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New Age music

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New Age music

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New Age music, sometimes referred to as space music, is a vaguely defined style of music that is generally quite melodic and often primarily instrumental. Defining certain groups or albums as New Age can be a source of contention among fans, since the borders of this genre are not well defined. Partly due to some artists' affiliation with New Age beliefs, many other artists and bands have specifically stated that they do not consider their own music to be New Age.

A large percentage of music described as New Age music is electronic and instrumental, frequently relying on sustained pads or long sequencer-based runs. Very long songs, up to 20 minutes and more, are not uncommon. Vocal arrangements and usage of acoustic instruments is less common (in many cases, high-quality samples are used instead of the latter). Recordings of naturally occurring sounds are sometimes used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece. Said features also apply to many sub-genres of ambient music as well, and there is no boundary defined between ambient music and New Age music.



There are three major groups of fans with different beliefs as to what New Age music is and which artists should be classified as New Age artists. The three points of view are:

  • that New Age music is a branch of electronic music that includes melodic, non-dance pieces with miscellaneous kinds of arrangements (as opposed to typical dance styles such as techno and its sub-genres, experimental electronic music that can be non-melodic, noise music, several sub-genres of ambient music, etc). According to this point of view, artists and bands like Michael Cretu's Enigma, Enya, Loreena McKennitt, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Popol Vuh, Klaus Schulze, Suzanne Ciani, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Yanni all belong to the New Age category. This somewhat problematic for two reasons: first, artists like Enya, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese stated that they do not consider their music to be New Age, some of them perceiving "New Age music" as a genre necessarily connected with the religious movement. Second, music by artists like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis is stylistically very varied, with many albums that cannot be classified as New Age (for instance, Vangelis' output includes musical collages and experimental electronic music), and so it is unclear whether it would be fair to label the artists New Age.
  • that New Age music is a branch of electronic music which appears mostly on the so-called meditation or relaxation CDs, which are frequently seen in New Age bookshops and music stores. Most of this music is calm, melodic and can seem a bit monotonous. Artists include Anugama, Cusco, David Arkenstone, Gandalf, G.E.N.E., Karunesh, Kitaro, Software and Space. This definition's accuracy can be questioned, since virtually all the artists mentioned above have numerous pieces that are stylistically reminiscent of meditation CDs.
  • that New Age music is electronic music that is melodic, soothing and relatively simple sound-wise, with wide pads, gentle melodies and long tracks. This definition is also not accurate. However, since many artists confine themselves to creating only this specific kind of music, it is widely used. According to it, some Vangelis and Tangerine Dream albums can be called New Age music, but the artists can't be called New Age since their output is very varied. Similarly, Suzanne Ciani's music is New Age, but Klaus Schulze's and Enya's is probably not, because both have a very distinct style, different from generic melodic, soothing electronic music.

Influences and themes

Obvious influences are early electronic music, classical music, ambient music pioneers like Brian Eno and Popol Vuh, ethnic music, world music and artists such as Klaus Schulze, prog-rock and Krautrock.

The minimalism of Terry Riley and Steve Reich (Indian influenced in the former case) can also be cited as an influence, along with artists like Tony Conrad, LaMonte Young who utilized drones since the early 1960s. Connected to the creation of New Age music is the resurgence of interest in Gregorian Chant during the second half of the 20th century.

Popular themes in New Age music include Space and the Cosmos, Environment and Nature, Wellness in being, Harmony with one's self and the world, Dreams or Dreaming and Journeys of the mind or spirit. G.E.N.E. produced a string of albums that described, musically, places like Pacific and Mediterranean islands, and a special CD with recordings of sounds of different oceans. The band Software has several albums that specifically state the electronic aspect of music, such as Chip Meditation, Electronic Universe (both in two parts) and Digital Dance. Titles of New Age songs are frequently descriptive: examples include Principles of Lust (Enigma), Purple Dawn (Anugama), Shepherd Moons (Enya), Straight' a Way To Orion (Kitaro), The Quiet Self (Gregorian).

See also

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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