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New Age music is music of various styles, which is intended to create inspiration, relaxation, and positive feelings, often used by listeners for yoga, massage, inspiration, relaxation, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in their home or other environments often associated with environmentalism and New Age spirituality.

The harmonies in New Age music are generally modal, consonant, or include a drone bass. The melodies are often repetitive, to create a hypnotic feeling, and sometimes recordings of nature sounds are used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece. Songs of up to 30 minutes' duration are common.

New Age music includes both electronic forms, frequently relying on sustained pads or long sequencer-based runs, and acoustic forms, featuring instruments such as flutes, piano, acoustic guitar and a wide variety of non-western acoustic instruments. In many cases, high-quality digitally sampled instruments are used instead of natural acoustic instruments. Vocal arrangements were initially rare in New Age music but as it has evolved vocals have become more common, especially vocals featuring Sanskrit, Tibetan- or Native American-influenced chants, or lyrics based on mythology such as Celtic legends or the realm of Faerie.

Some New Age music artists openly embrace New Age beliefs, while other artists and bands have specifically stated that they do not consider their own music to be New Age, even when their work has been labeled as such by record labels, music retailers, or radio broadcasters.


Music for Zen Meditation (1965) by Tony Scott is considered to be the first New Age Album. New age music was influenced by a wide range of artists from a variety of genres, for example, folk instrumentalists John Fahey and Leo Kottke , electronic minimalists Steve Reich and Philip Glass, synthesizer performers Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno, and impressionistic jazz artists Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. Many different styles and combinations of electronic experimental and acoustic new age music was introduced in the 1970s including music from Asia, such as Kitaro. New Age Music was only available at that time through metaphysical bookstores and gift stores.

New age music was initially produced and sold only by independent labels. The sales reached significant numbers in unusual outlets such as bookstores, gift stores, health food stores and boutiques, as well as direct mail. In 1981, Tower Records in Mountain View, Northern California added a New Age bin. By 1985, independent and chain record retail stores were adding sections for new age music and major labels began showing interest in the genre, both through acquisition of some existing new age labels such as Paul Winter's Living Music and through signing of new age artists such as Kitaro and jazz crossover artist Pat Methany, both signed by Geffen.

On Valentine's Day in 1987, the former Los Angeles Rock radio station KMET changed to a full-time new age music format with new call letters KTWV, branded as The Wave. During the Wave's new age music period, management told the station employees to refer to The Wave as a "mood service" rather than a "radio station". DJs stopped announcing the titles of the songs, and instead, to maintain an uninterrupted mood, listeners could call a 1-800 phone number to find out what song was playing. News breaks were also re-branded and referred to as "wave breaks". KLRSmarker (Colours) in Santa Cruz, California began a new age format around the same time. Stations in other cities followed this lead and in 1988, Stephen Hill's radio show Music From The Hearts of Space was picked up by NPR for syndication to 230 affiliates nationally. Other new age music speciality radio programs included Forest's Musical Starstreams and John Dilaberto's Echoes. Most major cable television networks have channels that play music without visuals, including channels for New Age music, such as for example, the "Soundscapes" channel on Music Choice.

By 1989 there were over 150 small independent record labels releasing new age music, new age music and adult alternative programs were carried on hundreds of commercial and college radio stations in the USA, and over 40 distributors were selling new age music through mail order catalogs.


New Age music is defined more by the effect or feeling it produces rather than the devices used in its creation; it may be electronic or acoustic, or a mixture of both. New Age artists range from solo or ensemble performances using Western instruments such as piano, acoustic guitar, flutes, harps and many others, to electronic musical instruments, and Eastern instruments such as sitar, tamboura, tabla; and instruments from all other parts of the world, the human voice singing in languages from all around the world.

There is a significant overlap of sectors of New Age music, ambient music, classical music, jazz, electronica, world music, chillout, space music and others. The two definitions typically used for New Age are:

  • New Age music with an ambient sound that has the explicit purpose of aiding meditation and relaxation, or aiding and enabling various alternative spiritual practices, such as alternative healing, Yoga practise, guided meditation, chakra auditing, and so on. The proponents of this definition are almost always musicians who create their music expressly for these purposes. Prominent artists who create New Age music expressly for healing and/or meditation include Aeoliah, Paul Horn, Deuter, Steven Halpern, Dean Evenson and Karunesh.

Influences and themes

From 1968 to 1973, German musicians such as Edgar Froese (founder of Tangerine Dream), Holger Czukay (a former student of Karlheinz Stockhausen), Popol Vuh and Ashra released a number of works featuring experimental sounds and textures built with "electronics", synthesizers, acoustic and electric instruments, referred to as cosmic music, that provided early foundational influences for the ambient music and New Age music genres. In the late 1970s Brian Eno's defining explorations in ambient music further influenced the formation of the New Age music genre, as developed in the styles of musicians such as Robert Fripp, Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Harold Budd, Cluster, Jah Wobble (of post-punk band Public Image Limited).

In 1973, Mike Oldfield's unconventional progressive rock album Tubular Bells became one of the first albums to be referred to under the genre description of New Age music. Other influences are early electronic music, classical music, ethnic music and world music. The minimalism of Terry Riley and Steve Reich (Indianmarker influenced in the former case) can also be cited as an influence, along with artists like Tony Conrad, La Monte 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. Now, New Age music has branched out and also includes chanting of "spiritual" or ancient languages, and includes, but is not limited to Sanskrit, Latin, Gaelic, Hebrew and Gurmukhi. Popular artists in this genre include Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Bhagavan Das and Snatam Kaur.

The solo ECM performances by artists like Keith Jarrett (especially his record The Köln Concert), Ralph Towner (especially his records Blue Sun and Solo Concert) and Lyle Mays's first eponymous album, are usually thought to be an influence on Ambient/New Age music.

The acoustic solo and group performances by the early Windham Hill artists such as William Ackerman, Alex de Grassi, George Winston, and Michael Hedges were called New Age for much of the last 30 years.

Constance Demby's 1986 album Novus Magnificat was called "possibly new-age music's ultimate masterpiece" by music historian Piero Scaruffi in A History of Rock Music: 1951-2000 (2003).

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. Titles of New Age albums and songs are frequently descriptive: examples include Shepherd Moons (Enya), Straight' a Way to Orion (Kitaro), and One Deep Breath (Bradley Joseph).

Alternative terms

As described in this article, the borders of this genre are not well defined; however music retail stores will include artists in the "New Age" category even if the artists themselves use different names for their style of music. Here are some other terms used for "New Age".

Contemporary Instrumental: This is a term that may be used most often, and can include artists that do not use electronic instruments in their music, such as solo pianist David Lanz. Similarly, pianists such as Yanni and Bradley Joseph both use this term as well, although they use keyboards to incorporate layered orchestral textures into their compositions.

Adult Contemporary: This term, used by Jim Brickman; it is a type of radio format that plays mainstream contemporary pop music, excluding hip hop and hard rock; this music is intended more for adults than teens.

Contemporary Adult Instrumental: This term was suggested by Steven Halpern in the June 1999 issue of New Age Voice as an alternative catch-all label for music which is classified by retailers as "New Age", but which is not expressly spiritual in nature.

See also


  1. Steven Halpern, New Age Voice Magazine, June 1999 issue
  2. Scaruffi, Piero (2003). A History of Rock Music: 1951-2000, iUniverse (self-publishing), 2003, ISBN 0595295657, p. 319. An updated text is also in the online version of the book, chapter "New-age music 1976-89".
  3. David Lanz Website Bio
  4. Yanni in Words. Miramax Books. Co-Author, David Rensin (pp:84).
  5. Bradley Joseph - Indie Journal Interview.

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