New Age Music Essentials: Tony Scott – Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys


The first album in our New Age Music Essentials (NAME) series is Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys (1964). There is a wide consensus that this album by Jazz clarinetist Tony Scott (1921-2007) was the first release in the New Age music genre. But what makes this a New Age music album? Read on, and we will try to describe the first example of this special sound. 

Tony Scott was one of the most famous clarinetists of the 1950s and 60s. He played with many of the big names in Jazz at the time, like Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughan. He held concerts all over the world, which eventually took him to Asia. The cultures of the Far East made a big impression on him, and he also got to play with local musicians. Music for Zen Meditation was recorded with koto player Shinichi Yuize and shakuhachi player Hozan Yamamoto.

Here is the album that started it all:

A Powerful Fusion
Music for Zen meditation is a fusion between East and West. It is a big step into the borderland between Jazz and the genre we today know as New Age music. There are hints of Jazz notes here and there, but the melodies are highly meditative and inspired by the music of the East.

Tony Scott (far right) with clarinetist Mihailo Živanović (far left) in 1951

After many years of Jazz, Scott was used to improvision. The album was created during jam sessions with the Japanese artists, where the focus was on expression and atmosphere rather than on form. The result was an album unlike all others.

… and other joys
I think it says something about New Age music that the first album was a “Music for meditation” kind of release. This is music that has a use, and it is not purely for enjoyment. I absolutely love the “and other joys” ending of the title. This is music that can be used for relaxation, lovemaking, washing up… The number of other joys are infinite. My favorite track is To Drift like the clouds. I like the parts where Scott follows the melody of Yuize and Yamamoto.
Music for Zen meditation and other joys is, in short, a fantastic release that keeps on surprising – even today! It literally opened a new world of sound. No one can say that it is not an important album, and it is still very enjoyable. I can safely recommend it to everyone; It is a part of music history to cherish.
For your enjoyment; here are scans of the original LP cover:
Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys is an essential album in any New Age music collection.

Above picture of Tony Scott – CC BY-SA 3.0