As a New Age music promoter I try to answer the 40 year old question again and again; What is New Age music? Sometimes I feel that it would be easier to answer What is NOT New Age music? since the genre itself is so hard to define and covers so much.
I recently did a review of P. J. Birosik's book The New Age Music Guide from 1989. As an index of artists and records it is not the best release out there (Henk N. Werkhoven's book The International Guide To New Age Music from 1998 is much better - and more updated too). But the book devides the New Age music genre into subgenres in a very good way. Here is the index from the book:
In the book each of the subgenres are commented by a person (artist or reviewer) with special insight in this perticular subgenre. After reading the book and looking at the index again I decided to try to organize P. J.'s subgenres in some way or other - because I felt that it had real meaning and value - and ended up with this tree:
The general idea is that New Age music traditional is the main genre label. To quote Suzanne Doucet: "New Age Traditional Music distingushes itslef not by style, performance or technique, or personality, but by its nature which is contemplative rather than entertaining" (page 150, The New Age Music Guide). I devided the subgenres into 5 levels on the above tree. Each entry is almost (or fully) a genre of its own too. The top level is:
* Solo Instrumental
* Enviromental/Nature sounds
* Meditation music
These are the main subgenres. They represent everything New Age music is all about, even though the Solo Instrumental category is extremely wide. To narrow it down, Shel Kagan writes (Birosik: page 110); "Without lyrics or dense instrumental layers to concentrate on, the mind is directed inward. While some artists' styles and techniques have symphonic or classical forms, New Age Solo instrumentalists also display new directions in composition and execution that set them apart from more historically bound forms of delivery".
The next level is:
* Sound Health Music
* Electronic/Computer Music
* Space Music
Sound Health Music is a very interesting genre, and I'm sure that we have not yet seen its full potential. Jonathan Goldman writes: "New Age Sound Health music can either facilitate brain activity for accelerated learning or entrain the listener to very slow brain waves, taking them to deep places in the consciousness for meditation." (Birosik: page 122) Ambient music, where Electronic/Computer Music and Space Music may very well be placed, is much a genre of its own, of course, but in this context we are focusing on their place in New Age music. To quote the over 20 year old book: "This is electro-acoustic music by combining traditional instruments with state-of-the-art technology".
And then we have the "ethno-influence":
* World Music
* Native American/Indigenous Music
To quote Bodhi Raines (Birosik: page 6): This music comes "out of the interaction between East and West - through the meetings of musicians sharing ideas and art forms". What I find most interesting here, is that the New Age music version of the above genres has lost most its connection to the source. To illustrate: when Deep Forest used a recording from the Solomon Islands (called "Rorogwela") to create the 1990s hit Sweet Lullaby where the sample is taken from and what the words means have little or no meaning. It is everything about atmosphere. New Age music is in this way a fusion of East and West, of World and all kinds of Idigenous Music. But the fusion itself somehow removes the instrument, sample or vocal from its original source.
Level 4 is:
* Vocal Music
* Progressive Music
* Jazz Fusion
New Age music is created in the crossing point between Jazz and more progressive music, like prog rock. To quote Dallas Smith (Birosik: page 46): "New Age Jazz Fusion represents a gentle rebellion against overly spacey New Age music and overly frenetic Jazz". It is progressive music without rock but with lots of harmonies.
And lastly, the two main genres that have influenced New Age music:
* Folk Music
* Pop Music
New Age music is influenced by folk and pop, and some titles have been just as much pop as New Age music - like Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.
In sum, these subgenres makes it easier to use the term New Age music because they show where the genre belong. It is not the complete answer to the What is New Age music question, though I feel that it gives a general understanding of the topic.
The Gathering is a compilation album with artists that have recently recorded at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios. The album won two awards at the Zone Music Reporter Music Award Show in New Orleans: Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
So if you are looking for some fresh, high quality New Age music, you can't go wrong with this album. You can sample the album on CD Baby.
There are some more pictures from the ZMR show at Daryl Porter's Facebook page. See it here.
New Age Stars Radio is growing strong, and soon 10.000 Live365 users will have the channel in their presets! Here is a recent graph showing the status:
We are now the 4th largest New Age music channel on Live365, and number 92 out of 2600 channels in terms of listeners. As you can see from the player to the right, we show up on the first 5 NA music channels for easy access. We have broadcasted more than 1,2 million hours of music since December 2008. In a normal week we have about 10.000 listeners who listen for an average of 52 minutes.
It is fantastic to be able to share this music with you. We will also use the opportunity to thank one certain person for his many years of service for New Age Stars Radio. You know how you are and what you have meant for this project. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We promise to keep doing what we do, and we thank you for your support. You love New Age music as much as we do.
New Age music had its 15 minutes of fame in the mid/late 1980s. A diverse group of artists made New Age music hot and marketable. Patti Jean Birosik's book The New Age Music Guide - Profiles and Recordings of 500 Top New Age Musiciansfrom 1989 was published as a result of the genre's sudden popularity. It is a great read, and a piece of New Age music history as well.
The text on the back cover says a lot about the popularity of the genre at the time of publication:
The genre's Golden Age was a result of both sociological and technological changes. The new synths of this period gave new possibilities in terms of sound. Perhaps the 1980s also had a need for something a bit more otherworldly and thoughtful, and New Age music had something to offer in this respect? The genre is also a by-product of the hippies movement and their love for New Age religion. But most importantly; there was still a big marked for recorded music. Everyone bought cassettes and LP records. Music really did matter, at least in terms of sales and revenue. In the back of Birosik's book is an index of the many New Age music labels at the time; over 200 dedicated labels were created in the mid/late 1980s to publish in the new genre.
Patti Jean Birosik, or P. J. Birosik, was a music promoter, reviewer and author. She was married to New Age music producer Paul Scott. She died in January 2006. P. J. was a great writer and her New Age music reviews are some of the best ever written.
Though as a book, index and guide, The New Age Music Guidefeels somewhat rushed. The artist profiles contain the name of the albums - but not the year of their initial release. P. J. explains that this is because of chaos in the information supplied by the artists and lables. The artist profiles are mostly short, and does not add much information about the artists in question.
But what makes this into a great book is the way P. J. divides the New Age music genre into sub-genres. She has also invited music writers and artist to give their description of a selected sub-genre. P. J. herself has selected artists that belong in each sub-genres. The artist profiles are also labeled with one or more sub-genres. Tangerine Dream for instance is labeled as Space Music.
The book has a nice foreword by Steven Halpern. It is one of the best articles ever written about our genre, and well worth the book's current second hand price. He gives an interesting introduction to the different aspects of New Age music - like its harmony, timbre and texture - though I disagree that our genre does not have rhythm and a pulse. In the foreword to the book released 10 years later, Henk N. Werkhoven'sThe international guide to new age music (1998), Halpern is much more in favor of removing the New Age music genre label all together and the term Contemporary adult instrumental.
The book has little value today as an artist index. But interestingly enough, most of the major artists today were already big in 1989 (Yanni, Deuter, Peter Kater, Suzanne Doucet - and the list is even longer). There are some very obscure artists here too, which are likely not to be found anywhere but here - and in a long forgotten cassette box somewhere.
The New Age Music Guide - Profiles and Recordings of 500 Top New Age Musiciansis a nice piece of New Age music history, and a statement of our genre's success in the mid/late 1980s. If you love our genre, you'll love this book! But if your are looking for a hard format New Age music artist index, theHenk N. Werkhoven's The international guide to new age music (1998) is a better and more updated choice.
The book is available on Amazon from various global bookstores.
Be sure to check out Suzanne Doucet's report on The New Age Music Circle from ZMR Music Awards in New Orleans. She writes:
I just came back from New Orleans. An amazing event took place there at the Joy Theater. The 9th LIVE ZMR (Zone Music Reporter previously New Age Reporter) Music Awards took place with performances from some of the best artists in the genre. The event was a great success thanks to Daryl Portier and his staff at ZMR as well as thanks to all contributors and supporters of this event. Many artists, reviewers and broadcasters met for the first time and as Renée Blanche, (our beautiful host of the evening) pointed out "we became flesh and bones".
According to Deep-Forest.fr, the new Deep Forest album Deep Africa will be out June 3.
A remix version of one of the songs on the album, Dub Africa, has just been released and is currently no. 20 on the UK Club Chart. It is not on the band's store - but the song is posted on Youtube. As usual, the Deep Forest remixes are more electronic/club/jungle.
Deep India is the new album from Deep Forest. It is the second album in the Deep series, where Deep Brasil was the first release. Deep India does not add anything revolutionary new to the project. The strong world music elements that gave Deep Brasil such life and authenticity are gone (I'm for instance thinking about Flávio Dell’Isola and Michel Villain's fantastic vocals) - but longtime fans will find several great songs to enjoy.
Deep Forest is perhaps most known for its mix of ethnic samples with modern synths. The result is an atmosphere that highlights the emotional content of the sample, but also removes the sample from its "real" cultural context by adding synth tracks and modern elements. When Deep Forest used a recording from the Solomon Islands (called "Rorogwela") to create the 1990s hit Sweet Lullaby, we can sense how the adult tries to comfort a baby - but where the sample is taken from and what the words means have little or no meaning. It is everything about atmosphere. This is one of the main differences between world music and New Age music.
This time around Eric Mouquet has teamed up with Santoor player Rahul Shama. The Santoor is a folk instrument from Kashmir and Jammu, India. Rahul is a great artist and adds wonderful melodies to the arrangement. But in this day and age it is hard to distinguish between a real Santoor and a synth (for example soft synth company Precisionsound has a great Santoor synth), so the ethnic element here is somewhat lost in the perfection of the recording. That said, Rahul Shama does great work here.
In the same way Enigma albums starts with a certain synth selection, Deep Forest do the same. The synth effect gives you a feeling of being deep in the forest. It is a great way to start an album, and Deep India is no exception. The best tracks on the album are Bihu and Punjab, which have that atmosphere Deep Forest is famous for. I think the album is also nicely mixed, and Sony music has done a good job. The effect used are up to date (though not cutting edge). The cover with the band icon is nicely done.
In conclusion;Deep India is a great album for longtime Deep Forest fans. But if you are looking for an India themed album, releases like Kiran Murti's Namaste or Govindas and Radha Waves of Love: Indian Kirtan Sessions are better choices. But if you know that it is Deep Forest you'll looking for, then a trip to Deep India is not a bad idea.
The title of Al Conti's new album is The Blue Rose. It is the follow up to Al’s Grammy nominated Northern Seas. It is now available on iTunes.
You can hear two samples from the album on Al Conti's homepage. Diane Arkenstone has already heard the album, and has this comment:
"The Blue Rose is gorgeous! It is truly a breathtaking work of music and art. It has the grace and elegance of a work by Tchaikovsky and makes for a most enchanting, modern classic."
And Marc Enfroy has this to say:
"Al is a master at telling stories through music. The ancient legend he so vividly brings to life in The Blue Rose will not only fill you with wonder and hope, but the feeling that anything is possible."
I am going to share with you some of the finest piece of New Age music history out there!
There was an article in music magazine SPIN in December 1985. This was in the very beginning of the New Age Music Golden Age, and there was a feeling that "something big" was about to happen. The article by John Shaefer starts with the New Age music artist version of the old joke:
What is new age music? Is it music that’s made for meditation, stress reduction, and massage? Or is it whatever California’s post-hippie generation or the yuppie crowd happens to be listening at the moment? New Age Music is a difficult term to pin down, and you certainly don’t want to ask the artists themselves, because they tend to describe their music like this: “Spatially enhanced flamenco guitar channeled via electrocrystals thru deep digital reverb into the spaciousness of a thousand and one reflections. “
Since antiquity the whereabouts of the legendary island Atlantis has been discussed. From Plato to Francis Bacon and into today’s world, it has been a frequent topic for both scientific research and art. Atlantis is also the topic for Clifford White’s new album. Here he gives the listener a fresh perspective on the old myth. Indeed, after 65 minutes of music you feel that Atlantis has risen from the ocean and become a place in your mind you can visit and revisit again and again. So hang on, and enjoy the voyage!
Atlantis is a popular theme in New Age Music. Most prominent is David Arkenstone’s Atlantis: A Symphonic Journey (2004), but also Alex Herr’s synth classic from the late 1980s Atlantis Arising comes to mind. And now we can add another strong album to the list!
I was excited when I heard that Clifford White’s new album would be about Atlantis. The reason is because his previous albums concerning water are among my all time favorites. The collection An Island Called Paradise is a like a trip to a magical and relaxing island, and I make sure to recommend it as often as I can. Selected songs from it are also among the most popular on our channel New Age Stars. We must also not forget that Clifford White is used to myths and great histories; last year’s The Gods Of Olympus was an album worthy of gods.
So with this in mind I put Atlantis on my iPhone and started my musical journey.
The album opens with the title song, which starts with the sound of waves, a quiet piano melody and then something I can describe (bear with me here) as a Vangelis / Chariots of fire-like synth pluck-beat. Which is always a welcome effect! The larger-than-life strings are also here, illustrating the grandness, the light and magic of the underwater world. The song has a very nice melody, and a calming atmosphere.
Track 2, Catacombs, takes the listener even further down – into a darker world, with a faster beat and nice dripping sounds. After all, the tale of Atlantis – like the real-life story of Pompeii – is first and foremost a dramatic story. If Atlantis hadn’t disappeared, there would be no magic; what you can’t ever see, find or reach is to man always more exciting than what is readily available. Isn’t that so?
I am fascinated by the way Clifford White changes sound from one track to the next, while the tracks still blend perfectly into each other. An example here is track 6, Time Tunnels, which is lounge in style. It has a jazzy freshness. Then it is track no. 7, Edge of the Ocean, which is laid back, has a bossa nova beat and a Vollenweider-ish electronic harp melody. This makes the album into an interesting listen.
There is no monotony or repetitiveness.
Again it is tempting to refer to Vangelis – both in style and in craftsmanship; Track no. 8, The New World, has the force of Conquest of Paradise, and lots of White’s usual magic too. The new world unveils itself before your inner eye.
Atlantis is like a box of surprises. The album closer is Exodus; an upbeat, bright piece. Here I must compare to Jean Michel Jarre’s classic Fourth Rendez-Vous. It shines bright, illustrating the overwhelming power of the Exodus.
As you can see from the references; White is here delivering a top notch album, and will once again find himself on the year’s top lists of new age albums.
Atlantis is here as real as it will ever get. Bravo!
On the page Indiegogo you can help Transcend with Time release a new album by donating. If you donate 2 $ you'll get a track before it is released, while 7 $ will get you a digital download of the upcoming album. For 60 $ you'll get a song composed in your honor!
I find that some of the best and most interesting music is created in crossing point between different genres. This is where new expressions and sounds are made. An album like this is Transcend with Time’s third album, Through Memory’s Perception. It is almost like a bridge between two worlds: the world of rock and the world of ambient/new age. Impossible, you might say. No. Not at all.
Transcend with Time is a one-man band by Mark Mendieta from Brownsville, Texas. His previous albums are called Reflections of the Soul (2007) and A Voice of Calmness (2006). Mark Mendieta also has a progressive rock project called Subject to Thoughts. And the influence from progressive rock is obvious on Through Memory’s Perception. But I think the overall atmosphere is closer to rock or alternative metal, even though the instruments used are the standard ambient/new age setup: dreamy synth pads, strings, piano and light drums. But the real difference is the use of electronic guitar samples, which in true rock style create a rather dark soundscape. Play song no. 7, A Lingering Thought, and you’ll understand. But still the sound is ambient/new age, which makes this into a remarkable album.
The first song, Open Your Eyes, starts with an eerie, high pitched bird-like sound, dark pads and piano. It could have been the soundtrack to a scary movie. After 1min45sec a much brighter piano melody with a gentle tempo. All the songs are long, this one over 8 minutes, so the album is definitely chill out material.
The title track, no. 2, starts with a happy vibe, much thanks to the samples used. It gets a little darker later in the song, when the only instruments used are strings, guitar and a slow drumbeat. It is almost like a walk from light to darkness.
My favorite track is track no. 3, Visions of Premonition, which is a lot more new age than the rest. The last four minutes with a nice analogue synth reminds me of Tangerine Dream. It is powerful and heartfelt at the same time. Two another new age sounding tracks are no. 5, Cognitive Imagery and track no. 7, Reminiscence. They’re slow moving and gently evolving: it’s beautiful beyond words.
The track Signs of Existence is a good example of how a combination new age and rock sounds like. There is this mystical element here, like in many new age songs. Yet it has rock’s in-your-face quality and atmosphere.
Through Memory’s Perception is self released, but is still a professional recording. Some might argue that many of the songs are too long, but I think this make them perfect for relaxation. It is not easy to mix rock and new age, and in this respect Transcend with Time has done a magnificent job. I will also credit Mark Mendieta for the thoughtful and inspired song titles.
The next time a rock fan tells me that he hates new age music, I know of a record that for sure will change his mind: it’s all about memory’s perception. Right?
David & Steve Gordon have the following news for us:
We were recently approached by the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center's (NMCPHC) Health Promotion and Wellness department. They asked if we would donate an album of songs for their website relaxation tool for service members. We agreed to donate our music to their project.
It's good to know that our music can help service members relax, heal and renew their spirit.
When their "Relax Relax" website tool is up and running, we will let you know and include the link so you can check it out.
Great work! New Age music has so much to offer. Check out the Gordon Brother's blog Sound Peace
Here are the latest news from Medwyn Goodall and MG Music:
Medwyn is currently close to finishing a very gentle album based on a tropical island called TURTLE ISLAND !, BUT, he the scoop behind the scenes here is he is research for MEDICINE WOMAN 5 – The Golden Age for later this year! Apparently the style will be going back to the Medicine Woman 1 and 2 and he’s aiming to make it the longest Medicine Woman album……..and for the first time ever to offer WAV copies of the actual studio master for sale.
And there is more:
We are starting our new website build. We aim to complete and re-launch in early to mid May. The existing website will remain in use until then. When the new site is launched all your saved addresses will simply bringing you to the new site, so you wont lose us.
A new Jim Wilson album has been released. Here is a presentation from New Earth Records:
This album is a carefully crafted compilation of some of Jim Wilson’s most powerful collaborative music. Jim Wilson worked under the pseudonyms Tulku and Little Wolf, but always created unparalleled combination of traditional Native American flutes, drums and beats with state-of-the-art electronics making all of his music truly unique.
Don't you just love music that almost instantly enters your heart and soul, that from the very first note seems to connect with you? One such album for me is Masako (2012), which is also the name of the artist behind this fine release.
Masako is a professional pianist, born in Japan who now lives in New England, northeastern US. Masako is her first solo release. When reviewing piano music, it often feels natural to speak in terms of seasonal colors. The songs on this album make me think of strong, vibrant autumn colors - just like the below cover - although there are a few from the brighter side of the palette too. Songs like Ottauquechee River and Remembrance Part 2 have the life and freshness of summer.
The album was recorded at Will Ackerman's studio - and is beautifully well-balanced. I was a bit surprised to hear a quite audible hiss of the microphone on some of the tracks (in this age of ultra high recording quality and digital sound processing), but found that this actually gives the album a warm atmosphere. It doesn't have that "impossible close to the piano" sound that many piano recordings have these days. Mr. Ackerman has as usual done an amazing job in the studio. The album has a great rhythm, and can be used for both relaxation and exercise.
It is not unusual for professional artists to release great albums when they for the first time go solo. But Masako is a very strong first release, even in this context. It tells of an artist that we can expect more great things from in the future. But before Masako has a new album ready there are plenty on her current album for us to enjoy.
Masako is simply a fantastic release, filled with colors and life; the first listen feels like the start of a long friendship.
Sadly there aren’t many books about new age music, but below are my reviews of the books I have found about this topic. Two books are about the genre itself, while there are three artist autobiographies.
The international guide to new age music (1998)
The book called The international guide to new age music by Henk N. Werkhoven is the most ambitious work about this genre. The book came out 10 years ago, and no new editions have so far been released. But it is still a nice resource for everyone who is into new age music. It contains a heartfelt foreword by Henk N. Werkhoven, and then a nice introduction to the genre by Steven Halpern. I don’t agree with the selection of artists though. Major artists like Enya, Enigma, Tangerine Dream or Mike Oldfield are not even mentioned here, and they were just as important 10 years ago. It is almost like creating a guide to classical music and not mentioning Mozart or Bach… But I understand Werkhoven’s focus on dedicated new age music artists and labels, as a contrast to major pop artists. And that’s ok. It is still a good guide, because the artists here are indeed some of the finest.
In this book you will find biographies and discographies to artists like William Ackerman and Suzanne Doucet. The parts about record labels and radio programming are also interesting (but a little outdated of course). The included CD, with music by Cusco, Deuter and others, is very good.
Since The international guide to new age music is 10 years old, you can get the book and CD for a few dollars. A good buy indeed. Available through Amazon.
Mike Oldfield released his autobiography in 2007 on Virgin Books entitled Changeling. Here Mike tells about his childhood with an alcoholic mother and his social difficulties. But also about how he discovered music and became a guitarist (and bassist) in various bands from a young age. He also played together with his talented siblings, Terry and Sally.
The most interesting part of the book is when Mike writes about the creation of Tubular Bells (no big surprises there). Richard Branson was the only one who believed in this long and unusual album, and he gave Mike studio time. The incredible success of Tubular Bells was the beginning of Virgin Music.
Mike also tells about his psychological problems and the backside of fame and money. The book is not very detailed when it comes to Mike’s creative side, but you get a feeling that this is an artist with a big passion for his work. For Oldfield’s many fans, this book is a great read.
Yanni’s autobiography from 2003 is called Yanni In Words. Here the Greek maestro tells his story, about how he was as a young boy, as a student and later as a musician. Success is never easy, and this was also the case for Yanni. The famous shows at Taj Mahal and Acropolis demanded a lot of work. It is also interesting to read about how he works with music, and it is obvious that he is a hard working musician.
Yanni has never been happy with his New Age Piano Player image, and I agree with him; he is almost like a classical composer. To label his music as New Age stuff is perhaps wrong. But anyway, Yanni In Words is a great read! You'll find the book here.
This May 6th live event with Anton Mizerak and singer Laura Berryhill is for our readers in Nevada:
Mount Shasta keyboardist, harmonica and tabla player Anton Mizerak and singer Laura Berryhill will present an evening of Celtic songs, transformational healing music and chants from around the world at 7 p.m. May 6 at the Center for Spiritual Living, 438 S. Fifth St., Suite 1 .
Mizerak lives in Mount Shasta and writes his music in nature, believing that our organic experience of sun, wind, water, snow and earth, transmitted through music, can be a valuable nurturing and healing experience. He has been a featured performer at many of the Mount Shasta Wesak Celebrations, and has performed at events with Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukav, Jean Houston, Michael Beckwith and Neale Donald Walsh.
His music has been featured on the nationally syndicated radio show “Echoes” and the digital New Age Music formats “Soundscapes” and “Spa Channel.” His highly acclaimed CD series “When Angels Dream” is a top seller with healers and massage therapists.
I love to look back at the golden age of New Age Music in the 1980s and early 1990s. LA Times has a really nice article from "back then" when The International New Age music conference of 1990 took place at the Roosevelt Hotel;
Opposites Attract at International New Age Conference: Industry people mix with iconoclastic composers, who could be finally acknowledging the business side of their art.
New Age music under the same roof with merchandising, promotion and distribution? With Muzak?
Can it really be that the entrepreneurial mavens of the floating, meditative sounds sometimes described as "yuppie wallpaper music" are actually dealing with the facts and figures of the business world just like any other record producers?
"There are always opposites involved in everything," explained Suzanne Doucet, director of the conference. "Our hope is that the conference will help bring some of those opposites together.
"We've got traditional music industry people . . . and we're trying to bring them together with people who have been working for 15 years making music in their garages, building their own instruments. Hopefully, they can all learn a lot from each other."