New Age Rising – a collective illumination compiled by Frosty

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New Age music is a genre simultaneously embraced and shunned. Beyond the schlock masquerading as enlightened listening exists a vast expanse of highly-attuned material produced by musicians identifying as part of the New Age movement. Others, who fit comfortably into this sonic fold, choose to dodge the banner in favor of freer territory. Due in part to the rediscovery of radically progressive New Age music from the past, there has been a resurgence of interest, sparking a plethora of reissued albums and newly composed sparks in the continuum.

This dublab feature is the result of a survey conducted with a host of musicians and explorers including: Andy Beta, Ariel Kalma, Carlos Niño, Dave Segal, Diva Dompe, Douglas McGowan, Electric Soundbath, Gifted & Blessed, J D Emmanuel, Laraaji, Matthewdavid, Northern Ashram, Robert Rich and White Rainbow. Each chimed in with thoughts on New Age as a genre form. Mixed emotions were voiced when considering the categorization but a common ground was clear, love for radiant sonics. You can view their feedback below, listen to mixes of classic and contemporary New Age music compiled from their collective song submissions and read an original essay I wrote.

My aim is to investigate the spirit of a music sometimes caught in the mire of misconception and share the work of contemporary musicians who are using New Age sounds as a tool for transcendence in the Postinternet era. I hope you enjoy deep listening and the high places it can bring you. ॐ – Frosty

 

MIX: DOWNLOAD

CLASSICS = Timeless:
1. Michael Stearns – In The Beginning… / offered by: Matthewdavid
2. Iasos – Rainbow Canyon / offered by: Carlos Niño and GB
3. Jürgen Müller – Sea Bed Meditation / offered by:Electric Soundbath
4. Terry Riley- A Rainbow in Curved Air / offered by: J D Emmanuel
5. Ariel Kalma – Planet-Air / offered by: Dave Segal and Ariel Kalma
6. Brian Eno – Canon in D Major / offered by: White Rainbow
7. Peter Davison – Morning Meditation (Music On The Way) / offered by: Douglas McGowan
8. Paul Horn – Meditation Psalm 3 / offered by: Laraaji
9. Suzanne Ciani – Sailing Away / offered by: Northern Ashram
10. Steven Halpern – Spectrum Suite / offered by: Laraaji
11. Craig Kupka – Clouds II / offered by: Andy Beta

 

MIX: DOWNLOAD

CONTEMPORARY = The Time is Now:
1. Matthewdavid – O’cean Dream Symphony / offered by: GB
2. Diva – All One / offered by: Matthewdavid
3. Outer Space – Scanlon / offered by: Electric Soundbath
4. Bitchin Bajas & Bonnie Prince Billy – Despair is Criminal / offered by: Dave Segal
5. Fourth World Magazine – StarChild’s Birth / offered by: White Rainbow
6. M. Geddes Gengras – Passage / offered by: Douglas McGowan
7. Mark Pritchard – ? / offered by: Laraaji
8. Mark Mcguire – Life Speeds Up / offered by: Andy Beta
9. PANABRITE – Index Of Gestures / offered by: Dave Segal
10. Günter Schlienz – Humble / offered by: Douglas McGowan

Thanks to Hosh’ki Tsunoda for mixing the song submissions into the flowing forms above.

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A SURVEY OF SEEKERS:

ANDY BETA

• What attracts you to New Age music?
 
It’s sense of calm, its exploration of the ethereal using a musical language on the spectrum with that of pop, but for far different purposes. At its finest, it’s beautiful and evocative music, it acts like a drug. New Age is also functional music, be it as background music or as a way to relax and unwind. I almost always wind up utilizing a New Age playlist on a long flight, for instance.
 
• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

As a child, I grew up driving with my father to the first Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, back when it was but one small shop. The store smelled of nutritional yeast, carob and incense. The vitamin department used to sell crystals, books on palmistry and lucid dreaming, as well as New Age music. My father was more of a proponent of self-help music and subliminal tapes, the sounds of ocean waves with hidden messages embedded in them, which I still associate with New Age music.
 
Members of my family were very much against New Age music. I recall a lecture from my uncle that things like meditation, lucid dreaming and New Age music were the work of the devil, that the secret messages were to make you more accepting of Satan. In one instance when I played the music of Charlemagne Palestine (Six Elements, not quite New Age, but in the same spirit) on my college radio show, my uncle told me that if someone heard it while high on LSD, they would go into a trance and their body would be taken over by a demon. I wish I was making this up, Frosty.
In hindsight, my gateway electronic music album was Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works II, which doubles as an ambient/ new age album as well.

• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?
 
Well, it got a bad rap in the past for so much of it being so lazy and hokey. There’s a lot of pablum in New Age music and there’s a snake oil aspect to it all, making claims to heal everything from chakras childhood memories to finances with absolutely no proof. And a lot of its practitioners are cheeseball dudes.
 
• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?
 
Imagine pop music as the sound of being on the ground and stuck in traffic and New Age music as being in a plane flying above the clouds. At its best, New Age changes scale and perspective. A change in altitude, a change in attitude.
 
• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?
 
There’s always a time to reassess maligned sounds in our culture. There was a time when gated drums sounded cringeworthy and now such production techniques are celebrated. I think back to the early 00s when freak-folk and artists like Iron & Wine were tapping into tropes like James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel, or when disco and Italo 12’s were embraced by new dance music producers. I think that what’s in the $1 bin winds up in an aesthetic renaissance as it’s cheap entertainment and source material for broke musicians. New Age also was reassessed by new artists in a similar manner.

As my article in the LA Times on this resurgence back in 2011 attested, New Age is making a return in part because it’s a protest. It’s about turning down the daily noise and information overload, unplugging a little and allowing more space into our personal lives. It’s immersive music and one that requires time to allow it to unfold and take effect.

Personally, I think what made me appreciate New Age stemmed from weekly yoga practice. Not that I heard great music from my yoga teachers, but the practice opened me up to more contemplative, flowing sorts of music. As I slowly became acclimated to it, stuff with chimes and chants and pan flutes and harp runs were no longer cheesy to me.
 
• If you shy away from the New Age tag what would you propose as an alternative to this genre?
 
When I asked Laraaji about it, he called it “beautiful, trance-meditative music.” So that.
 
• What defines a great New Age record for you?
 
 A contemplative artist. A sense of great scale, of music that you can journey into and get carried away by. Albums with hand-drawn esoteric album art and obscure religious iconography is always enticing.
 
• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?
 
 Craig Kupka Clouds, Peter Davidson Music on the Way, Laraaji Essence/ Universe, Michael Stearns’s Planetary Unfolding
 
• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?
 
OLD: Terry Riley, Alice Coltrane – Turiyasangitananda, Laraaji
 
NEW: CFCF, Jonathan Coleclough, Mark McGuire

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.
 
In a yoga studio. On a plane.

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ARIEL KALMA

* The following is the transcription of an audio interview.

• How would you define New Age music?

For me it’s a music which goes inside and explores the landscapes of consciousness. Explore individually meaning many times it’s improvised music. Because we never know where the landscapes are going to lead us. When I play new age music. First I want to say I’m closer to space music than new age music because the new age music is associated with a whole principle of religion philosophy, rituals, crystals and I understand where it comes from but I don’t like where it goes to. I don’t like the commercial aspect of all this with a lot of books on crystals and another tarot card for stones. For me, space is the answer, not new age. Space in the sense that we are in the cosmos alone traveling this amazing journey towards life. There is nothing new or nothing newer than what’s happening. We are the age of ourselves. I’m a bit older so new age is a bit old for me. Do you see what I’m saying? Does that answer your question Frosty? But this is what I feel actually. I feel like the new age is a journey inside. If we can make that journey, each one of us, we are a part of an age of the future so maybe it’s called a new age. Ok.

• Tell us about your goal when creating music within the new age spectrum.

I’m looking for something which affects me, either emotionally, either intellectually in the sense of discovering a new pathway of thinking or feeling and my goal, my ultimate goal is meditation. It’s very very individual. Meditation is very…sometimes I daydream and some others would call that meditation and sometimes I fall asleep and it’s so close to meditation that I don’t where is reality and where is absence of reality, the sleep so to speak. So when I create music, ok I will accept your new age definition ok, although I remember I was saying space music is closer to me, so let’s replace for a moment new age by space music. My goal when I create space music is a journey into the stars. Into the void. Into inner self-consciousness because we cannot imagine what it means to be in the stars until we close our eyes and visualize those stars and visualize the Sun turning and we turning around the Sun and turning in the galaxy and this galaxy is turning in another galaxy and so on and so on and where are the black holes and what’s a node of time space and where is the wormhole connecting? You see, what I mean is, that’s what I’m trying to create when I start playing with the space music aka new age spectrum in mind, or in no mind. I try to go in no mind. Actually, it’s more the preparation, which is for me is long, than the actual playing. When I sit down and I start playing whatever instrument I’m playing it’s like a door. I knock at the door, maybe for a long time, and at one point the door opens and I’m in. Maybe that’s why I always have a kind of a piece which I play at the beginning when I play for the public, it’s called “Entrance,” because it’s the door for me. It’s very technical. I have to count. I have to count in reverse. I have to synchronize my fingers. I have to think about things and this puts me in a certain type of trance where after that everything is so easy that I can let go and let the music flow through me. So my goal, when I create music for the new age or space age, is to forget everything and to go inside and explore the stars, the void. 

• Was there a point in the past when someone dismissed your music because it fell under the label of new age?

Oh yes. Oh yes, absolutely. In the 70’s my first album which was in 1974, when I had prepared it I went with my tapes to music shops. Actually I went with my LP’s because no label wanted to publish it because they were saying, “We don’t have a box for that. We don’t have a definition. How do you define that music? New age?” There was no box for new age actually. So the new age, “Oh yeah it’s elevator music. It’s so boring. It’s all repetition. It’s the same thing again and again.” Frankly this disturbed me because yeah, people don’t have the patience. In our modern society it seems we need constantly to have the mind busy and new age music, or space music, is the contrary of busyness. So we need the beats, they need the beats, and that music, ambient music or new age music or space music, have no beats. It’s like the first part of any classical Indian music is called the Alap and there is no rhythm. It’s just to introduce the mood and the mode or the raga in which the music is going to be expressed but in the beginning there is no rhythm and people find it boring and it’s just a warm up to go deeper. So new age has been accused, labeled of boring repetitions which lead nowhere. Well ok, but the result is there, it leads nowhere. (laughs) See above my answers.

• Have perceptions changed?

I don’t know. I don’t know Frosty if perceptions have changed. I know that people are interested now, more because, I don’t know. Maybe because they are becoming aware more of what’s happening and looking more for alternatives to the busyness. So that’s why yoga is much more developed now. I mean when I was doing yoga in the seventies people were thinking I was in a sect. Some were looking at me like, “What is he doing? He has these pagan rituals.” I was doing yoga for heaven’s sake. Ok ok, my hair was very large and big but still it’s not the reason. I was not in a sect. See that’s what I don’t like, all these definitions of things. So have perceptions changed? Yeah, maybe they have because more people are interested in alternatives to the shopping mall.

• Why do you think new age music is having a resurgence now?

Well I think I just touched it. I think more people are interested into what’s happening which are not the mainstream politics or the business of weapons or the lethal articles in the newspaper on page 35. Just little meaningful things which occupy our life but does not present any transformation to us. So I think new age music or whatever we call it, space age music, ambient music has a resurgence now because it puts us in a certain mood for transformation, and people are looking for transformation. Sometimes in the wrong way, like, it’s not necessarily because you take an ecstasy pill that you will be transformed. If you take that as an entertainment it’s not going to lead anywhere. So yes, resurgence I think.

• What defines a great new age record for you?

Does it open the door for me to explore unknown places? Does it evoke a sense of inner quietness from where I can see the world? The worlds. The inner worlds and the outer worlds. That’s what defines a great new age record.

• What are your top three new age albums of all time?

1. Ok, I think I have to say, Shunyata by Peter Michael Hamel. In the early 70’s I listened to this album almost constantly. It was just phenomenal and this is so simple that it really was a door for me, like I described before.

2. Well, I’m going to be a bit selfish. I think Osmose, my own album from 1978 is in my top three new age albums of all time. I’ll tell you why, because Osmose is the intimate intermix of nature and music. What I was saying before, for me a good new age album is what opens the door for me and Osmose has opened the door for me between the worlds of music and nature, with the birds and the rainforest and the atmosphere of rainforest. So I have to quote that.

3. The third album is a very little known album. It’s called Sanctum and it’s by Music Mosaic. It’s a compilation with different people which are extraordinary. There is a piece from Hildegard of Bingen which I could actually quote as a new age composer although she was in the 11th century but the way she composed was so special that it still resonates with me. There are other tracks from the Tbilisi Ensemble from Georgia and so on and so on. It’s so beautiful. 

• What are three favorite new new-age artists?

So here we are, new versus old. So I’m an old new age artist, right and you ask me about the new new-age artists. I think I will skip that question because for me there is no new age. It’s always new and it’s always old.

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to new age music. 

Ok. relax……….
The more relaxed position the better. That’s when the door will open but if you don’t have a perfect environment it’s ok. You can listen to new age music anytime. Some of my own tracks I would actually not recommend to drive a car with it. Because when I play some of those sounds or ways of moods playing I sometimes go into such a trance that I literally fall on my keyboard. When the door is really really open and I’m really into the sounds or the music, like I said I’m looking for something that affects me and some moments I’m really affected and this is what happened in one of my recordings from 1980. I was doing a study on telepathic transmission through music. Well to say it really with the new age jargon. (laughs) But it’s true, that’s what I was doing at that time. So I went in and pressed record and that’s all I remember and it was just amazing and I didn’t pay attention at the level of recording and so it was not a good recording after that. The music was very special though. 

Anyway, I hope Frosty, this answered all of your questions except one and I hope you’re going to write a great article and it will serve your purpose. Thank you again. Lots of love to you and hug. Bye!

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CARLOS NINO

• What attracts you to New Age music?

 
The Sound, Vibration, Energy, Consciousness!
 
• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

My first discovery of New Age Music was
with the person I consider most responsible
for it emerging: Paul Horn. He was both a 
Jazz and Devotional musician, and that led 
him Inside. He influenced, and was influenced 
by, the New Age, that I like to refer to as NOW. 
Following his lineage, I see Chico Hamilton 
and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as two major catalysts for this music. (Paul Horn was with 
both, as was Charles Lloyd.) Hamilton for his 
Pacific groove and soulful openness, and 
Maharishi for introducing Transcendental Meditation to them. 
 

• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

In general, people are not very aware.
They can and will like what they like and
conceive of things how they will, I’m just
glad that folks are waking up to the magic!
It’s not about a genre for me, it’s about
The Sound, Vibration, Energy, Consciousness!
 

• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

I wouldn’t tell a skeptic anything. I would
just proceed with sharing music I Love in
any and all environments that I can. And
continue making music whether people get
it or not. It lives on and people can connect
 with it when they’re ready and want to. 
 

• Tell us a little about your work with Iasos. What makes his music unique within the New Age spectrum?

Iasos music is unique – it’s channeled, it’s 
ecstatic, blissful and expansive. I appreciate
my close relationship with him so much!
He’s not really into my music, but is open
to play on my records because of our close
friendship. I don’t take that lightly. I’m of course
always very excited by what he adds. I help
him with his label Inter-Dimensional Music
and we hang out and travel together whenever
we can . . .
 

• Would you consider some of your own music New Age or do you shy away from the label?

My music is more a Space Collage Hybrid.
I use a lot of different elements, including the New Age. 
 
 
• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

People like to dig and find things and share
and listen and collect, etc.. In that, people 
are tuning into the New Age genre. Some 
people are also really tuning into the music
on a vibrational level, rather than it just being  
intellectually based or fad following . . . The
people who make and support this music
have always been here. Thanks to them especially!
 

• What defines a great New Age record for you?

The genre doesn’t matter . . . 
 
 
• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

There are so many! Here are 3 of the first 
ones I Loved, that I will always Love:
 
Inter-Dimensional Music through Iasos – 1975


Georg Deuter Celebration – 1976


Paul Horn Inside The Magic Of Findhorn
 featuring Joel Andrews – 1983 
 
• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

See the above.
 

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

The ideal setting for listening to New Age Music is free and open, of time, heart and mind, preferably 
with a nice sound system . . .  

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DAVE SEGAL (THE STRANGER)

• What attracts you to New Age music?

I like how earnest and functional it strives to be. Here’s this entire musical genre dedicated to helping people chill out, align their chakras, find inner peace, resonate with the solar system, etc. That’s the kind of altruism I can get behind, particularly because I have a really hard time relaxing. I’m always looking for music that transports me to the ZONE, that place where I can temporarily escape the world’s annoying mundanities and abhorrent horrors. True, New Age music’s usually devoid of sexiness, but it exudes ecstasy.

• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

It must have been Deuter’s Aum, around 1997. Some guys in the Texas psych-rock band Vas Deferens Organization turned me on to Deuter’s debut album, D, which was more of a freaky krautrock thing than New Age. But after that, Deuter turned into a prolific New Age composer. I didn’t realize this when I went to check out his second album, Aum, but I dug its air of utter serenity. I didn’t consciously seek out New Age records back then, but I’d occasionally explore things like Paul Horn’s Inside or Iasos’ Inter-Dimensional Music and enjoy them for their calming properties and gorgeous tonalities. Things really took off for me re: New Age in 2013 after I heard Light In The Attic’s I Am The Center compilation (curated by Douglas McGowan). It helped to inspire me and my DJ partner Explorateur to start a New Age/ambient night in Seattle called Rare Air. Since 2014, we’ve thrown six events in a big dance club there, and they’ve gone pretty well; the best-attended one topped 100, which isn’t bad for a Tuesday night.
Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past and/or what are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

Probably because most people only get exposed to the most watered-down, clichéd material in the genre. It takes patience and determination to find the best artifacts of any style, particularly one that’s been as un-hip and under-documented as New Age. Few people can muster the time and/or desire needed to seek out the peaks. As for misconceptions, the most common perspective of New Age is tied up in folks’ disdain of hippies, Eastern mysticism, holistic lifestyles, health food, etc. Pop culture has exacerbated this negativity; it has instilled the view that those into New Age are naïve and prone to trendy mysticism. Maybe some of those criticisms are deserved. But as I’ve said, dig deeper and you’ll find a stratum of music that transcends all the bullshit that’s ever been said or written about New Age—oh, and besides, health food and Eastern mysticism often lead to a better existence, so fuck the haters. At its best, New Age represents some of the subtlest and most beautiful psychedelic music ever created.

If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?
I’d say check out the best artists in the field (Laraaji, JD Emmanuel, Don Slepian, Constance Demby, Suzanne Ciani, Stephen Halpern, Michael Stearns, Iasos, Wilburn Burchette, etc.) and prepare to feel good and travel deep into your consciousness. What reasonable person would not like those things? However, anyone saddled with a short attention span will probably be a lost cause. But those of a certain thoughtful disposition could very well become devotees.

• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

The planet seems to be on the verge of ecological disaster, and that understandably sets people on edge. Also, global political and religious tensions/conflicts—chronic in any era—get amplified through the internet, and that increases stress in the populace. New Age music offers a semblance of solace in these circumstances. Also, it’s a genre that had been so far out of the mainstream for decades, that it has a tinge of exoticism and freshness about it. That makes it attractive to collectors and other curious music heads seeking the 1-5% of any genre that’s exceptional. The lesson here is that even the most scorned musical styles will eventually cycle back into favor, given enough time and convincing advocates for their cause. Look at prog rock, which has made a comeback of sorts. And it wouldn’t surprise me if happy hardcore or trip-hop did so in another five years.

• What defines a great New Age record for you?

It’s hard to pinpoint why certain New Age and drone records get the job done and others leave you earthbound and unmoved. But, in general, the best New Age composers create tones that carry a certain gravitas and conjure the sense that you’re elevating or even dissolving into a cosmic/tantric bliss state. Overall, it’s not a common sound; if it were, it wouldn’t be so special, obviously. Some New Age records are very sparse and leave you feeling utterly calm and alert. Others are more immersive and almost overwhelm you with their lushness. I have time for both approaches. What I can’t abide is New Age music that emits a saccharine scent, a kind of poofy-haired literalness. This kind of New Age sounds as if the musicians read a manual on how to make listeners relax and then ham-fistedly applied those principles. Again, it’s hard to say exactly why some New Age succeeds and some fails, but often it comes down to the weaker artists choosing keys and notes that are so blatantly innocuous, you end up mocking them instead of gracefully reclining into their majesty, as the most sublime specimens of the genre inspire.

• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

Tough one! Right now I’d say JD Emmanuel’s Trance-Formation 1: Ancient Minimal Meditations, Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon, and Ariel Kalma’s Osmose. My New Age collection is not very big and I still have much to learn. I recommend that neophytes start with the I Am The Center comp and work outward from there.

• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

These artists may identify more as ambient than New Age, but their music fulfills new age-like functions for me: Panabrite (Seattle synth guru Norm Chambers), Robert A.A. Lowe (aka Lichens, collaborator with Ariel Kalma), and Bitchin’ Bajas. (Honorable mention to Outer Space, ex-Emeralds synth player John Elliott, also head of the excellent Spectrum Spools label.)

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

A flotation tank. Failing that, anywhere where you can get comfortably horizontal and close your eyes.

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DIVA DOMPE

• Tell us a little about your guided meditations. What is the process and intended result?

I started creating my guided meditations as a self healing process to explore a realm I have been connected to my whole life, a place that has offered a rich visionary field of understanding and experience, but that i’ve also feared at times. By inviting this realm in to channel freely through me i remembered it is called Yialmel and i have since had so many beautiful and uplifting journeys there. It means a lot to me to share these experiences with other people here on earth because it helps me to feel more connected to the earth community and also i hope helps earthlings remember a broader understanding of existence. Yialmel is quite the utopian paradise, but it’s not like there are structures set up intentionally to create that. There is a huge diversity of life and consciousness on Yialmel and each being has its own role that is given the support to flourish and thrive so as to support the entire ecosystem. Matter, energy and consciousness are very clearly the same thing just on a wide gradient and it is much easier to shift between these states. It is also very easy to feel the continuum of our own being expanding out to everything else. There is an elasticity that lets one easily experience this gradient between beings rather than strict delineations. Yialmel is also simply a very beautiful place to enjoy.  

• Do you consider yourself a New Age musician?

sure, but i feel like its a vague term. I explore spiritual concepts through both my pop music and meditation music. these spiritual concepts are informed by an interest in occultism, mysticism, esotericism, theosophy, which all inform the new age movement. I channel extraterrestrial experience within my art. A central purpose within my pop music and meditations is to explore the limitless consciousness/matter/energy vehicle of existence differentiated from source. So I would say these are in alignment with New Age aspects.  

• What attracts you to New Age music?
the way it makes me feel. the way it expresses a certain part of my experience as an inter-dimensional being.  

• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

I think it was JD Emmanuel’s Wizards

• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?
I think for a few different reasons that can be attributed to the movement in general. Sometimes the new age movement can seem shallow, vague, escapist and coming from a place of privilege. At least those are the things that i tend to struggle with when considering my alignment within this movement. Its a tough question for me though because i haven’t found the balance yet that feels comfortable to me. However i hope that these are not issues inherent and embedded within new age culture in a way that they are inescapable. I think it depends more on the individual and how we each participate with the culture. There is so much growth and joy and bliss that can come from participating in new age culture, and this can be translated into a public arena, as can be seen from the effects of incorporating meditation into public school. We are seeing new age concepts and practices becoming much more mainstream and accepted, such as with meditation and yoga. I’ve even seen a lot of articles recently about the scientific study of gratitude that shows a correlation between practicing gratitude and leading a successful, happy, and thriving life. This is the same thing as the law of attraction but just put in a scientific context. However, meditation, yoga, even the law of attraction all preceded the new age movement. So is new age just an appropriation of these long standing practices and concepts, taken without due respect and understanding? some critics might say new age music does the same thing, that a rich tradition of sincerely experimental and spiritual music somehow turned into background music to relax to. I think that side of it can exist, but I don’t have that relationship to new age music nor does anyone i know creating this music. I have only witnessed a very sincere approach to seeking expansion, transcendence, bliss, and inter-dimensional divine states of consciousness. 

• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

To try and experience on a level beyond the mind, so they are focusing on the way it makes them feel. 

• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?
Many styles of music have experienced a resurgence in the last 5-10 years because of our increased access to formerly obscure recordings, i feel like new age music is relevant recently because it provides an open ended and experimental framework for artists who feel drawn to progress the genre and possibly because of a spiritual paradigm shift caused by the acceleration of consciousness, information, and technology. New age music helps us to understand these newer more subtle realms of consciousness we are opening up to and also can provide a peaceful space within this accelerated expansion. 

• What defines a great New Age record for you?

I usually resonate with records that ‘listen’. you are aware of the listener within the piece and it creates a certain amount of space for transcendence and exploration. I also really enjoy new age records that have a unique sound, that don’t follow a typical new age format, even if it might sacrifice some kind of sonic smoothness. 
 
• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

In my home with my family on a peaceful day 

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DOUGLAS MCGOWAN

• What attracts you to New Age music?

I was initially attracted to the fact that here was this great music that had such a terrible reputation and wasn’t being taken seriously by anyone. I started to zoom in on it more just as a record collector and lover of esoteric things, and then I realized that the genre was mostly on tape at a time when no one was paying much attention to tapes, so there was a good five year run there where I was able to rekindle the same joy of digging for vinyl in the 90s before it became such a thing. And I found that the great new age musicians tend to be intelligent, complex people who are full of surprises. The great ones tend not to resemble any kind of stereotype one might have about a new age musician.

• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

Without realizing it at the time, listening to my dad’s tape of the new agey Cosmos soundtrack in the 80s definitely planted a seed. 


• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?
This is the question I get asked the most and I talked about it at length in my UCLA and University of Oregon talks which you can see online… Basically, I think the negative impression people have is mostly correct. Most of it is stupid and just not very good, by people who may believe ridiculous things, or worse are pretending to believe ridiculous things, or just aren’t very interesting or good musicians, or some combination thereof. But that just means that the good, sincere, deep stuff stands out that much more.

• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

I’d basically just play them some music. At this point that too many people who know what’s up are into this stuff to ignore or dismiss it anymore. 


• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

It’s not so much a resurgence. It’s been a slow burn that started about a decade ago. We’ve all watched this predictable arc of musical fads flaring up and burning out, and I think a handful of record collectors, musicians, and critics wanted that not to be the case here, because we saw that the best of the genre can really change your outlook in a positive way, so it goes beyond fashion. It’s actually important the way early rap is important. It’s an American folk art and it’s nice to discover that something you were raised to think is trash has value. And good music is timeless and time works differently in this space. So basically it’s slowly becoming a part of music history and the trivializers are having to find other things to trivialize. 


• Tell us a little about Yoga / Ethereal Sequence’s activity in the New Age realm. What is your mission? What actions do you take to achieve this? What artists have you worked with?

Aside from putting Laraaji’s first album from 1978 out digitally in 2008 (Celestial Vibration, when he was still calling himself Edward Larry Gordon), I haven’t done any new age on either of my labels in part because (at least when I was starting out) it was so much more marginal than the folk and rock stuff, and I felt I didn’t really have my own platform to popularize the music the way it deserves to be popularized. I did produce a compilation for Light In The Attic called I Am The Center that basically retells the story of the genre as an extension of psychedelia and something noble before it got corporatized. And I helped my friends at the Numero Group with their Iasos and Jordan de la Sierra reissues, and produced their upcoming Joanna Brouk collection, which we’re really excited about, and we’re working on some more stuff along these lines for the future.

• What defines a great New Age record for you?

What defines good music? 


• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

I can’t answer any more than I can name my three favorite albums overall, but to just rattle off a few titles, Angelic Music by Iasos, Music On The Way by Peter Davison, and Sea Of Bliss by Don Slepian.


• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

None of them are exclusively new age, but just to stick with the Gs, Guenter Schlienz, greyghost, and M. Geddes Gengras all have strong work in the genre. I feel very strongly that the younger artists need to assert themselves in the broader market and do things like try to win Grammy awards, because all of the energy in the genre is with these guys. As with so many things it’s time for the boomers to pass the torch already.

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

On headphones, stoned and alone and out for a walk some place where the air is clear.

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ELECTRIC SOUNDBATH

ELECTRIC SOUND BATH is a Los Angeles-based duo comprised of Ang Wilson (modular synth and singing bowls) and Brian Griffith (bass guitar and electronics).

AW = Ang Wilson
BG = Brian Griffith

• What attracts you to New Age music?

BG: The use of gentle frequencies and unique timbres excites me; the genre lends itself to strange, non-traditional instruments. Part of the reason is the term New Age is so broad it can include anything from solo harp, to minimalist synth drones, to the sounds of water. You get many views of a secret this way. 

AW: The vulnerability that comes through from the artist/musician, in the sense of not holding back/ being afraid to get too weird.  I also enjoy the variety that comes with the genre, it makes sense to me that with as many people as there are in this world, there is a surplus of tunes to relax to. 
 
• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

BG: When I was younger, the Lifescapes kiosks were my first introduction to more commercial New Age— I really liked the sounds of water and the gentle flutes. The abstract soundscapes and slow sounds resonated deeply with me. More recently, WVFS at my alma mater FSU, had a weekly experimental music program called Staring at the Sun. They would play some pretty weird stuff, but also a lot of beautiful, minimal music. Delving deeper into creating experimental music is how I became aware of the vastness of the genre, which for me includes ambient, drone and minimalism.    

AW- I was on a trip to Arizona with my grandma after Christmas, when I was 8 or 9, maybe. I had just received a Sony (cassette) Walkman, and was on the look out for something to spend all of my birthday money on. We stopped at a store just inside Tuscon, the name of the store has escaped me, but nonetheless I found my first two Kitaro cassettes,Tenku & Kojiki, along with a tape made by a local musician. The local’s tape was a collections of sounds he had recorded while camping in Arizona paired with his playing of what I remember to be a pan flute of some sort. It is to be said that since then I have been very into found sounds mixed with a variety of flutes, and/or instruments of foreign/ethnic origin. 
 
• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

New Age has received a bad rap almost because the nature of New Age is open and inclusive— it’s a fine line of simultaneously encouraging experimentation and alternative modes of performance, while still maintaining a stylistic and artistic meaning. Commonly, people find it straight-up cheesy, because of the lack of reliable curation in mainstream culture. Part of that may have to do with the mindset and place needed to listen to the music (quiet, mindful, open to reflection, peaceful), which is becoming more and more marginalized. 
 
• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

BG: It really depends on the preconceived notions held by the skeptic, as all artistic taste is highly subjective. To preface anyone listening to New Age, I would say that the emphasis is on the atmosphere and sonic textures, as opposed to song structure. Be patient and open to listening to sound.

AW: Would this skeptic even allow me to turn them onto New Age music? If so I think I’d simply remind them that like all genres, New Age music especially, needs an open listener; and just like life, it’s going to get weird, but that’s the fun. 
 
• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

There are a few factors that contribute to its revitalization. 1) The mass shift in culture to a more mindful, accountable and conscientious mode of operation has become reflected in the art that is created. As a culture grows, so do the music genres that support it. 2) The internet has also played a huge role, by providing the ability to research a music’s origins, as well as accidentally finding gems from the past. 3) New Age has become more available and accessible because of people that love it— Light in the Attic, Leaving Records and Numero Group bring tangible examples of remastered and carefully curated classics. 

• Tell us a little about Electric Sound Bath. What is your mission? What actions do you take to achieve this?

Our process is a mindfulness practice that started as a project to aid in ours as well as others’ meditation. As Electric Sound Bath developed, we found our interest in the healing nature of sound to be an important aspect of our art. Beyond that, we strive to evolve and spread our sound with as many people as possible. 

To achieve this we offer our services to healers: acupuncture, reiki, breathwork, and meditation facilitators throughout the community. We actively record, release music, as well as perform in both traditional and non-traditional venues. Another way we share our mission is through the Internet, by providing easily-accessible meditation tools through netart in conjunction with our music.  
 
• What defines a great New Age record for you?

BG: A good New Age album is texturally rich, secular and creates an atmosphere. For me, it’s hard to listen to lyrical music (New Age or otherwise), so I want the instruments to be expressive and act like the voice. It’s easy to hear/feel the intention behind New Age, so the vibes the artist gives off is important as well. 

AW-  A great New Ange album is defined by delicately balanced culture, meaning and authenticity, with hints of weirdness. I enjoy a smidgen of uncomfortable when listening to New Age, its usually unforgettable. 
 
• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?
We feel lucky to be interviewed together, as we’ve had the chance to decide on our favorite 6 ;) 

BG:
Eno/Laraaji Ambient 3
Lichens – Psychic Nature of Being
Jurgen Muller – Science of the Sea

AW:
Iasos – Celestial Soul Portrait
Laraaji – All in one Peace
Maneki Neko – Auracle

– What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

BG:
Outer Space
Bitchin’ Bajas
Pulse Emitter 

AW:
Les Halles
Celer
The Seven Fields of Aphelion

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

Moroccan Hash Den. 

But also, New Age Music lends itself to community and being in a safe, artistic environment. Being surrounded by like-minded people is an incredibly empowering: we recently had the privilege of performing as part of a 12 hour mindfulness art installation which fused video, sound and meditation into one experience. It was pretty ideal! 


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GIFTED & BLESSED

• What attracts you to New Age music?

I was at first drawn in by some of the themes in new age music (extraterrestrials, other dimensions, alternative healing modalities), as well as the overall mood of relaxation and well-being.
 

• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

My first encounters with new age music were finding Steven Halpern LPs in various dollar bins throughout Southern California. I really dug the use of solo electric piano (especially the availability for sampling).

• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

Most new age music sucks. I can’t say people’s ideas about new age music are wrong. They might be generalizations, but there are enough examples of stereotypically airy fairy new age recordings to justify those viewpoints. However, there are also many amazing recordings within the genre. 

• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?
I’d suggest they start with stuff on the outskirts of the genre (ambient, not necessarily new age, or even solo instrument recordings i.e. Japanese flute). I’d tell them that yes, most of what they’ll find in the genre is dismissible, but I’d show them a few of the classics I love.

• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?


I think the use of analog synthesizers is of interest to many people today. Also, the exploration of otherworldly or interdimensional themes still holds the attention of people like myself.

• Would you consider any of your work to be New Age? If so, please tell us a little about a project of yours that fall within this spectrum.


Some of my works crosses into the new age realm in places (for example, my Healing Tones series), but mostly no.

• What defines a great New Age record for you?
For me, good new age music promotes relaxation but also encompasses a beauty that doesn’t have to feel cheesy.

• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?


Iasos – “Interdimensional Music”
Ojas – “Seven Levels of Man”
Edward Larry Gordon (Laraaji) – “Celestial Vibration”

• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?


Steve Roach (although only a few albums might be called new age…also not new but very much active still), Angelica Tonatzin, Matthewdavid

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.


Lights out, lying down (preferably on a massage table) with some form of beautiful natural element present (plants, the sound of the sea, etc)

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J D EMMANUEL

• How would you define New Age music?

I have never wanted to be associated with the term “New Age Music” as I have always described my music as “Minimal” or “Electronic Minimal.”  However, I understand why I am included as a New Age Music artist which seems to be based on the wide definition of a type of music using free form, drone, repetitive patterns, environmental sounds and improvisation to create altered, meditative states for relaxation, stress release, focusing the mind, etc

• Tell us about your goal when creating music within the New Age spectrum.

One of my goals when creating my music is to take me and the listener into altered states so there is no time and space, which is why I create it in the first place, to take me into very deep altered states of consciousness.

My only works that I would strictly put in the category as “New Age Music” are Rain Forest Music, Ocean Music, Vision of Life and East Texas Rain Forest Music, due to the use of environment sounds.  Since they have been well received pieces, when I would play live I would sometimes open and close the programs using environmental backgrounds including wind chimes, rain, night insect sounds and ocean beach front.  A great example of this is my 2011 San Francisco Electronic Music Festival performance, the full performance on Youtube.

One of the reasons I do my type of music is that I am probably ADHD, so the rhythms calm me down.  This is from childhood in the 50’s as there was no definition of what was happening to a kid who can’t sit still and has to always be doing something. Back then we were just yelled at to be still.  I think that is better than the drugs they are giving kids at such an early age, I don’t believe they will ever learn how to really focus their mind.


• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

I don’t think there is a resurgence in the music, as such.  It has always been around in various forms and it appeals to all age groups and people.


• What defines a great New Age record for you?

My music is my absolute favorite because I created it for my mind and I listen to it a lot more than others.  I listen to Wizards and Inter-Dimensional Time Traveling more than my other works.  Other favorite artist would be Tangerine Dream, when Franke, Baumann and Froese were the group, Terry Riley’s early electronic work, and Steve Reich’s early minimal work.  There are more but you asked for three.  I don’t really have a “Top 3” for albums.

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

I like to listen to music in a dark room with my Sennheiser HD 518 headphones on.

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LARAAJI

• Tell us about your goal when creating music within the New Age spectrum.

A GOAL IS TO BE IN CONSCIOUS COMMUNION WITH ETERNAL PRESENT AND TO COMMUNICATE THE TRANCE STATE OF PERFORMANCE..A YOGIC PRACTICE-

• Was there a point in the past that someone dismissed your music because it fell under the label of New Age? Have perceptions changed? 

IT APPEARS THAT THE LABEL OF NEW AGE NEVER CAUSED ANY DIFFICULTY FOR THOSE WHO WERE IN THE RIGHT PLACE TO FEEL THE MUSIC’S VIBRATIONAL INTENTION , transpersonal affection, vast now, celebration, contemplation ..

 
• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

Real new age is radical Now music.. the now is the medicine that allows one to relieve the heart of heaviness and anxiety..
Real NOW age is always now ..
here is where more and more seekers after inner quiet and relaxation can retreat from the
over stimulation of passing world drama.


• What defines a great New Age record for you?

THE DEPTH OF MEDITATIVE FEELING AND ECSTATIC CELEBRATION…
how well it honors breath, timelessness and soul peace


• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

Day of. Radiance / LARAAJI & ENO
PAUL HORN in the great pyramid 
Spectrum Suite /HALPERN & IASOS

 
• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

Constance Demby
Steve Roach

Mark Pritchard

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

A setting of low light, no over head or florescent lighting ,
deep relaxed setting, no extraneous environmental sounds.
pillows soft seating or lying down ..
a decent  sound system with good bottom and highs..
while receiving body work..
at the end of yoga practice while resting in Savasana corpse pose ..

AUM))!

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MATTHEWDAVID

• What attracts you to New Age music?

a great question.
lots and lots and lots of things.
for one, it generally just feels so damn good – its perhaps the most purely therapeutic music genre i’ve discovered, as a whole…. that and maybe more recently – astral jazz – these two music forms i feel have strong tendencies to achieve a state of oneness and wholeness.

also the outsider musicians – DIY  movement of this genre in the 80s privately issued cassettes – im attracted to weirdo geniuses making far-out psychedelic music on their own accord without any rules of industry or and conforming to standards.

the use of highly sympathetic resonating instrumentation through electronic instrumentation like synthesizers, any  like singing bowl, bells, and gongs, etc.

• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

my mother collected nature sounds cassettes and listened to kitaro during the late 80s and early 90s, she found it very helpful for stress relief. they were around quite a bit during my childhood, but really as an adult – being already familiar and a fan of what i was calling/creating as “ambient” music – there was a traumatic period of darkness and loneliness that i rehabilitated through using devices to help find myself to guide myself towards health and progress and light. a few mentor friends introduced some key literature and music that assisted me through tough times, and it was of the “New Age”
 
• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

i’d like to think of myself as an experimental artist – i typically don’t allow too much common consensus influence my tastes, too much, however i do understand New Age things receive bad reputations for being ‘cheesy’, yet I think I can be pretty cheesy at times.  New Age – Music, philospophy, the many crazy directions it has taken and will take –  at its core i feel its simply something like Therapeutic Spirituality. Humans experimenting with devices to help lead themselves to a path of healing. Those devices can be crystals, incense, chakras, music, praying, meditating, food,…… i have freinds and artist peers in my community who wont “sign on” to New Age because essentially the term/genre/words New Age have such baggage and weight attached———- but that’s not very punk rock now is it???????????
Personally i find it pretty dern gratifying to tell whomever, wherever that i’m into the New Age. 

I recently heard someone say that the New Age does not have a Boogey Man, meaning that its all crystals, healing, flowers and rainbow bridges – no dark no devil no terror no evil. I find that to be quite untrue – especially in the New Age sects that stem from eastern religion of Tao / Buddhism that inherently acknowledges the balance of both light and dark. Playing music in a minor scale for instance, can evoke a darker mood but its still incredibly gorgeous and can be used for therapy.
 
• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

totally. 
i’ve been telling people that as a “beat-maker” in a scene of bassy clubs and loud speakers – we been fucking people up for too long now – in the club on the radio on your televisions now on your computers and smart phones.
its time for some humanity healing. 
its time we take breaks and hiatus from the aggressive and re-calibrated (dang thats such a New Agey thing to say)

• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

because the records that are truly astounding relics and gems of this genre aren’t “electronic” or “psychedelic” or “folk”
they’re New Age. That Emerald Web album or that Michael Stearns album, the Laraaji stuff or Iasos – incredible feats of genius artists truly and creatively exploring the vast potential of human consciousness!!!!!
yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

just like any genre there’s a lot of sifting and filtering to find the gems, but this is a real, serious, beautiful music movement of this country’s past. It went previously unacknowledged, for many reasons, but now is finally being dug up and examined by music collector connoisseurs and re-issue labels.

• Tell us a little about LEAVING RECORDS activity on the New Age realm. What is your mission? What actions do you take to achieve this? What artists have you worked with?

I think it officially began w. the Laraaji issues but unofficially with all of the experimental/ambient music from myself and other artists I work with. Really it was just about pushing the creative process to reach a song length longer than about 8 or 9 minute duration – then the music is starting to feel really immersive, inducing trance or a real meditation (don’t fall asleep tho!). Our goal is to totally turn on our seemingly open-minded audience into ways they can go with the flow through the music, trust me as a curator and begin the work on themselves either knowingly or unknowingly. It starts with beautiful, interesting music that may be electronic, but not necessarily. We released Guy Blakeslee’s new LP The Middle Sister – it has two long-form acoustic guitar movements that are super meditative, no electronics. I’m an electronic musician so our New Age music may be steeped at first in electronic instruments, but really it shouldn’t be. 

We started a Modern New Age series to showcase the community of current, contemporary Leaving Records artist friends who are genuinely interested and invested in also making and experimenting with New Age music.

We will also continue re-issuing gems and highlights from the originators of this genre, thanks to a few amazing mentors and friends who believe in the community and following that LEAVING is surrounded with, currently. (Stay tuned for SunPath………)
  
• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

Michael Stearns – Planetary Unfolding
Laraaji – Unicorns In Paradise
JD Emmanuel – Wizards

• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

Diva Dompe
Laraaji
Emerald Web
 
• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

up on my hill at my home with my family on a sunny day, on a long, misty drive through the redwood forest, in a remote cabin in the joshua tree desert, through a boombox on a quiet coastline in Hawaii. 

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NORTHERN ASHRAM

JR = J Rowe
RW = Ross Westerbur

• What attracts you to New Age music?

J Rowe: At first the initial attraction was just that it was something that slowed me down a bit. Getting rid of tempo eased my mind because being a drummer I was always focused on that. So, it was kind of liberating to let that part go and not care. And once you start spending more time listening to pieces like that it’s inevitable that you end up going down that tunnel, and explore the genre, learn about the artists. And once you start to peel the layers back from that you realize that there’s a lot more to the music than what first hits your ears.

Ross Westerbur: For me a lot of it is just boredom with rock and pop music. I think the best days of rock and pop are way in the past, and I feel like I’ve heard all the best of it a million times over. New Age to me is a new medium that has at least as much artistic potential, and I think a lot of it is still untapped.

• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?

RW: I think it was J turning me on to Riddle Of The Sphinx by Mike Ratledge. Before that, I really loved Steve Reich, like Music For 18 Musicians, which probably isn’t technically New Age, but definitely a gateway – it made me appreciate minimalism.

JR: Steven Halpern. “I” A Cosmic Attunement, 1977. Bought it on a whim. Liked the cover art, went home, put it on.. Fender Rhodes piano, flute, mini-moog together playing 12 short pieces, each one in a specific key “tuned” to each sign of the zodiac. I totally loved it. I knew there had to be more of this stuff out there….

• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

RW: For whatever reason, the “mainstream” definition of New Age basically became Yanni, John Tesh, and Enya. So that’s pretty much the only reference point that most people have for it.

JR: I think the keyboard tones of the ‘80s were hard for us to digest in the early 2000’s. People just couldn’t get past that. But the further you get away from any point in time, you look back with a different perspective, and you can open up and appreciate it, and might even be nostalgic for it. Also, I think people in general have figured that New Age is primarily for self-help and not necessarily something you get into because it’s artistic music.

 
• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

JR: I wouldn’t. If you’re already skeptical of “New Age” then it’s probably not for you anyway.

RW: I think the mistake people make is expecting to hear a “song” in the pop sense of the word. To me New Age is more about listening with a different mindset, more about listening from your mood and your emotions than listening for entertainment.
 
• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

RW: Is it? I’m totally checked out of that. I guess that’s good news.

JR: I think there are a lot of reasons. One reason is that because of its minimalistic approach it initially comes across as something that anyone can do. That’s obviously not true, but I think people are comfortable with things that make them feel like they understand what they’re hearing. Probably why we’re not talking about classical music right now. And that’s why you have such a wide spectrum of artists using the format… Someone that has been making music for decades or someone that has just picked up their first synths can explore that landscape. On the other hand New Age is a natural progression coming out of getting into psychedelic, progressive, and other artistic music. In my opinion, once you strip away all of the things about psychedelic that make it pop, you’re left with New Age. New Age is the spine of psychedelic – it’s always been in there the whole time. Now people are realizing that once you eliminate the beats, guitars, vocals… you’re left with the nucleus of it all, which is New Age music. And the other huge factor is that collectors are always searching for the next new frontier to excavate.

• Would you consider your output to be New Age? Tell us a little about your projects that fall within this spectrum.

JR: No. There are some possible influences, maybe some moments that touch on it, but overall I’d have to say no.

RW: Maybe, I guess it depends what you mean by “New Age”. Probably not in the traditional sense. But we are releasing music that is experimental, abstract, minimalist, ambient. I think we think of it more as “art music” than anything else. We’ve been releasing Westerbur & Rowe records through Northern Ashram since 2011, which is basically psychedelic orchestral synth and percussion. This year we’ve started releasing pieces by other artists, that lean more towards the ambient end of the New Age space – we did a cassette series with Erik Maluchnik, Warren Michael Defever, and David Shettler, three artists that have been exploring their own unique approaches to recording for years. And we’ll be doing at least one or two more releases more along those lines in 2016.

• If you shy away from the New Age tag what would you propose as an alternative to this genre?


JR: Creative music, art music. Everything Ross said, minimalism, ambient, etc.

RW: We’ve been calling it “experimental art music”.

• What defines a great New Age record for you?

JR: So many things. First off, it has to have movement. Chord choices are a huge factor, since, besides tonality, that’s going to be the main driver. And then there is the fine line of how much is too much and what’s just not enough. Tasteful textures. And, of course, great artwork.

RW: I just want to feel better after listening, while I’m listening.

• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

JR/RW: Michael Stearns – Planetary Unfolding, 1981; Robert Martin – Divine Light, 1987; Suzanne Ciani – Seven Waves, 1982

• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

JR: A.r.t. Wilson, the alter ego of Andras, made a one-off cassette called Overworld that is a legitimate classic. Hybrid Palms from Russia hasn’t officially released anything yet but has a cassette coming out on Sounds Of The Dawn. I had the chance to preview it and I think it’s up there with the modern stuff that’s touching on the genre. Panabrite – not necessarily New Age, but doing nice minimal synth landscapes.

RW: There is a really interesting community developing in Southeast Michigan where we’re located. Justin Walter, Dave Graw, Blair French. Again maybe more “experimental art music” than New Age, but they are all making beautiful recordings right now.

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

JR: In my house.

RW: Nothing special, driving, cleaning, falling asleep.


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ROBERT RICH

OK – here are my honest answers:



• What attracts you to New Age music?


In general I’m not attracted to it. I don’t  like the term, or at lest it reminds of insipid overly-melodic junk.
 


• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?


Maybe on Hearts of Space radio show back in the ‘70s? I think of Iasos, Steven Halpern, people like that.



• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past? and/or What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?


I think the problem is one of nomenclature. The term “new age” got overused to describe all sorts of instrumental music, whereas it is best reserved for music that has an intended spiritual undercurrent, or a set of beliefs attached to it. I think one could justifiably use the term “new age” to describe music for meditation, massage, yoga, or devotional music for vague or non-traditional spiritual belief systems. In the case of mainstream music that fits the “new age” stereotype, I think the bad rap is often justified.

 


• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?


I would use a different term, like Ambient, and show them how interestingly deep, experimental and mysterious the music could be, but I would distinguish it from New Age.

 


• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?


Is it?




• Tell us a little about a project of yours that fall within this spectrum.

Generally I don’t consider it new age. 




• What would you propose as an alternative to the New Age genre tag?


I would make distinctions between music that does deserve the term new age (like Iasos, Constance Demby, Steve Halpern, Deuter, etc.) some of which really is rather good on its own terms, and music that does not carry spiritual baggage, which we might call Ambient, Electronic, Instrumental, Deep Listening, Trance Music, Space Music, or any number of other terms. Generally I think the terms obscure our understanding rather than elucidate anything.





• What defines a great New Age record for you?


I guess it would have to succeed in its intended use.

 


• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?


Perhaps some of Michael Stearn’s early work would count in the category, so I would include “Planetary Unfolding”, perhaps Steve Roach “Quiet Music” would fit, and Jordan de la Sierra “Gymnosphere”? But generally I would place them elsewhere. 

 

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.


I think I would generally prefer silence.

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WHITE RAINBOW

• What attracts you to New Age music?
• Tell us about your first discovery of New Age music?
• Why do you think New Age music has received a bad rap in the past?
• What are the common misconceptions you think people have about New Age music?

Well I like the spirit of evangelical spiritual salesmanship that surrounded the initial trend of “new age” music releases in the 70s and 80s. I like that the genre was created more or less to sell to people as “health aids” of one sort or another. That New Age music was there to be a part of a sort of pan-spiritual enlightened life. I loved New Age and metaphysical book stores growing up. The smell of cheap incense mixed with crazy books selling everything from crazy diets to corporate self help to esoteric yoga, spiritual guru books etc etc… all with a soundtrack of drifting placid synths and wind chimes. 

When I first started getting into New Age records, it was perhaps before the current interest had peaked, so the new age bins at record stores around the country i would go to might have a Glen Branca record next to a Kitaro record next to a german Kosmische record from the Sky label… basically i could find way out “proto-new age” imported and rare stuff… and along the way beef up my Environments field recording collection, trip out on the crazy colored pencil sacred geometry designs of the Golden Voyage series…

I mean for me, I have always been interested in the trajectory of the works of brian eno, robert fripp, and before them terry riley and other minimalist composers, then the german electronic music of cluster, tangerine dream, klaus schultz and a lot of what they influenced would be categorized as “new age”… what’s better than finding a rare Deuter record in the new age section for $4 sitting next to some nasty Manheim Steamroller and sometimes i take risks on seemingly cheesy new age records and find that theres some great stuff on them. 

Anyway, i very ironically enjoy the tag “new age” when it comes to 80s records.. almost all of windom hill records, pat metheny orchestra, manheim steam roller

All that spa jazz, smooth jazz, tacky ambient chill music, buddha lounge trip hop CDs sold in coffee shops was is and always shall be terrible, tasteless crap but within all of the crap is some gold. 

There’s a huge difference between the works of john hassell and a “world music trip hop chill mix” CD…so the term New Age has a bad rap because it was always a sales tool to shill quickly made terrible spa smooth crystal shop shit

It’s when you get into the private press stuff you find some gold, or when you look on the fringes of that scene, or you look at artists who were making experimental work along the lines of the german kosmische type stuff or the eno stuff that you find the gold.

I remember when i first encountered Iasos’ ridiculous website. The man is obviously a hack, and his new age sales pitches are amazingly naive, overly sincere and mis-guided. the videos of him playing with the prismatic stickers on his synths at what look like crystal shop owners conventions, his eyes closed in devotion as he strums a zither and lets the harmonized reverb billows “heal” the room… its so ridiculous, amazing and funny. 

I remember searching for and finding a copy of Robert Bearns book of poetry after seeing the advertisement for it on that back of RObert Bearns and ROn Dexter’s “Golden Voyage Vol 1” LP (which in and of itself is hilariously bad record with the best self-published cover art of all time)… the book of poetry and drawings is also incredibly amateurish, the poetry is awkwardly sexual in some way and the drawings of monkeys, cosmic eggs and deep geometric crystal patterns is nothing short of amazing

• If you’re turning a skeptic onto New Age music what would you tell them to cool their doubt?

I’d tell them that just like any other broad stroke genre (like R&B, or Jazz) there are some sincerely good and some anthropologically interesting and some hilariously bad things – ALL thoroughly enjoyable in different ways – within what was lumped together years ago under the banner of New Age

or like, if you like Aphex Twin’s Ambient work, its hardly a jump to listen to eno, cluster, steve roach etc etc

or like, you don’t have to be a true believer in the healing powers or crystals, chakras or whatever to throw on a steven halpern record while making coffee in the morning. 

• Why do you think New Age music is having a resurgence now?

the internet, aphex twin… 



• Would you consider any of your work to be New Age? Tell us a little about a project of yours that fall within this spectrum.

uhhh

• If you don’t like the New Age tag what would you propose as an alternative to this genre.

Ambient, experimental electronic, Kosmische, minimal, vaporous plumes, reverb-based synth composers, flanger-core, wind-chime derived, proto-spa, space music, psychedelic, drift-wave, float tracks, cloud sounds, Eno-wave, treatments, trip-gaze, health-core, 

• What defines a great New Age record for you?

the ability to transport, or the hilarious lack of the ability to transport the listener

• What are your top 3 New Age albums of all time?

Steve Roach – Structures from Silence
Jon Hassell w Brian Eno – Forth World Vol. 1 Possible Musics
Brian Eno – Discreet Music

• What are your favorite 3 NEW New Age artists?

Fourth World Magazine – The Spectable of Light Abductions

Windy & Carl

2 8 1 4 ( Hong Kong Express and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者)

• Describe your ideal setting for listening to New Age music.

Quality home stereo, couch, window looking out towards sky, a cat

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NEW AGE RISING
An Essay by Frosty

My body rests atop a stiff gymnasium mat. The cedar walls expand with afternoon warmth. A tranquil voice calls out, “Squeeze your eyes closed. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…release. Breathe in deeply through your nose filling your lungs. Now, slowly release.” The voice circles the room listing off body parts, starting with the head and working gradually to the toes. The cycle of tension and release is repeated. One by one my muscles melt into the floor. Sunlight flickers through the windows. Ever-changing patterns unfold inside my forehead. Lush music has risen to replace the voice. A radiant cloud of digital arpeggios and bubbling tones lifts me skyward until the room is no more, my body is no more. There is only music and light.

I left this 1987 summer camp “relaxation workshop” with my first taste of music as metaphysical transport device. The soundtrack was Ray Lynch’s Deep Breakfast, a standard in the mid-1980’s commercialized new age canon. This gauzy album epitomizes my mixed feelings when it comes to new age music. Its seems to have migrated from a primitive, digital realm carrying cargo of sterile keyboards, sappy harp and synthesized trumpets. Still, there is an optimistic purity. Lynch’s spell worked on many, making Deep Breakfast a platinum seller.

Lynch along with his Windham Hill label mates plugged new age music into the mainstream. Their monotone albums sold millions while solidifying the genre as a vapid landscape in many minds. Windham Hill’s catalog seemed to be custom built for waiting rooms. Crafted from feathery guitars, clinical synthesizers and pastoral pianos theirs was a style drafted on wallpaper. Still, this music struck a chord with consumers, garnering Grammy wins and tens of millions in annual revenue.

While Windham Hill represented a corporate side of the new age genre, another breed was also engrained in the popular psyche. This was a sound associated with esoteric paths: eastern spiritualism, meditation, health food and yoga. These lifestyle trends had entered mainstream consciousness in the late 1960s but were still one the fringe when new age music arose in the consumer-driven 1980s. Much of this music was a kaleidoscope of clichés: auras, crystals, gongs, pan pipes, dream catchers, singing bowls and glowing chakras. It was a caricature of esoteric iconography hawked with trumped up spiritualism. To this day, the mention of new age conjures schlock for many.

Psychedelic ambient music producer White Rainbow reminisces about his early exposure to the genre, “I loved new age and metaphysical book stores growing up. The smell of cheap incense mixed with crazy books selling everything from crazy diets to corporate self-help to esoteric yoga, spiritual guru books etc. All with a soundtrack of drifting, placid synths and wind chimes.” 

Electronic musician GB remarks on this gimmicky side of new age, “Most new age music sucks. I can’t say people’s ideas about new age music are wrong. They might be generalizations, but there are enough examples of stereotypically airy fairy new age recordings to justify those viewpoints. However, there are also many amazing recordings within the genre.” 

This negative new age baggage has caused many artists to dodge the tag. J D Emmanuel is a Texas-based musician often name-checked by new age connoisseurs. His early 1980s synthesizer based albums contain many new age trademarks and are considered holy grails within the genre. Emmanuel details his complicated relationship with the genre, “I have never wanted to be associated with the term ‘new age music’ as I have always described my music as ‘minimal’ or ‘electronic Minimal.’ However, I understand why I am included as a new age music artist which seems to be based on the wide definition of a type of music using free form, drone, repetitive patterns, environmental sounds and improvisation to create altered, meditative states for relaxation, stress release, focusing the mind.”

Ariel Kalma is another lauded, underground musician often associated with new age. Like Emmanuel he shuns the categorization saying, “I’m closer to space music than new age music because new age music is associated with a whole principle of religion, philosophy, rituals. I understand where it comes from but I don’t like where it goes to. I don’t like the commercial aspect of all this, with a lot of books on crystals and tarot cards. For me, space is the answer, not new age.”

There’s a thin line between music micro-genres. Labels like new age, space, minimalism, ambient, drone, avant-garde, kosmiche are all just inventions of journalists, retailers and publicists striving to stuff expansive music into sellable containers. Chopin, had he been born 150 years later, might easily be lumped in with Windham Hill’s stable of atmospheric musicians. In fact, most visionary musicians of any style would rather dissolve categories than be cornered in by them. Prominent musician Laraaji doesn’t seem to care what category people place him in saying, “It never caused any difficulty for those who were in the right place to feel the music’s vibrational intention.”

Most of the independent new age music that came out in the 1980s was self-released by artists on cassette format. This was driven by an impetus not so different than the DIY spirit fuelling the punk rock and hip hop movements. The privately issue quality music was often obscured by the mass market drivel. These rare, exemplary albums have become highly sought after collectibles. As with most forms of music, it’s about skimming the cream. Dedicated researchers, collectors and record labels are bringing high quality new age music to light. This has sparked a resurgence of interest.

Leaving Records founder and ambient musician Matthewdavid says, “I’m attracted to weirdo geniuses making far-out psychedelic music on their own accord without any rules of industry or conforming to standards. Just like any genre, there’s a lot of sifting and filtering to find the gems, but this is a real, serious, beautiful music movement of this country’s past. It went previously unacknowledged, for many reasons, but now is finally being dug up and examined by music collector connoisseurs and re-issue labels.”

One of those spearheading the search is collector and record label owner Douglas McGowan, who in 2013 produced an illuminating anthology titled, I Am The Center (Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990). This compilation succeeded in helping legitimize new age music in many critical minds. McGowan explains his impulse to explore the music, “It’s an American folk art and it’s nice to discover that something you were raised to think is trash has value. I was initially attracted to the fact that here was this great music that had such a terrible reputation and wasn’t being taken seriously by anyone. I found that the great new age musicians tend to be intelligent, complex people who are full of surprises. The great ones tend not to resemble any kind of stereotype one might have about a new age musician.”

New age music’s reputation refurbishment has also been propelled by the power of association. Ambient music demigod Brian Eno has collaborated with many musicians who, like it (Laraaji) or not (Harold Budd), are associated with new age music. All Saints Records has been reissuing albums by these Eno collaborators bringing new ears to the sound. Recent mainstream interest in meditation has also helped revive interest in the music. Meditation is both a cornerstone in the process of making new age music and a practical form of implementation by its listeners. People are increasingly gravitating towards this sonic sea of calm.

Ariel Kalma confirms this sentiment, “In our modern society it seems we need constantly to have the mind busy and new age music, or space music, is the contrary of busyness.”

Laraaji agrees adding, “Here is where more and more seekers after inner quiet and relaxation can retreat from the over stimulation of passing world drama.”

Journalist Dave Segal recognizes new age music’s power in aiding relaxation. He explains, “I like how earnest and functional it strives to be. Here’s this entire musical genre dedicated to helping people chill out, align their chakras, find inner peace, resonate with the solar system, etc. That’s the kind of altruism I can get behind, particularly because I have a really hard time relaxing. I’m always looking for music that transports me to the ZONE, that place where I can temporarily escape the world’s mundane and abhorrent horrors.”

Some young musicians are fearlessly embracing the music for its poignant possibilities. Both GB and White Rainbow are releasing material as part of a new new-age series on Matthewdavid’s Leaving Records label. Matthewdavid’s wife Diva Dompe is an accomplished musician who leads guided mediations with sonic accompaniment. She explains her interest saying, “I feel like new age music is relevant recently because it provides an open ended and experimental framework for artists who feel drawn to progress the genre and possibly because of a spiritual paradigm shift caused by the acceleration of consciousness, information, and technology. New age music helps us to understand these newer, subtler realms of consciousness we are opening up to and also can provide a peaceful space within this accelerated expansion.”

Electric Sound Bath are a Los Angeles based duo exploring the music’s therapeutic qualities. They give insight into this implementation, “Our process is a mindfulness practice that started as a project to aid in ours as well as others’ meditation. As Electric Sound Bath developed, we found our interest in the healing nature of sound to be an important aspect of our art. We offer our services to healers: acupuncture, reiki, breath-work, and meditation facilitators throughout the community. Like all genres, New Age music especially, needs an open listener; and just like life, it’s going to get weird, but that’s the fun.” 

New age music has historically been rife with ambivalence but the gates are flung wide for reexamination. Artists are drawn to the music with fresh insight, aware of the slings and arrows associated with this previously shunned genre but still aspiring for transcendence. It seems that the new new-age, like the old new-age is all about going with the flow.

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