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Mark McGuire on New Age music

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In an interview with Vice.com, former member of ambient group Emeralds, Mark McGuire, has a lot to say about the current New Age music wave – and how this fits with his solo music projects. It is always fascinating to see where the New Age music genre ends and where the “serious” music begins, if it’s jazz, classical, pop, or in this case, ambient. 

Many people have lumped Mark McGuire in with the resurgence of New Age art without taking the time to investigate what Mark himself is really saying about the art he’s creating.

I ask him what the worst thing anyone had mislabeled his music to be, and he recoiled from my negativity. But the question was promoted by a New York Times piece that lumps Mark in wholesale with the nü-New Age movement. Even as someone who was raised in Portland, Oregon, the veritable birthplace of New Age art, and someone still frequently drawn to it no matter how hippy-dippy, I feel frustrated to see McGuire labeled as such. Disagreeing with capitalistic society and thinking that America has become an ugly, greed-fueled nation doesn’t make someone New Age. Respecting the shit out of the beautiful planet we inhabit doesn’t have to be relegated to an irrelevant, antiquated genre label anyway.

“Since then, that’s the only thing I hear people say about my work is “New Age music”—and it’s so funny because I don’t put any stock in that kind of stuff,” he said. “Mike who wrote the article is a really nice guy and we talked for like three hours, but he used like a half a sentence of what I said. He’s a good dude and it has nothing to do with him—it’s beyond. What I’m talking about is much, much more important to me than the thing that you’re going to edit and put together into the article.”

His concerns and critiques echo in my head as I put together this profile and try to condense his wide-ranging viewpoints and stories into a coherent narrative. Even as I relay Mark my own concerns about a publishing culture that rewards the cheap stuff that draws the most traffic, I wonder if there’s a way to actually do justice to something that’s willfully outside of that culture.

“We don’t even notice that we live in the most disgusting, ugly culture anymore,” he elaborated. “We look around and people don’t even flinch. We don’t notice that we live in a sick, sick world. People want the giant illusion in front of them. They don’t want the deep song or the thing that really speaks to them. If you take my music and drop it into aisle four of Wal-Mart, it’s not going to make any sense and [will] get some strange reactions. If you put it in a different place, though, people will start to feel really good. These types of things are so situational and contextual.”

Read the whole interview here.