite sonic art forms.

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