NPR’s Harley Brown has posted a fascinating story called “The State Of New Age Music In The Always-On ‘Wellness’ Era”. It is, without a doubt, the most important article about our genre since The Guardian’s “New age of new age music” in 2016.
It goes like this:
“New Age music incorporates a spectrum of sounds — from natural recordings like birdsong and thunderstorms to studio-recorded fodder like ethereal vocals and soft, drifting synthesizer tones — which anecdotal evidence and some scientific studies show soothe the parasympathetic nervous system. In fact, some record labels, rather than identifying the music they release as “New Age,” prefer to label it “Music for Spa and Relaxation,” believing it speaks more accurately to the music’s purpose and benefits. Though New Age and sound healing originally emerged out of the West’s discovery of and subsequent obsession with Eastern spirituality, yoga and nutrition in the 1950s and ’60s, the relationship between the two is not always crystal clear.
“People try to simulate New Age because they think, ‘I’ll just sit down at the piano and doodle away,’ ” adds musician, songwriter and entrepreneur Suzanne Doucet. “People who like New Age music, they know the difference. It’s the same in the wellness industry – they can distinguish between the fake and the real.”
The debate over what constitutes this music goes back to the genre’s beginnings in the 1960s and ’70s. “New Age often is defined by what it isn’t, rather than by what it is,” wrote Don Heckman for the Los Angeles Times in 1994. “It isn’t jazz, it isn’t folk, it isn’t rock, it isn’t classical. Yet elements and influences from all these more precisely defined arenas occasionally sneak into the music.” Indeed, the earliest New Age albums have more in common spiritually than sonically. The first New Age album is widely recognized to be Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation And Other Joys from 1965, a sparse soundscape of clarinet, koto and shakuhachi. Next was bassist and flautist Paul Horn’s Inside, recorded inside the Taj Mahal in 1969 as an accompaniment to a documentary about transcendental meditation, followed in 1975 by the genre’s arguable ur-text, Steven Halpern’s Spectrum Suite.”
Read the whole story here.