Ambient Parking Lot

by Pamela Lu

CENTRAL QUESTION: After satire, what next?
Location of world’s largest parking lot: West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Capacity of world’s largest parking lot: twenty thousand cars, plus ten thousand in overflow lot; Person credited with coining the term ambient music: Brian Eno, in liner notes to his 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports; Challenge of “bi-musicality,” according to May 1960 issue of Ethnomusicology: “In some instances… we might point to an interest in Western music which has developed at the expense of indigenous music”; Relevant maxim from “On Popular Music” by Theodor Adorno: “If one looks at the serious compositions which correspond to this category of mass listening, one finds one very characteristic feature: that of disillusion.”

Ambient Parking Lot chronicles the triumphs (rare) and mishaps (frequent) of an ensemble of experimental sound artists. Blurbed as “part fiction, part earnest mockumentary,” the book is first a comedy of manners, that brand of satire aimed at taking down the pretentions of a particular social group. In this case, Pamela Lu targets art movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, gleefully eviscerating avant-garde pieties, cherished literary truths, and pop-cultural bromides alike. And yet, despite these satirical hijinks, Ambient Parking Lot ultimately raises questions that might apply more broadly to those of us who enjoy taking our news and our humor in one fell Colbertian swoop.

Speaking as a manic chorus, the Ambient Parkers zip from one artistic stance to the next, all the while recording album after ambient album in parking lots:

The economy collapsed and our theory was discarded in favor of an aesthetic of banal scarcity. Secular pragmatism replaced the faith-based work ethic, which had once led to the lush arpeggios of grocery bags being loaded into single-driver vehicles and trunk lids thumping to a close in the late afternoon sunlight.

—Amanda Davidson

Amanda Davidson is the author of two chapbooks: Arcanagrams: A Reckoning (Little Red Leaves, forthcoming) and Apprenticeship (New Herring Press, 2013). She is currently at work on a performance novel about the mystic Swedenborg.

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