Back in the early 90s – when I was in my mid-teens – my peer group and I were having our minds expanded by all of the non-mainstream music we were discovering – we started by finding decidedly non-chart friendly alternative rock and electronic music; genres such as industrial for example. We all ended up going in different directions in terms of our musical taste from there though; as an anxious and somewhat unfocused person – it would be another twenty years or so before I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder – my taste in music headed towards elaborate, melodically pleasant electronic music, most often without lyrics. It didn’t take long before I made the leap from what was then known as Intelligent Dance Music to the genre known as Ambient – which was absolutely thriving back then.
What interested me in Ambient music was being able to zone in and out of it while feeling like you’d listened and been part of it the whole time; it could be background music or something that you could focus intently on – and I found it to be incredibly meditative and soothing. Indeed, Brian Eno – who coined the very term ‘ambient’ that the genre came to be known as – is quoted as saying that ambient music should be as ‘ignorable as it is interesting’. Through my interest in Ambient music, I discovered Aphex Twin – though not always ambient (often far from it), his two Selected Ambient Works albums are still deeply ingrained in my mind – as well as the more ambient output of artists such as Tangerine Dream and more.
Sounds of Eden is a game that is deeply reminiscent of my delves into ambient soundscapes in the 90s, though with an important twist: it is, of course, interactive. It’s audio only and intended to be a calming, meditative experience. Once you launch the game, you’re given the controls – space bar to enter the garden and the arrow keys to move, with the escape key used to exit the game entirely.
When you enter the garden, a soundscape is procedurally generated; you might hear birdsong off to your right and melodic tones to your left – perhaps a waterfall in front of you. It’s up to you which sounds you move towards; you can make your own soundscapes by maneuvering yourself into a specific position and staying there for as long as you choose; you’re free to discover and listen to whatever takes your fancy as you play.
It pretty much demands that you play while wearing headphones; additionally, close your eyes or play in a darkened room for the full effect. It’s definitely a very chilled out and calming experience that becomes strangely compelling.
We live in very stressful times; sensory overload is a real issue for many of us – especially for myself, being autistic. So Sounds of Eden is a wonderfully inventive way to relax and refocus in a way that suits you. I’d highly recommend checking it out; the audio design is spectacular and I found it to be extremely meditative. A brilliantly designed and unique experience, it achieves the goal Brian Eno once aimed for with ambient music in achieving calm and a space to think, though it’s much more interesting than ignorable. Excellent stuff.
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