New age music evolved out of a shared consciousness among composers and performers. Their credo held that music should be based on harmony and consonance, rather than dissonance; minus the hooks and rhythmic pulse typifying popular music; employ soothing instrumental sounds (e.g., prominence of electric piano, harp, flute, bells, string ensembles); and elevate space to a key role (i.e., the electro-acoustic enhancement of instrumental tones through reverb and echo). The genre began taking form in the latter half of the 1970s (a pivotal development was William Ackerman's formation of the Windham Hill label in 1976) as baby boomers, approaching middle age and facing the full effect of career and family pressures, began exploring softer forms of pop music. A broad, amorphous category, new age includes the following subgenres:
Electronic/Computer Music. The rapidly evolving technology of modern society has placed the resources of a small orchestra within the means of most artists. This has facilitated the creation of innovative sounds hitherto impossible to achieve with traditional acoustic instruments. The key tools here are synthesizers--a large, expanding class of dissimilar instruments that often combine tape recordings, computers, and samplers--and samplers (enable a musician/program-
mer to blend snippets of recorded acoustic sound--e.g., a violin passage or bird songs--with electronic tones to generate new music pieces. Leading practitioners include John Adams, Carlos Alomar, Michael Amerlan, David Arkenstone, Kevin Braheney, Peter Buffet, Richard Burmer, Wendy Carlos, Suzanne Ciani, Barry Cleveland, Double Fantasy, Emerald Web, Larry Fast/Synergy, Jan Hammer, On Harriss, Michael Hoenig, Iasos, Jean-Michel Jarre, Eddie Jobson, Steve Roach, Robert Schroeder, Klaus Schulze, John Serrie, Michael Shrieve, Don Slepian, Michael Stearns, Isao Tomita, Vangelis, and Yanni.
Folk Music. Based on influences derived from traditional folk and ethnic sources (e.g., Celtic, bluegrass), this style is usually acoustic and instrumental in orientation. Divided between original compositions and classic folk material in an upbeat mode, the sound is built around such instruments as six- and twelve-string guitars, Celtic harp, flutes, and dulcimers. Notable exponents include William Ackerman, Checkfield, Malcolm Dalglish and Greg Larsen, Mark O'Connor, and Allan Stivell.
Jazz/Fusion. Representing a gentle rebellion against overly spacey new age music and frenetic jazz, this fusion style avoids the abstract dissonance typified by avant-garde jazz or classical compositions in favor of mood, texture, and flowing movement. Jazz crosses into new age territory when it avoids standard "swing" rhythms, its instrumentation is enhanced by synthesizers and the use of digital reverb, and it is not repetitious or inaccessibly intellectual. It is distinguished from other new age subgenres, especially space music, by its rhythm and identifiable melodies. Typical instrumentation includes woodwinds, horns, percussion, keyboards, and string instruments. Among the better known artists are Beaver and Krause, Peter Davison, David Friesen, Jerry Goodman, Hiroshima, Yusef Lateef, Pat Metheny, Oregon, Jean-Luc Ponty, John Renbourn, Shadowfax, Ben Sidran, John Themis, and Tim Weisberg.
Meditation Music. This style aims at expanding awareness into deeper and higher levels of consciousness. It removes negativity through careful arrangement of each note and one pattern. It isn't always serene and gentle in nature; more dynamic forms often combine drumming and pulsing music to stimulate an active response within the listener (e.g., dancing). Key practitioners include Aeoliah, Chazz, Steven Halpern, and Laraaji.
Native American/Indigenous Music. The accompaniment is provided by rattles, drums, and group chorus, depending upon the context and form of the musical presentation. The types of songs, their placement in a ceremony, and the textural form--meaningful words or vocalized sounds--reflect the world views of various tribes. Duple meter (patterns of two drum beats throughout) percussion patterns, a wide variety of tempos, and dynamic accents contribute to the distinctive quality of tribal music. The genre includes three subdivisions: sacred/ceremonial songs, social songs, and personal vocal and instrumental music. Among the notable exponents are Kevin Locke, R. Carlos Nakai, and A. Paul Ortega.
Pop Music. Of all new age genres, this one is the most energetic and accessible. It tends to be very melodic, often weaving acoustic and electronic instruments into a sonic whole. It has depth, using harmony, melody, and simple key modulations rather than creating space-like sounds. Leading artists include Bruce Becvar, Checkfield, David Darling, the Durutti Column, Michael Hedges, Eberhard Schoener, and Liz Story.
Progressive Music. This category mixes the excitement and vision of progressive and experimental music with the sensitivity and warmth of the new age genre. Largely created by state-of-the-art technology and a wide array of electronic instruments, it's cinematic in scope and imparts a feeling of momentum. Compositions deliver symphonic--sometimes psychedelic--crescendoes intended to jar the listener's perception of reality. Notable practitioners Pete Bardens, Peter Baumann, Gavin Bryars, Cusco, Patrick Gleeson, Mark Isham, Daniel Lentz, Mannheim Steamroller, Patrick Moraz, Patrick O'Hearn, and Michael Oldfield.
Solo Instrumental Music. The style serves to slow down the mind, thereby aiding in relaxation or meditation. The music often consists of long tones and is at times almost harmonically structureless. It acts as a blank canvas on which the listener can visualize personal "mind pictures." Key exponents include Philip Aaberg, Alex De Grassi, Paul Greaver, Daniel Hecht, Paul Horn, Eric Johnson, Peter Kater, Andreas Vollenweider, George Winston, and Sylvia Woods.
South Health Music. Specifically created as a tool for health and wellness, the genre attempts to either facilitate brain activity for accelerated learning or take the listener to deep places in the consciousness for meditation (via slow brain wave patterns). Many releases deal with the relationship among keynotes, colors, and the chakras; others combine vowel sounds, rhythmic pulses, drones, and different scales to resonate and affect the physical body as well as the etheric energy field. Top artists include Roger Eno, Steven Halpern, Paul Temple, and Michael Uyttebroek.
Space Music. Concerned with both inner and outer space, this style opens and creates spatial relationships. Most composers use synthesizers (sometimes exclusively) which can sustain notes timelessly or produce wholly new sounds. The balance between the rhythm track and melody line determines a great deal of the imagery and perspective of a particular piece. Leading exponents include Kevin Braheny, Mychael Danna, Peter Davison, Constance Demby, Edgar Froese, Steve Hillage, Jade Warrior, Kitaro, David Lange, Ray Lynch, Anthony Phillips, Steve Roach, Michael Stearns, and Stomu Yamashta.
Traditional Music. Contemplative rather than entertaining by nature, it is typically instrumental and incorporates sacred, meditative, and healing properties. Utilizing a structure based on ancient traditions such a Pythagorean harmonics, it transforms the vibrational level of any environment into a relaxing, inspiring, and healing atmosphere. Key practitioners include Aeolus, William Aura, D'Rachael, Dean Evenson, Steve and David Gordon, Bob Kindler, Steve Kindler, Daniel Kobialka, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Sanford Ponder, Mike Rowland, Nancy Rumbel, Ira Stein and Russell Walder, Tim Story, Eric Tingstad, and Paul Winter.
Vocal Music. A broad-based category encompassing folk, pop, jazz, and rock. Themes covered include (1) an expanded sense of personal identity; (2) a recognition of connection with the global family; (3) a holistic awareness of the planet; (4) an awakened responsibility for one's thoughts, words, and actions; (5) an acknowledgment of the wisdom or divinity in everyone; (6) an emphasis on the healing power in relationships; (7) a recognition of the wholeness of body, mind, and spirit; and (8) an admission that there is an underlying power and intelligence called God, Love, Universal Spirit, etc., with an absence of spiritual elitism. Among the notable artists are Clannad, Eliza Gilkyson, David Hykes, Ian Matthews, Kim Robertson, Michael Stillwater, and Michael Tomlinson.
World Music. The genre spans music (1) derived solely from one culture and accepted by others; (2) created when the indigenous material of one culture is combined with the material of other cultures (e.g., melodic structures and rhythms of India fused with the impovisation of European pop music); and (3) drawn from or uniting both ancient and contemporary styles (e.g., South American flutes mixed with Spanish guitar and modern synthesizers). Key exponents include Azymuth, Patrick Ball, Spencer Brewer, Do'a, Stephan Grossman, Jan Hassell, Inti-Illimani, Stephan Micus, Popol Vuh, Shardad, and Tri Atma.