Alarm clocks are tiny sonic devils. While the majority of us no longer use machines that are solely alarm clocks (as the industry has been “disrupted” by the iPhone), the notion of getting woken up by a timer is all the same: an alarm clock is meant to alarm you.
But does it have to be so painful? I’ve toyed with different alarm clocks, from the scientific Sleep Cycle app to the more straightforward “set a time and ring” clocks, only to end up unsatisfied and mad that some chirping monster crammed its way into my dreams to pull me into reality. It’s a literal rude awakening.
In fact, some experts have found that being throttled awake by something so cacophonous can really start your day in a terrible way — and they suggest using a beloved, happy, gentle song to push you awake. This is funny because I’ve been doing this for months now, after realizing that I listen to some very soft sounds regularly to help me concentrate when working: ambient music.
Ambient music has been proven to calm listeners, serving as an internal resetter. Moreover, ambient noise make us more creative by abstract thinking. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start your day? That’s what I use, when my dogs aren’t nudging me awake (Another great alarm clock hack!) as these sounds seep into your brain to get you going like a warm hand over the blanket suggesting you get up. It’s not a demand but a kind offer that you’re willing to take.
Yes, this might not be everyone’s taste and, no, I’m not talking about Enya or Pure Moods to greet you in the morning. Ambient music has become a sprawling offspring of contemporary minimal electronic music experimentation, an exaggeration of chill out culture done through some of the current greats in music. It’s music that intends to take you inward, to think, to dream while fully awake. I love it and I love that it can have a therapeutic, restorative effect on my mind, both as I work and as I come into waking.
It’s easy to get your alarm set to ambient music too: all you have to do is go into the alarm on your phone and pick a song. It’s quite simple. And, if you need a suggestion of a song, I have a few that have worked well for me: enjoy a brief selection of ambient (and ambient adjacent) songs that are great for waking up to.
• Juliana Barwick’s “Nebula”
• Steven Hauschildt’s “Horizon Of Appearances”
• Eluvium’s “Don’t Get Any Closer”
• Eluvium’s “Weird Creatures”
• Eluvium’s “Strangeworks”
• Kyle Bobby Dunn’s “Canticle of Votier’s Flats”
• Kyle Bobby Dunn’s “Ouverture de Peter Hodge Transport”
• Kyle Bobby Dunn’s “Her Ghost Wore Tennis Shoes”
• Anything by William Basinski,
• Huerco S.’s “The Sacred Dance”
• Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s “First Flight”
• Bing & Ruth’s “Broad Channel”
• Bing & Ruth’s “The Towns We Love Is Our Own”
• Aphex Twin’s “Xtal”
• Alice Coltrane’s “Journey In Satchidananda”
• Alice Coltrane’s “Om Shanti”
• Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Ships Without Meaning”
• Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Chrome Country”
• Biosphere’s “Out Of The Cradle”
• Anything from Brian Eno’s Music For Airports
• Brian Eno’s “Deep Blue Day”
It’s all easy listening, gentle music, things to kindly get you going. And don’t we need that? These days are getting shittier and shittier and any means to mitigate disaster is welcome.
Note that this music is also great for sleeping on planes and, if you’re looking for more, the first song on most ambient albums epitomize the easing into sound and is a safe bet for an alarm clock ring. If you want to peruse ambient archives further, Pitchfork has a great list of their top fifty ambient albums which is a great primer for sleepy sounds that can introduce you to volumes of soft songs.
One note though: make sure your phone volume is turned up before going to bed. Some of these songs are so subtle and so gentle that you can easily sleep through them. If the volume is up, the song will make itself known better. This is a duh but I don’t want anyone sleeping through anything. I’ve done it before.
Hopefully this helps you wake better because, after all, a good night’s sleep can be dashed by a really shitty waking up. Ambient music can help.