Space and New Age Discussion

Here are the highlights of a good discussion on the differences between Space Music and "New Age" Music.

From: (D.A.C. Crowell)
Subject: Re: What is New Age music really? huh?
Date: 2 Sep 1994 16:45:13 GMT

Philip Hay <> wrote:

>I have seen and heard about new age music for a while now but never
>paid attention till I saw the Yanni/Acropolis concert on PBS. Now
>I am wondering what the heck is new age music? I would like to hear
>from people who like and dislike it so as to get a mixed response.

I don't dislike all things that get tagged as Newage, but I do have a real antipathy toward music that offers no challenges or intellectual engagement to the listener...such as Yawn-o. There's loads of stuff that The Big Mkting Dept. has decided for us is Newage that is pretty danged exciting, such as Steve Roach's works, David Parsons, Brian Eno, Mike Hedges...and lots more. These, for me at least, all have some real intellectual stimulation about them...

But the real objection I have to Newage is that damned name, as I've stated before. It carries a lot of unneeded ontological baggage that many people who get marketed as Newage seriously object to. And it is purely a marketing term misapplied to what, previously, was called a number of things ranging from "space music" to "music for meditation". Calling it all "Newage" (to borrow from Liz Story...who also points out that that word should rhyme with "sewage") is a nice safe marketing move for the dolts who make such decisions...but it brings into the gamut associations with certain types of spiritual concepts that a lot of artists and listeners don't feel comfortable associating their music with...or that others would rather keep to themselves (as I would).

There's a lot of other music that also fits into The Big Mkting Dept's idea of other categories that qualifies under "Newage" as well, further demonstrating some other sorts of holes in that term. The ever-widening gamut of ambient and ambient-techno and related styles have a _lot_ to do with the sort of musc we're discussing, but you don't see UFOrb or Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works II being touted as "Newage", among loads of others.

Basically, as someone who does music that fits roughly under this umbrella, I really wish there were some other term...or terms. Perhaps calling it as it is, sticking Klaus Schulze and early Roach under "space", late Roach, Parsons, etc under "ambient", people like Hedges and Story back in "jazz" where they're happier anyway, and Yanni and Mannheim Steamroller under "muzak". Makes better sense to me anyway...

From: (Fergus Duniho)
Subject: Re: NewAge music, what is it?

On Sun, 24 Jul 1994 02:57:46 GMT
ar335@FreeNet.Carleton.CA (Dave Dalle) wrote:

> What exactly is Newage music?

I think I would go about defining New Age music by distinguishing it from space music, which it is always getting confused with. Space music is generally all-electronic, all-instrumental music that relies on new synthetic sounds rather than on the synthesizer's ability to mimic acoustic instruments. Space music is generally written for synthesizers. Musically speaking, I'm not sure that anything distinguishes space music. It ranges from space rock (e.g. recent Tangerine Dream) to New Age music (e.g. Constance Demby).

However, not all New Age is space music, and not all space music is New Age. Tangerine Dream does space music, but not New Age. David Lanz does New Age, but not space music. New Age music tends to be pleasant, relaxing, non-melodic music. New Age music provides a pleasant background of sound without demanding the attention of the listener. In a sense, it is just music that exists instead of music that goes someplace.

Lots of music that you'll find in the New Age bins is not New Age. New Age bins tend to be a place for anything that isn't obviously jazz, popular music, or classical music. I've seen Keiko Matsui and Tangerine Dream in New Age sections, even though Keiko Matsui belongs in jazz and Tangerine Dream belongs in rock.

I regard "Novus Magnificat" by Constance Demby to be the quintessential piece of New Age music.

Related comments pulled from the Ambient Music Mailing List...

Date: Fri, 21 Jul 1995 09:33:11 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Michael E. Clay" 
Subject: Re: ambient at `path to higher self' 

In answer to your question about How new age ?

  Originally new age composers were a select few who were part of the new age
cults as they've been called:  composers like Steve Halpern, Ron Dexter,
Synchestra, Soundings for the Planet, and Iaosas . These people composed
music for the new age movement and it was sold almost exclusively in new age
or metaphsical bookstores. These people always composed to help one get in
touch with their "higher selves" and used all that type of imagery and hype..
dolphins, angels, higher octaves, chakras etc.

  As the movement grew and bookstore sales picked up - companies and the news
got wind of a possible " next big movement ".. Windham Hill came into the
picture although they were not new age - they never talk about all the 
metaphysical stuff - they were an alternative route to get Ackerman's soft
guitar pieces released - nothing more. Windham Hill didn't put angels on 
their album covers etc.  So just like in the techno scene mega commercial
events got confused/blended with small high vibe underground raves, larger
cmmercial releases got confused/blended with new age.

  During this "growth period" the movement took off. Stephen Halpern came on
board with Music From the Hearts of Space... and really messed up in many
people's minds space music with new age music... suddenly Tangerine Dream
who did early "space music" became blended with new age artists doing dolphin
pieces and for good measure he mixed in pop classics like Pacbel's canon (sp)
So now new age consisted of anything done on synthes, soft piano, acoustic
instruments etc. that couldn't be classified as jazz, rock etc.... in other
words a "catch all" for meditative or soft jazz or soft rock or electronic...

Artists like Eno, T. Dream, K. Schulze, Vangelis, etc. who have NEVER been
nor considered themselves new age became part of a movement they didn't start
or even take part in...

Such is the power of marketing and radio hype when it attempts to label 
things and create a market phenom...

If you want to see the "True new age" go to a new age bookstore and look
for artists who are not part of the new ambient or other mainstream releases
and you will find plenty of smaller artists with angels, dragons, chakras,
and other new age stuff proudly unfurled.... the others just became part
of the movement due to the marketing factors...

 So even though I've never bought any of Steve ( there will be no bass )
Halpern's recordings I go by them every time I look for a new Schulze
release..... two electronic artists both filed in Tower records under new
age - but representing two completely different worlds....oh well

PS the EARLY new agers HATED anything with sythesizers: piano, flute, guitars
were in - synthes were out... funny how things change....