In a book called After the New Age: A Novel about Alternative Spiritualities by Steven H. Propp is a fascinating discussion about New Age music and the 1980s. It starts with:
Margie sighed, and said, “You know, I really miss the ‘good old days’ of New Age-music-back when they never even put the artisrs pictures on the album covers-when it was just Windham Hill, Narada, Private Music, and Hearts of Space, plus a few solo artists like Steve Halpern and Kitaro; when we all subscribed to the ‘Windham Hill Occasional’ newsletter, and we’d all wait eagerly for each new ‘Sampler’ album to come out. It was kind of like belonging to a secret society, if you ever discovered a co-worker listening to George Winston, who no one else at work had even heard of.” She shrugged her shoulders, and added, “To me, the albums An Evening with Windham Hill Live, the soundtrack to the movie Country, the 1984 Momreux live album, Michael Hedges’ Aerial Boundaries, and especially the 1984 Sampler by Windham Hill really marked the high water point of New Age music- particularly the lovely way that 1984 sampler ended, with The Gicket’s Wicket by Nightnoise.”
“My sentiments exactly,” ana agreed, leaning on the counter reflectively. “And I’ve been waiting for someone to come out with something that good ever since, but it’s never happened.”
Margie shook her head, and said, “In fact, after that, New Age music got distinctively worse: Steve Halpern came out with that horrid 1984: Newsound album, that was so unlike anything else he’d ever done. Then Windham Hill started focusing on their Pop label and vocal groups, and went completely over into ‘ regular’ jazz-Montreux, and Tuck and Patti were their only ja·lz artists I ever liked-so that my interest level had dropped way off by the time Windham Hill issued its final ‘Sampler’ albwn in 1996.”
Read it here (from page 452).