Piotr Kędziora

Instytut Kulturoznawstwa UAM, Poland; piked@amu.edu.pl


One of the paths of inquiring the cultural, philosophical, anthropological, but also technological and economic contexts of listening facing the turbulent sonic ecosystem (funded on the music omnipresence and ubiquitous listening) is one marked by the historical and theoretical studies on background music, both artistic (ambient music, Gebrauchsmusik, tafelmusik, musique d’ameublement, Muzak-Plus, and so on) and commercial one (muzak, audio marketing, royalty-free music, etc.) captured as a cultural practice of listening. This emerging field of inquiry delivers a concept of ambient listening based on various epistemologies of music, sound and soundscape – from musicology, trough sociology or anthropology of music, to music psychology, neuroaesthetics, acoustics, media studies, and, of course, sound studies. Even if the background music is usually banned from musical discourse as a nonmusical per se, the reference to this specific music-culture is present in almost all mentioned research fields (most often as a negative example). The growing perspective of ambient and background music studies carries the pure type figure of a listener (real or imagined) described by the mode of distracted or peripheral listening. This perspective not only updates the fundamental problems of music, but also enriches the interdisciplinary research inquiring the idea of music functionally fulfilling the ‘ambience’ of our life. I’d like to devote my presentation to a) a preliminary introduction to ambient music studies and background music studies I performed in my PhD, b) a brief indication of its major epistemologies and conclusions, which are necessary to c) explain the concept of ambient listening as a possible tool for the research on today’s listening habits. At the end, I’d like to highlight the possibilities of exploring this concept in other fields of research surrounding the musicscape (combined music, sound and soundscape).

Keywords: Ambient Listening; Distracted Listening; Background Music; Ambient Music; Musicscape; Omnipresence of Music.


Piotr Kędziora is a music culture researcher affiliated in the Institute of Cultural Studies AMU, where he defended his PhD thesis Ambient. Cultures of Listening and Techniques of Sound, scholarship holder of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (Project title: Polish Ambient Music) and the author of the award-winning project (Visualizing the Research Process. The case of Ambient Music Studies) at the “Visualization in Science” symposium (Polish Science Academy, Avant Project). Investigating phenomena of the ambient music and background music and focused on its cultural implications on listening as a cultural practice traced in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, neuroaesthetics, media & communication studies, and sound studies. Author of publications in the field of culture, media and music, co-editor of the volumes Mediated culture. Research on the Media in the field of Cultural Studies (2011) and Music Cultures – Cultures of Listening (2020). Electronic & generative music enthusiast, film music creator, also WEB developer and programmer.