WHAT IS NEW AGE MUSIC...
People sometimes ask me: what kind of music do you produce?
My usual answer: well, hummm, it’s kind of NEW AGE MUSIC with some WORLD MUSIC influences, but it also has JAZZY elements. Maybe it’s also WORLD FUSION or AMBIENT... but I have also CLASSICAL as well as ELECTRONIC elements in my music, maybe you even like my CELTIC influences or my POP-MUSIC escapades... well, what should I say? In the end it’s just my music. Why give it a label?
The market obviously needs genre-labels. Music fans need some guidance to find their path in the big jungle of contemporary music. When I look at it in this way I can mostly live with the term ”NEW AGE MUSIC”. But let’s look a bit deeper into it.
Some people say, that probably Tony Scott's ”Music For Zen Meditation” from 1964 was the first NEW AGE album. Jazz clarinettist Tony Scott improvised along with two Japanese artists on Koto and Shakuhachi and created a calm, meditative athmosphere. Others suggest that Paul Horns ”Inside the Great Pyramid” (1968) was the first NEW AGE album. Pure flute music recorded inside of a well known place, commonly accociated with mystic spirituality or meditation. Also Keith Jarret with his ”Köln Concert” (1972) matched the growing demand for calm, relaxing but still inspired music. Finally in the 80ies labels like WINDHAM HILL started the big movement of quiet, meditative music, officially called NEW AGE MUSIC. STEVEN HALPERN, one of the first official ”NEW AGE” – stars, described this new genre as music, which does not mainly build on the principle of tension and release (like most music in general) but rather functions like wall paper, which can create a positive, even healing athmosphere.
As NEW AGE MUSIC became popular, more and more music got labeled ”NEW AGE” just to use the trend for more successful marketing. But big artists like VANGELIS, KITARO, VOLLENWEIDER or DEUTER never declared themselves as NEW AGE MUSICIANS. It just seemed, that their music fit into this trend, so they got accociated with it. On the other hand, just holding a few notes on a keyboard and combining it with some nature sounds suddenly could become a best seller if marketed right. As a consequence, many people considered NEW AGE MUSIC to be boring or even cheap.
It’s amazing to see that this genre is still there and alife, although many times different terms have been suggested (like “ Contemporary Instrumental Music” for example). But it seems, that the term MEW AGE MUSIC has finally settled. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, because this genre allows artists a great bandwidth and stylistic freedom.
As NEW AGE is commonly accociated with spirituality, the question must be raised, if this music necessarily is created in or for a spiritual context. It often is, but often there is no connection to any spiritual thinking or living.
Meditation is a part of my life. But I don’t like the idea, that we NEW AGE musicians in general create music that is helpful for meditation. In my opinion true meditation has nothing to do with external stimuli – it’s merely about the inner self and about awareness. Some people might find the quiet peace of the Himalayas helpful on their way to enlightenment (and would consider any music as disturbing), others might swear by heavy metal music (why not?).
So, shall we call it ”NEW AGE MUSIC” then? O.k., maybe it’s just good for my fans to know that my music can be found in the ”NEW AGE – corner” of the local record store or in the internet. But in fact under this label there can be found a big variety of great music and musicians – the only way to find out if one likes them is: to listen.
Here are a few links to Internet sites that are dedicated to NEW AGE MUSIC:
one of the best adresses in the net for new age music fans.
a great independent online magazine for new age music
very good site dedicated to new age music, including lots of links and a “new age music faq”, belonging to the newsgroup rec.music.newage