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New Age Music Just Keeps Oozing Along


We love historical articles about our genre here at the New Age Music Guide! One of the very best is this one from New York Times 29 September 1985: “New Age Music Just Keeps Oozing Along” by Jon Pareles. Enjoy! 

It starts like this:

“It’s soft and sweet, smooth and unassuming. It turns up at better restaurants all around town. It’s not the latest recipe for creme caramel – it’s ”new age” music, a creditable idea gone awry. Or so it would seem with the latest of new age record releases.

”New age” is the current catchall term for music that draws on non-Western, or nonclassical, traditions from a 20th-century standpoint. The idea, a good one, is to preserve or rediscover older methods without pretending that we live in primitive times.

Typically, new age pieces use modal and microtone-inflected melody lines, open-ended improvisations, ancient or non-Western instruments and, especially, repetition. Meanwhile, the music is produced with the latest in studio technology. A typical new age recording is packaged with copious technical data; one new company, Private Music, releases its digitally recorded efforts only on chromium tape and compact disks.

The fusion of new and old, Western and non-Western techniques has produced extraordinary music, from Steve Reich’s ”Drumming” to Jon Hassell’s ”Fourth World Music” to John McLaughlin’s first Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. The efforts of the pioneering minimalists – whose impulses were always pan-global as well as reductionist – garnered respect for procedures that other modern composers had lost in a rush toward complexity. Lately, however, serious, rigorous minimalist music has been thrown into the new age record bins, where it is outnumbered by more amorphous efforts.”

Read it all on nytimes.com.