new age music

new age music
   The new age movement is largely rooted in the 1980s, but its actual origins can be found in the mid-1970s in America. New age music grew out of the remains of the art-rock movement, primarily a British scene, with artists such as Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. In 1976, a label called Windham Hill was formed by Will Ackerman, a guitarist, who wanted to distribute his album In Search of the Turtle’s Navel. He sold his records through bookshops, health stores and by word of mouth. By 1984, sales had reached S20m. The term ‘new age music’ was first widely applied to Ackerman’s label and its products, but Ackerman stated that this term bore no relation to his label or his music. At about the same time in New York City, a company called Vital Body Marketing were themselves producing a ‘New Age Music Catalogue’, which contained a list of hundreds of LPs of ‘listenable music that touches the spirit’.
   New age music is a blend of acoustic with soft rock, a hint of white jazz, updated by using the latest studio technology. It is often defined as mood music, and in this respect can be regarded as a reaction against the loudness and aggression of the pop and rock genres. New age music is technically slick. It soothes the listener with its cascading string sections reminiscent of earlier times, and introduces the modern elements of minimalism and improvisation. Its concerned lyrics, if lyrics exist at all in the compositions, tend towards the ecological and environmental. The music is characterized by its technically accom-plished lush orchestral scores, often depicted as thoughtful, listenable beautiful chamber music. It keys in to the new age philosophy of getting back to nature and transcending everyday troubles. It is also known for its pretentious presentations, such that its defining feature is not how it sounds but how it looks. The elaborate style of its record covers established new age music’s identity as an essentially visual musical genre. New age composers such as Deuter, Kitaro, Harold Budd and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were all inspired by Eastern music, and combined this with the floatiness of classical Indian music. There has evolved a whole scene in the UK with artists such as Banco De Gaia, Zion Train and Transglobal Underground, with Planet Dog being the main promoter and label.
   Further reading
    Bergman, B. and Horn, R. (1985) Experimental Pop: Frontiers of the Rock Era, Dorset: Blandford Press.
   ALICE BENNETT

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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