Why is it called “New Age” music?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Why is the type of music we compose called “new age” music? Many have tried to change the “new age” moniker – Target calls it “Lifescapes.” Muzak calls it “Moodscapes.” Music Choice calls it “Soundscapes.” I think Borders Books & Music tried calling it “Lifestyles.” I have also heard “neo-classical” and “contemporary instrumental” among others.

Why do I bring this up? A woman recently commented to me how sad it was that we were not Christians. This surprised me greatly. I asked her why she would say that. She said well obviously since you compose “new age” music you are not Christians. Wow!! On the contrary – we are. I was curious if this lady’s viewpoint was a common one, and if so, how this happened? Why is this type of music being thought of as Unchristian? 

I doubt the classification “new age” will be going away any time soon. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences still calls it “new age” and there is even a Grammy Award for new age music. iTunes calls it “new age”. Amazon still lists a “new age” genre.

But what exactly does “new age” mean? Wikipedia has an exhaustive and interesting page on the origins of new age music at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Age_music. But I still did not find the answer to my question until I looked at the “new age SPIRITUALITY” page on Wikipedia.
Although the term “new age” was first used in 1809 by William Blake, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the concept of “new age spirituality” was condemned by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. Even though new age music had little to do with actual new age spirituality practices, it had apparently been condemned as well.

Sadly, it was brick and mortar music stores that lumped dozens of genres of music under the “new age” moniker simply because they did not want to deal with them. Think about it – Enya and Vangelis were originally in the “Pop” bins – not new age. But then along came Celtic music and Native American music and ambient, electronica, world, chillout, space music and jazz crossover (among many others). What’s a little old record store to do? And so the “new age” bin became the melting pot – the catch-all to avoid having to keep all of these genres clearly separate. And I totally empathize! Truly there are dozens of “sub-genres” of new age. There was no way to keep track of it all. But you know what? The brick and mortar stores are gone and we now have computers. Why not embrace all the micro-genres of music?

Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology to build the world’s first bionic music store. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Why is it called “New Age” music?”

  1. This from an interview with David Arkenstone some years ago:

    What is “New Age” Music?
    “New Age” music has sometimes been difficult to categorize, for it is often considered a blending of classical and contemporary rock. Many in the New Age music industry have called Arkenstone’s works as being in a class by themselves, often referred to as Cinematic New Age rock. Arkenstone likes to refer to it as “world age” rock.

    When interviewed by NAV, Arkenstone said that once the advances in computer technology permitted him, he could then “experience the different instruments … all of a sudden, I had all these incredible sounds that are like textures and layers on my synths and my computer. I can’t say that I just put it into a blender, because I really try to look for the right sounds for the right song. But all those influences have turned me into what I am.”

    Arkenstone feels that New Age music may be full of unqualified people who have given it a bad name, that when some people hear something new they often confuse it with “elevator music” or just label what they hear that’s unique and different as “New Age music.” He wants to clearly stay away from any such labels, proclaiming in NAV, “That’s the last thing I want to make. I want to make exciting music that has a melody, that has emotion, that goes up and down. That’s important to me as a listener, and I find that since I have to listen to my music more than I get to listen to any other music, I have to do music that I really enjoy day after day.”

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/david-arkenstone#ixzz1kfOfve2A

  2. Just saw you guys on Music Choice. I dig what you have going on. Really great stuff.

    As for the Christian thing, there used to be a Christian broadcasting company that played new age music set against really beautiful nature videos they created. Worship.Net I think it was called. It was on late night and was a perfect way to wind down when one couldn’t sleep.

  3. I always like the term “new age” although it’s true that music under the umbrella of the term has “evolved” so much and so rapidly that it doesn’t really mean anything. I think it’s stuck precisely because the music is so difficult to categorize (which is a good thing, IMO). I can remember when William Ackerman’s early work was considered “New Age”. He eventually distanced himself from the term and went to great lengths to dissociate his Windham Hill label from being labelled as such. Same thing happened with Mike Oldfield, only in reverse.

    Though I can understand why Christians have issues with new age teachings I think it’s sad that so many share an aversion to “new age music” as a result. All music is inspired by “God”, be it church hymns or death metal. Like any art form it must portray the extremes of life experience so that all that’s “in the middle” can have a point of relativity.

    New Age music is ALWAYS positive. It’s always beautiful and uplifting. It’s always life-affirming. It’s ALWAYS spiritual music and as such I cannot for the life of me understand why Christians would not want to embrace such music. I’ve heard contemporary Christian music that was divisive. I’ve heard some that promotes fear and guilt as means of the Holy Spirit’s chastisement. I’m not trying to say that Christian music, by virtue of it’s label, is hypocritical. But a lot of it actually is. New age music, on the other hand, ALWAYS extols the virtues that Christians claim to embrace: love, joy, kindness, peace, etc., and it does so without exception. It’s for everyone.

    Thanks for the opportunity to speak up in defense of the category “new age”. I’m not ashamed of it at all! 🙂

  4. I have a very conservative Christian friend who claimed he was listening to a soundtrack of rain, and turned it off because it was “new age”. This fear and blindness of what “new age” means is really saddening – for someone to miss out on such amazing and calming music simply because it was blindly condemned 40 years ago in ignorance is very unfortunate. I mean… it is the sound of rain! Does he plug his ears when the rain is falling on the roof?

  5. I’ve found your music to be beautiful, and especially conducive to prayer and meditation. You have some of the best stuff around for this. Insomuch as He is glorified, and His body edified, I pray He blesses your work.

    -Richard, a preacher

    P.S. – Where can I find the lyrics for the chorus in Stella Maris?

    1. Hello Richard
      Thank you so much for your kind words about our music! Randy studied Latin in school. I’ll check with him on the lyrics. I know most of them but it’s been quite a few years since we recorded that one. It’s one of my favorites as far as flute goes.

  6. “A woman recently commented to me how sad it was that we were not Christians. This surprised me greatly. I asked her why she would say that. She said well obviously since you compose “new age” music you are not Christians. Wow!! On the contrary – we are. ”

    Did you ask her where in the Bible new age music is condemned? It is amazing how many Christians claim things about their own religion that are not even valid. They are taught by preachers who lie.

    “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
    In vain they do worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:8-9

  7. I love your music. I listen to it almost daily as I read and/or study the Bible or spiritual growth books. It is a calm, peaceful, soothing music that I know is flowing from the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your work. I believe if the music is uplifting, peacefully influential, follows Philippians 4:8 and 1Corinthians 13, then it has to be from God. Thank you and please continue!

  8. I first discovered your music on the “Stargaze – Hubble’s View of the Universe” DVD, which depicts our Creator’s ingenuity in myriad ways. The producers of that DVD couldn’t have picked a more appropriate soundtrack! Each track gives greater depth and appreciation to what is being viewed on screen. I was instantly enamored with your music and began researching (and purchasing) every 2002 recording I could find.

    Having listened to a wide array of instrumental music for most of my 45 years, I can honestly say that I never discerned anything in your material that would make me feel like you were dancing around idols under the moonlight in a forest, drawing magic circles, or invoking pagan entities. In fact, your material is inspiring and very conducive for study, fellowship, and worship. It also puts me in a greater state of rest and stillness, something I prize each Shabbat. In that vein, it was a gem to discover your song “Yeshua” on a YouTube video (before I purchased the “Believe” CD). Not only was it my first exposure to your vocal material — a true delight in itself — but that name is how I address our Savior/Messiah as well! What a pleasant surprise!

    With all of that said, I cannot think of anything that should offend any listener, regardless of faith, religious affiliation, or even lack thereof. I have experienced nothing but a genuine touch of our Master’s hand in your work, which is a true gift back to him and the rest of us. Thank you for who you are and what you do, and please continue your excellent work! Shalom!

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