|Stylistic origins||Classical music, electronic music, folk music, ambient music, musique concrète, Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, Krautrock, traditional folk music, World music, Celtic music, minimal music, avant-garde music, free jazz, new wave music|
|Cultural origins||Europe and United States, late 1960s|
|Typical instruments||Piano, synthesizer, sampler, sequencer, strings, found sounds (often bird song or whale song, waterfalls, etc), folk and ethnic instruments, acoustic guitar, flutes, harp, sitar, tamboura, tabla, organ|
|Derivative forms||Post-rock - post-trip-hop - trance|
|Neoclassical (New Age) - Space music - tone poems - biomusic - Andean New Age|
|New Age movement, meditation, environmentalism, List of New Age music artists|
New-age music is downtempo music intended to create artistic inspiration, relaxation, and optimism. It is used by listeners for yoga, massage, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in their home or other environments, and is often associated with environmentalism and New Age spirituality.
The harmonies in new-age music are generally modal, consonant, or include a drone bass, and are often structured as variations on a theme. The melodies are sometimes recordings of nature sounds and used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece. Pieces of up to thirty minutes are common.
New-age music includes both electronic forms, frequently relying on sustained synth pads or long sequencer-based runs, and acoustic forms, featuring instruments such as flutes, piano, acoustic guitar and a wide variety of non-western acoustic instruments.
Vocal arrangements were initially rare in new-age music but as it has evolved vocals have become more common, especially vocals featuring Native American, Sanskrit, or Tibetan influenced chants, or lyrics based on mythology such as Celtic legends or the realm of Faerie.
New-age music was influenced by a wide range of artists from a variety of genres—for example, folk instrumentalists John Fahey and Leo Kottke, classical minimalists Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass, synthesizer performers Pink Floyd and Brian Eno, and impressionistic jazz artists Keith Jarrett, Paul Horn (beginning with 1968's Inside) and Pat Metheny. Many different styles and combinations of electronic experimental and acoustic new-age music were introduced in the 1970s including music from Asia, such as Kitaro and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Steven Halpern's Spectrum Suite, released in 1975, is generally credited as the album that began the new-age music movement. New-age music was initially produced and sold only by independent labels. The sales reached significant numbers in unusual outlets such as bookstores, gift stores, health food stores and boutiques, as well as direct mail. Another prominent example of an early new-age album was when in 1979, R&B musician Stevie Wonder created the soundtrack for the documentary (based on the book) The Secret Life of Plants, which in turn was the first digital recording of a new-age album. In 1981, Tower Records in Mountain View, California added a "New Age" bin. By 1985, independent and chain record retail stores were adding sections for new-age music and major labels began showing interest in the genre, both through acquisition of some existing new-age labels such as Paul Winter's Living Music and through signing of new-age artists such as Kitaro and jazz crossover artist Pat Metheny, both signed by Geffen.
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On Valentine's Day in 1987, the former Los Angeles rock radio station KMET changed to a full-time new-age music format with new call letters KTWV, branded as The Wave. During The Wave's new-age music period, management told the station employees to refer to The Wave as a "mood service" rather than a "radio station". DJs stopped announcing the titles of the songs, and instead, to maintain an uninterrupted mood, listeners could call a 1-800 phone number to find out what song was playing. News breaks were also re-branded and referred to as "wave breaks". Stations in other cities followed this lead and in 1983, Stephen Hill's radio show Music From The Hearts of Space was picked up by NPR for syndication to 230 affiliates nationally. Other new-age music specialty radio programs included Forest's Musical Starstreams and John Diliberto's Echoes. Most major cable television networks have channels that play music without visuals, including channels for new-age music, such as the "Soundscapes" channel on Music Choice.
By 1989, there were over 150 small independent record labels releasing new-age music, and new-age music and adult alternative programs were carried on hundreds of commercial and college radio stations in the U.S., and over 40 distributors were selling new-age music through mail order catalogs.
New Age music is defined more by the effect or feeling it produces rather than the instruments used in its creation; it may be electronic, acoustic, or a mixture of both. New Age artists range from solo or ensemble performances using classical music instruments ranging from the piano, acoustic guitar, flute or harp to electronic musical instruments, or from Eastern instruments such as the sitar, tabla, and tamboura.
There is a significant overlap of sectors of New Age music, ambient music, classical music, jazz, electronica, world music, chillout, space music and others. The two definitions typically associated with the New Age genre are:
- New Age music with an ambient sound that has the explicit purpose of aiding meditation and relaxation, or aiding and enabling various alternative spiritual practices, such as alternative healing, Yoga practice, guided meditation, chakra auditing, and so on. The proponents of this definition are almost always musicians who create their music expressly for these purposes. Prominent artists who create New Age music expressly for healing and/or meditation include Paul Horn, Deuter, Steven Halpern, Dean Evenson who in 1979 was one of the first to combine his peaceful flute music with the sounds of nature, Lawrence Ball, and Karunesh.
- Music which is found in the New Age sections of record stores. This is largely a definition of practicality, given the breadth of music that is classified as "New Age" by retailers who are often less interested in finely-grained distinctions between musical styles than are fans of those styles. Music which falls into this definition is usually music which cannot be easily classified into other, more common definitions, but often includes well-defined music such as worldbeat and Flamenco guitar. It also includes expressly spiritual New Age music as a subset. There are retail outlets, that specify subcategories such as Nature Sounds, Healing, Piano, Chants, and so on. Amazon includes also Celtic, Meditation, World-dance, and Relaxation, and iTunes Store includes Nature, Environmental, Healing, and Travel, besides other subgenres. The German new-age site Silenzio lists almost 70 subgenres.
Influences and themes
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From 1968 to 1973, German musicians such as Edgar Froese (founder of Tangerine Dream), Holger Czukay (one of the founders of Can and a former student of Karlheinz Stockhausen), Popol Vuh, and Ashra released a number of works featuring experimental sounds and textures built with electronics, synthesizers, acoustic and electric instruments which were referred to as cosmic music. This experimentation provided early foundational influences for the ambient music and New Age music genres. In the late 1970s Brian Eno's defining explorations in ambient music further influenced the formation of the New Age music genre, as developed in the styles of musicians such as Robert Fripp, Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Harold Budd, Cluster, Jah Wobble (of post-punk band Public Image Limited).
In 1973, Mike Oldfield's unconventional progressive rock album Tubular Bells became one of the first albums to be referred to under the genre description of New Age music. Other influences are early electronic music, classical music, ethnic music and world music. The minimalism of Terry Riley and Steve Reich (Indian influenced in the former case) can also be cited as an influence, along with artists like Tony Conrad, La Monte Young who utilized drones since the early 1960s. Connected to the creation of New Age music is the resurgence of interest in Gregorian chant during the second half of the 20th century. Now, New Age music has branched out and also includes chanting of "spiritual" or ancient languages, and includes, but is not limited to Sanskrit, Latin, Gaelic, Hebrew and Gurmukhi. Popular artists in this genre include Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Bhagavan Das and Snatam Kaur.
The solo ECM performances by artists like Keith Jarrett (especially his record The Köln Concert), Ralph Towner (especially his records Blue Sun and Solo Concert) and Lyle Mays's first eponymous album, are usually thought to be an influence on Ambient/New Age music. The acoustic solo and group performances by the early Windham Hill artists such as William Ackerman, Alex de Grassi, George Winston, and Michael Hedges were called New Age for much of the last 30 years.
Popular themes in New Age music include space and the cosmos, environment and nature, wellness in being, harmony with one's self and the world, dreams or dreaming and journeys of the mind or spirit. Titles of New Age albums and songs are frequently descriptive: examples include Shepherd Moons (Enya), Straight' a Way to Orion (Kitaro), Touching the Clouds (Symbiosis), and One Deep Breath (Bradley Joseph).
As described in this article, the borders of this genre are not well defined; however music retail stores will include artists in the "New Age" category even if the artists themselves use different names for their style of music. Here are some other terms used instead of "New Age".
This term can include artists that do not use electronic instruments in their music, such as solo pianist David Lanz. Similarly, pianists such as Yanni and Bradley Joseph both use this term as well, although they use keyboards to incorporate layered orchestral textures into their compositions.
Contemporary adult instrumental
This term was suggested by Steven Halpern in the June 1999 issue of New Age Voice as an alternative catch-all label for music which is classified by retailers as "New Age", but which is not expressly spiritual in nature.
- New-age music at AllMusic
- Lehrer, Paul M.; David H. (FRW) Barlow, Robert L. Woolfolk, Wesley E. Sime (2007). Principles and Practice of Stress Management, Third Edition. New York: Guilford Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 1-59385-000-X.
- Derk Richardson (Nov 1986). "The Sounds of Sominex". Mother Jones Magazine. p. 60.
- Wright, Carol. Spectrum Suite – Steven Halpern. AllMusic.
- Geoff Mayfield (October 25, 19896). "The Independents: Oasis of Individuality Offering Welcome Relief from the Volume Wars". Billboard Magazine (Nielsen Business Media). p. 22.
- Balfe, Judith H. (1993). Paying the piper: causes and consequences of art patronage. University of Illinois Press. pp. 279–81. ISBN 0-252-06310-4.
- PJ Birosik (March 1989). "Dreamtime Return". Yoga Journal (Active Interest Media, Inc.). pp. 94–95.
- Cope, David (2001). New directions in music. Michigan University: Waveland Press. p. 259. ISBN 9781577661085.
- Steven Halpern, New Age Voice Magazine, June 1999 issue
- Birosik, Patti Jean (1989). The New Age Music Guide. Collier MacMillan. p. 138. ISBN 0-02-041640-7.
- David Lanz Website Bio
- ● Yanni; Rensin, David (2002). Yanni in Words. Miramax Books. pp. 123, 202. ISBN 1-4013-5194-8. ● Puckett, Jeffrey Lee (April 26, 2012). "Yanni up close: Musician known for larger-than-life venues also loves the Louisville Palace". The Courier-Journal.
- Wheeler, Fred (2002). "Interview with Bradley Joseph". Indie Journal. Archived from the original on 2005-09-08. Retrieved 2006-12-21.