What is jambient?
jambient is a style of music, and the instrument--a piece of software--for making it.
A way of jamming with digital audio samples, jambient is especially suited to audio collage, non-rhythmic ambient sound making, and exploration of spontaneously improvised sound environments. jambient is a musical instrument--it is for playing sound live.
With jambient you can play samples instantly, using simple drag and drop operations; manipulate their volume, pitch and pan, either singly, or in groups; use the joystick controlled Mix Pad to mix between four sets of sound--and not just volume, but pitch and pan as well, or two of these sonic dimensions at once!; position sounds in sonic space and use the joystick to travel through them; and write scripts to automate changes, respond to events, or set up relations between sounds. (See Features.)
How jambient is different from other music
Most available music making software, if not explicitly for scoring music, demands something akin to scoring: you choose patterns, melodies, instruments, rhythms, programs, presets, etc., in advance. If the software allows for improvisation, it is within these preset structures. jambient evolved from my attempt to get away from grids and advance choices to explore sound in a new way.
jambient is far more open ended than most sampling software. You can continuously evolve and layer the samples being played, and their mix. An improvising instrumentalist draws a pallet of sounds out of the acoustic possibilities of an instrument; jambient extends this gesture into sample space. The joystick and mouse become extensions of your ears and body, allowing you to dig around in sound.
Jambient also differs from DJ-software that tries to emulate turntabling. Even if such software were to make sounds that approach the subtleties of a turntable, there is no way of simulating the feel and weight of a platter under the fingers--and that is a big part of body-sound-machine that makes a turntable a musical instrument.
jambient is a new musical instrument
Rather than emulating an analog turntable in digital, jambient finds a new body-sound-machine system, by hooking you into digital samples through joystick and mouse. Turntabling turns turntables into a musical instrument, jambient turns Microsoft' s DirectX gaming platform into a instrument that lets you do things impossible with turntables or traditional sampler software.
Keep in mind that jambient is a musical instrument. You interact with it directly to play and change sound. Learning how to use it depends on that interaction--you can't learn to play it without listening to what happens, any more than you can learn to play a trumpet or turntable by reading about it. Also, in order to make jambient playable as an instrument, we had to move away from the typical Windows interface.
jambient's current incarnation is a result of over two years of playing the music and developing the software in concert. The evolution is notover. You're part of it.
Enjoy playing jambient, and please let us hear what you are doing with it.
Peterborough, August 2000