Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Balmorhea: Traditional Instruments making Ambient Music

Balmorhea is another gem of a band I stumbled upon thanks to that massive torrent of music made available by the South by Southwest folks. I like playing minimalist/ambient music when I’m working on other things. Unique harmonies can set a mood and simple melodies can enhance it; without too much to distract and especially without words, music can be one of the best mind-altering cognitive enhancers there is.

Often I fill this need with electronic music, provided the beat isn’t too heavy and the “instrumentation” too “experimental”. Orchestral stuff can work too—some of Phillip Glass’s less obtrusive stuff is brilliant. And of course keyboards. Glenn Gould playing Bach is about the most exquisite background music there is. But until now I’ve never found this same satisfaction from plucked and bowed strings. But this combination of sparely plucked banjos over haunting strings is brilliant.


  1. That's indeed a nice song! I should definitely listen more ambient. The only thing in my current playlists is Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin.

  2. A wonderful song! Now to pick up some of the CDs. (I wonder if there is a category for "contempltive music".) I usually prefer the sound of smaller groups as you can appreciate each instrument and not lose the tempos in sheer volume. Small combo jazz, string quartets, chamber ensembles, madrigals all qualify. One of the most effective renditions of The Star pangled Banner I ever heard was by Charlie Daniels using one violin and a guitar or banjo.

    This is good pipe smoking music.

    Of course, you were right about Glenn Gould and Bach.

    Jeff The Bear

    1. I've always liked smaller groups too, Jeff. I'll take string quartets over orchestras any day. Part of the issue is that full orchestras just sound like they're playing for movie soundtracks at this point.