Meditation music is music performed to aid in the practice of meditation. It can have a specific religious content, but also more recently has been associated with modern composers who utilize meditation techniques in their process of composition, or who compose such music with no particular religious group as a focus. The concept also includes music performed as an act of meditation.
Music has been used in contemplative practice, usually as an adjunct to religious practice, for millennia.
Modern meditation music in the 20th century began when composers such as John Cage, Stuart Dempster, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Lawrence Ball began to combine meditation techniques and concepts, and music. Specific works include Tony Scott's Music for Zen Meditation (1964), Karlheinz Stockhausen's Mantra (1970), Hymnen (1966–67), Stimmung (1968), and Aus den sieben Tagen (1968), Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (1941), and Ben Johnston, whose Visions and Spells (a realization of Vigil (1976)), requires a meditation period prior to performance. R. Murray Schafer's concepts of clairaudience (clean hearing) as well as the ones found in his The Tuning of the World (1977) are meditative (Von Gunden 1983, 103–104).
Stockhausen describes Aus den sieben Tagen as "intuitive music" and in the piece "Es" from this cycle the performers are instructed to play only when not thinking or in a state of nonthinking (Von Gunden asserts that this is contradictory and should be "think about your playing"). John Cage was influenced by Zen and pieces such as Imaginary Landscape No. 4 for twelve radios are "meditations that measure the passing of time" (Von Gunden 1983, 104).
New Age music
Some meditation music falls under the rubric of New Age music.
Christian meditation music
Christian meditation music is a term sometimes used to describe meditation music with a Christian focus, as some Christian faiths, particularly the Catholic Church, reject meditation practice from outside their traditions.
- Von Gunden, Heidi (1983). The Music of Pauline Oliveros. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-1600-8.
- Johnson, Tom (1976). "Meditate on Sound", Village Voice, May 24.