Quick Note: The New Age of New Age Music

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 6, 2011 — 39 Comments

The post-rockist critical world of popular music has seen the rehabilitation of several previously out-of-favor genres. Disco, metal, goth, even (perhaps especially) teen-pop. Young musicians, looking for fresh sounds and new ideas are casting further and further afield from the (classic and indie) rock canon. The Los Angeles Times looks at the latest previously derided genre to get a shot a redemption, one that I thought my readers would appreciate, New Age music.

New Age music preached spirituality, environmentalism, self-evolution and the like, yet when musicians and the major record labels saw the successes that an auteur like [Steven] Halpern had with his cottage industry, big money soon followed. “New Age music was one of the very first completely amateur-driven genres,” said Mcgowan. “Yet it became commercialized around the same time as Ronald Reagan’s remaking of America in 1984, where something that started as a countercultural hippie movement was completely co-opted.” New Age became big business, leading to subsequent Halpern releases with oddly utilitarian titles like “Music for Your PC” and “Attracting Prosperity,” not to mention the international success of Enya, who has sold more than 75 million records worldwide.

And yet for all of this co-option and financial success, for this new generation of music makers and artists, New Age music strikes at this trend in the 21st century. For Portner, the music serves as an aural balm: “Being on tour and listening and playing loud music every night, I just want to listen to something that’s going to calm me down after.”

Which might be how this new wave of New Age helps a generation of listeners who don’t remember Reagan, the ’80s or when Whole Foods Market was just a funky grocery store and not a corporate conglomerate. “We are in such deep need of chilling out these days and popular culture for this generation doesn’t leave you with any room for meditation or space,” said Mcgowan. “Sitting and quietly listening to a New Age record is the opposite of checking your Facebook every two minutes. It’s as far from that kind of mentality as you can get.”

This revival isn’t just manufactured hype, blogs brag about scoring old New Age cassettes, labels are re-releasing out-of-print classics, and ultra-hip music emporiums like Boomkat feature a number of New Age-inspired albums. So for all of the Pagans out there who were buying New Age albums and cassettes during the genre’s original hay-day, it looks like your collections have ripened into hipness. Dazzle your 20-something hipster coreligionists when you whip out that original pressing of Clannad’s “Legend,” or knowingly talk of how you were into Enya “before she got big.” What should be interesting to see is if this renewed interest in New Age sounds translates into experimentation with the practices and concepts that were associated with the music.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Anonymous

    I actively collected “New Age” music for years. Still do, if it’s good- but now I have to look in about 5 different categories to find it- jazz, ambient, chill, lounge, world, etc. I love both dance and ‘space’ music, and blends of both. I can proudly say that at one point, I owned most of the Narada catalog. Still do- those CDs were excellently mastered.

    Kids these days… (I never thought I’ve EVER get to say that!!!*sporfle*) What was old brokeness is now new (age) hotness. Excuse me while I LMAO whilst digging out my old Akai portable cassette player…

  • Erynn Rowan Laurie

    You mean like when she was still with Clannad? ;)

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Wasn’t Enya with Clannad back when they were still a folk troupe? Not the
      awesome Robin-of-Sherwood synth-masters we all know and love?

      • Leea

        Enya is a sister to Clannad members, I believe..

      • Elnigma

        She is on Clannad’s Fuaim album (my favorite of all of them)

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Wasn’t Enya with Clannad back when they were still a folk troupe? Not the
      awesome Robin-of-Sherwood synth-masters we all know and love?

  • http://twitter.com/Mjausson Apel Mjausson

    Enya? Clannad? Lightweights! I have humpback whale songs.

    • Anonymous

      I see your humpback whale recordings and raise you the entire Fresh Aire series: 1 through 8. :-)

    • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      I’ve got you both beat. Easily. Four words: Philip Glass’ early work.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        This is an amusing sub-thread to someone who remembers Elvis.

        • http://twitter.com/Mjausson Apel Mjausson

          So do I (and likely Sunfell too) but I can’t say I’ve ever seen any Elvis in the New Age section. Care to enlighten us?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            No, just this enthusiastic recounting, as though they were ancient, of performers I regard as recent because I came across them late in life as I view such things.

      • Cigfran

        Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. On vinyl.

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    I love New Age music, I will gleefully pop on my 2002 cd Savitri and then right after blast Type O Negative. I ain’t afraid!

    Also I’m pretty sure I still have my Pure Moods cassette tape in the bottom of my “Everything in here is from High School” box.

    • Anonymous

      Sounds like my habit of following Infected Mushroom with Synergy or Tomita.

      • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

        I like the juxtaposition of different genres. My mother calls my taste in music Schizophrenic, I remind her that along with my dad she raised me on a diet of David Bowie, music from the 1920s, 1930s & 40s, Classical music and Michael Jackson. With some Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings thrown in for good measure.

    • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

      I remember Pure Moods, the commercial for that CD was on constantly back in the late 90s as I remember. I have that CD packed away in a box somewhere I’m sure.

    • The_L

      This sounds vaguely like what my iPod does on shuffle mode already. This may sound bizarre (and my youth is probably showing), but some of the soundtrack from the N64 Zelda games has a New Age feel and is oddly well-suited to meditations. I’ve actually been known to use the Zora’s Domain and Forest Temple music for that very purpose.

      Anyone else remember those “Classical Relaxation (with ocean sounds!)” CDs? My mom ordered me the set one December when I was in high school and still thought of it as “Christmas.”

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    I always hated the term ‘New Age’ as applied to certain types of music. It always felt like a random label they put on a lot of music that stores just didn’t know what to classify as.

    • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      People used to realize that genres are just for people who are in the business of selling music.

      • The_L

        It’s the only way to justify Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, and Metallica all falling under the same category.

  • Atheris

    I was big into New Age music back in the 80s. In the late 80/early 90s when the big record labels bought out most of the independent labels, New Age music lost its soul and I stopped listening to the newer stuff. I still have all my CDs from the 70s through the late 80s and still listen to them, but not as much these days.

  • http://twitter.com/MandolinChick Sherrie Hoyer

    I like a lot of New Age as well as Renaissance/Medieval/Elizabethan music and find the slower tunes & airs very meditative. I’ve been learning some of these tunes on my re-discovered mtn. dulcimer and it’s very relaxing.

    • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

      Any recommendations for Renaissance/Elizabethan music? I’ve got the Medieval Baebes and The Baltimore Consort but I’m always on the hunt for new stuff.

      • WarriorPrincessDanu

        The Brobdingnagian Bards and Circa Paleo are pretty good.

        • WarriorPrincessDanu

          Granted, Circa Paleo isn’t exactly Renaissance, but they’re still pretty cool.

      • Amy La

        Check out this brilliant album. I wish there was more!

        http://magnatune.com/artists/fleagle.html

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=722590289 Meagan McMichael

        Also Blackmore’s Night. They have a very Renaissance Faire sound to them.

  • http://nitecaravan.blogspot.com/ Br. Jay

    I love New Age Music. Have for years and years. :)

  • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

    The ultimate in New Age Pagan music is Kay Gardner. She wasn’t really “New Age”, but there isn’t any genre that truly fits her music.
    http://www.kaygardner.com/

  • Mr Willow

    I just wanted to say thank you for the link to TheSkysGoneOut. Had never seen it before, and became instantly enraptured.

  • Lori F – MN

    YES! Fresh Aire before all Chip Davis did was Christmas albums. At least until he did that animal themed album. That was just plain weird!

  • Amy La

    I still have a couple of Ray Lynch cassettes hanging around. In high school I used to listen to them back to back with Ministry, NIN, Enya, REM, etc.

  • Justin Patrick Moore

    I have a number of New Age albums in my collection. My favorite are from Jonathan Goldman, whose sound production is unparalleled in this realm. However some of my favorite albums for meditation and ritual are not so “New Age” as much as experimental-electronica. The popularity of “Drone” music has exploded over the past decade. Some of my favorite artists working in the drone field are William Basinski, Nocturnal Emissions, and Andrew Chalk to name a few. Some of the most Pagan music out there was never associated with the New Age. I’m thinking of Coil specifically.

  • Garnet

    There is a big pagan revival going on in Eastern Europe and many of their CDs feature modernized versions of old folk music, much of which honors the earth, the gods, the goddesses and nature. I can’t list the albums I like off hand, but if you look up especially Lithuanian music (much of it is on YouTube) you can get a sense of it. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending upon one’s viewpoint, the songs are not in English. One group I specially like is Pievos…here is a website featuring the song Menuli Baltos:

    http://www.pievos.lt/diskografija.php

    This is another website featuring the music of Rasa Serra, a Lithuanian singer:

    http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/lithuanian-music-rasa-serra-oi-giria-giria/3c1b6b7064d2071d5e643c1b6b7064d2071d5e64-1056208061530?cpkey=1a1939d129bccdd165ba1a1939d129bccdd165ba-933273797771%7Clithuanian%20music%20youtube%7C%7C%7C

    • http://oldmoonsisterstars.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Thanks for these!

    • http://profiles.google.com/vanye111 Jason Hatter

      Awesome. As an ADF druid with a strong resonance towards the Lithuanian Deities, this is good stuff. I had not heard of Menuli Baltos before (White Moon) before. Thank you!

    • Elnigma

      I very much enjoyed Bulgarian folk song at a concert recently. Bulgaria musically mixed the cultures of Romania, Greece, and Turkey (especially the latter with the drums)

  • Daniel Kestral

    Love New Age music, especially Enya! I have all of her cd’s. I would love to see it take its rightful place alongside other genres of music, too. I know my favorite group/band of all time isn’t New Age, but has a history with amazing works of Progressive Rock, and later Pop Rock with an infusion of Progressive elements, but “Selling England By the Pound,” “A Trick of the Tail,” and “Duke” by Genesis are three of my top albums of all time. The Brazilian from the “Invisible Touch,” certainly has some New Age elements. A great piece!