In the last couple of decades, many genres of popular music
have wholeheartedly embraced the tradition of finely-crafted, multi-million dollar studio produced albums. This can be partially credited to the success of the Beatles
studio-centric approach, which raised the bar and ushered in the opportunity for more ambitious artists to experiment in the studio above and beyond the arena
. Regardless of the causes, this new method of recording led to the coining of the term "soundscape
In my mind, a soundscape is an immersive and consistent piece of music that is evocative of a discrete conceptual environment. The level of abstraction varies widely. In classical music, a soundscape is unfettered by the constraints of the three minute, verse-chorus-verse pop song, but the instruments involved are much more rigidly proscribed. The soundscape in late 20th/early 21st-century popular music has some standard characteristics :
The use of atmospherics at the start and end of a track can now be extended upon so that they weave in and out of the whole performance. A hummable tune is optional. I don't know enough about music to give you a ten step plan of how to make a soundscape, but the best explanation I can give is : it's a song where the video is in your head.
Some great soundscapologists (?) include : Vivaldi, Trent Reznor (possibly the master of the form), Brian Eno, Radiohead, Leftfield, Front Line Assembly. Thanks, bitter, I totally forgot to mention the Spector-meister. ;)