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For New Age, the Next Generation

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New Age music is getting a lot of PR these days, much thanks to the I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990 compilation. Even New York Times has a feature about New Age music. Here is an excerpt:

Elements of new age can be found among a diverse range of artists, including Julianna Barwick, Sun Araw, Bitchin Bajas, Matthewdavid and Greyghost. “New-age music now has the contemporary electronic underground and the noise underground infused in it, as well as the spirit of all the different musics that have evolved since then, so I think it is something new,” Mr. McGuire said. “The gear has evolved, but the consciousness behind it has, too.”

At the same time, new age pioneers from the late 1970s and early 1980s are being rediscovered through a series of reissues, including “Celestial Soul Portrait,” a collection on Numero Group showcasing the electric flute improviser Iasos, and several volumes by the electric zither player Laraaji for the All Saints label, including “Essence/Universe” and the collection “Celestial Music: 1978-2011.”

Perhaps most audacious is the compilation “I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990,” on the reissue label Light in the Attic, which posits new age as “great American folk art.” “I Am the Center” was overseen by Douglas Mcgowan, a 37-year-old record collector and label proprietor (of Yoga Records in Eugene, Ore.) who has made proselytizing for new age a personal crusade.

“I saw in new age this way to help people re-establish a sense of wonder,” Mr. Mcgowan said. “That’s so pretentious sounding, but that’s how I honestly feel.” Including Laraaji and Iasos (who Mr. Mcgowan calls “the Duke Ellington of new age”), “I Am the Center” gathers 20 contemplative recordings, from the Satie-lite piano tinkling of the G. I. Gurdjieff disciple Thomas de Hartmann to the echoey guitar of Wilburn Burchette to the synthesizer minimalism of Daniel Emmanuel. Mr. Mcgowan insisted he was inspired not just by the music itself, but by the courage and honesty of the misunderstood outsiders who created it. “At its best,” Mr. Mcgowan said, “I see it as a visionary art form.”

Read it here.