Ambient Media

Ambient Media

Japanese Atmospheres of Self

Paul Roquet

How atmospheric media have come to shape urban Japan

248 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9780816692460
  • Published: February 1, 2016
  • eBook
  • 9781452945477
  • Published: February 1, 2016


Ambient Media

Japanese Atmospheres of Self

Paul Roquet

ISBN: 9780816692460

Publication date: February 1st, 2016

248 Pages


8 x 5

"Through a series of probing interventions, Paul Roquet generates a new environment for Japan studies—one that takes into account the faint, ambient, receding, and ubiquitous immaterialities that fill Japan's ether. This is a work worth noticing."—Akira Mizuta Lippit, University of Southern California

"Ambient Media is an ambitious work that introduces the reader to a captivating cross-section of ambient media in the current Japanese mediascape, with a particular focus on sound and image-based arts. Paul Roquet smartly cuts through multiple strata from music to experimental performance to design, offering a fresh and novel perspective on the atmospheres of ambient media."—Marc Steinberg, Concordia University

"A gateway into a world of arresting and inspiring electronic media."—New Books in Music

"Roquet offers a concrete cultural and technological context for anyone curious about the dominance in contemporary Japan of “ambient” creators."—The Japan Times

"Roquet’s approach to ambient mediation provides a fresh and inspiring theoretical approach for media studies and offers a fruitful discussion of the spati-temporal aspects of atmospheric immersion or ambient (non)mediation, describing it as something experienced as the synchronization of rhythm or the contingency of space."—Journal of Japanese Studies

"Beyond the clear grounding in Japan studies, this book opens ways of thinking with a much broader relevance beyond the specific context of postindustrial Japan. Roquet’s writing is thorough yet evocative, with a tone of presentation that cleverly draws us into the reflective meditation being discussed."—Cultural Politics

"Ambient Media’s strength lies in its hybrid nature, seamlessly blending together Japanese and Western Critical traditions and historical trajectories. Roquet’s close readings of individual texts are vivid and convincing, and the analyses are grounded in specific historical and cultural contexts."—Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema

"What Ambient Media achieves is the construction of a clear, contemporary history of the topic while addressing the inherently double-edged possibilities such as history creates for interpretation."—Japanese Studies

"Beyond the more theoretical passages, Roquet also offers intriguing case studies of individual practitioners working in their respective ambient media that inspire one to check out their work, from musicians and sound artists such as Tetsu Inoue and Chihei Hatakeyama to experimental filmmakers like Masakatsu Takagi, while displaying a remarkable talent for poetically evoking Tokyo’s various landscapes and accompanying soundscapes through lively descriptions of often highly abstract aural and visual material."—All the Anime

"Ambient Media opens ways for thinking with a much broader relevance beyond the specific context of postindustrial Japan. Roquet’s writing is thorough yet evocative, with a tone of presentation that cleverly draws us into the reflective meditation  being discussed."—Cultural Politics

Ambient Media examines music, video art, film, and literature as tools of atmospheric design in contemporary Japan, and what it means to use media as a resource for personal mood regulation. Paul Roquet traces the emergence of ambient styles from the environmental music and Erik Satie boom of the 1960s and 1970s to the more recent therapeutic emphasis on healing and relaxation.

Focusing on how an atmosphere works to reshape those dwelling within it, Roquet shows how ambient aesthetics can provide affordances for reflective drift, rhythmic attunement, embodied security, and urban coexistence. Musicians, video artists, filmmakers, and novelists in Japan have expanded on Brian Eno’s notion of the ambient as a style generating “calm, and a space to think,” exploring what it means to cultivate an ambivalent tranquility set against the uncertain horizons of an ever-shifting social landscape. Offering a new way of understanding the emphasis on “reading the air” in Japanese culture, Ambient Media documents both the adaptive and the alarming sides of the increasing deployment of mediated moods.

Arguing against critiques of mood regulation that see it primarily as a form of social pacification, Roquet makes a case for understanding ambient media as a neoliberal response to older modes of collective attunement—one that enables the indirect shaping of social behavior while also allowing individuals to feel like they are the ones ultimately in control.

Paul Roquet is a postdoctoral fellow in global media and film studies at Brown University.


Introduction: Reading the Air
1. Background Music of the Avant-Garde: The Quiet Boom of Erik Satie
2. The Sound of Embodied Security: Imaginary Landscapes of Ambient Music
3. Moving with the Rhythms of the City: Ambient Video Attunements
4. Soft Fascinations inShallow Depth: Compositing Ambient Space
5. Subtractivism: Low-Affect Living with Ambient Cinema
6. Healing Style: Ambient Literature and the Aesthetics of Calm
Film and Videography