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“How ‘New Age’ is New Age Music?” (an article from the
Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 2: Number 1, 1989)
by Elliot Miller.
The editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron
From the RESEARCH NOTES column:
There can be no disputing that the increasingly popular
and profitable “New Age music” has roots in the New Age
movement — the identical names are not a coincidence.
The trend began with jazz luminaries like Paul Horn and
John Fahey seeking to create music especially conducive to
New Age spirituality. Then, as recounted by New Age
seminar leader and entrepreneur Dick Sutphen,in the latter
1970s Steven Halpern created a “soothing music that
was…great for visualization. Structured on a pentatonic
scale, there was no tension, no resolve, and it inspired
without distracting.” (“The Emergence of New Age Music,”
_Self-Help Update_, issue 29, 14.) Halpern, who holds a
Master’s degree in the psychology of music, was
deliberately attempting to facilitate the development of
“higher” levels of consciousness.
This has remained a central goal for many New Age
musicians today. Even Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider,
whose records have sold in the millions, explains that the
purpose of the tranquil sound is to “build a bridge
between the conscious and the subconscious. We have to
somehow excite our spirituality.” (Bill Barol with Mark D.
Uehling and George Raine, “Muzak for a New Age,”
_Newsweek_, 13 May 1985, 68.)
For many involved in this burgeoning field, however,
the primary incentives appear to be artistic expression
and/or financial gain. Windham Hill, the leading New Age
label, has in 10 years grown into a $21 million record
company. Its artists include such popular names as George
Winston and Shadowfax. While strongly expressing their
commitment to creative over monetary values, they
explicitly deny any commitment to the New Age movement.
Correspondingly, they do not pursue the more “hard-core”
New Age music (which Sutphen calls “Inner Harmony New Age
Music”) that is used as background for meditation and
healing sessions. Instead, they have become associated
with “New Age jazz,” a progressive blend of jazz, rock,
folk, and other influen- ces.
It is this jazz-oriented form of New Age music, along
with the electronic sound associated with names like
Vangelis (_Chariots of Fire_) and Tangerine Dream, that is
played on most “New Age” radio stations. Prominent among
these is KTWV, Los Angeles (“The Wave”), which is syndicating
its programming nationwide.
The common thread that unites these otherwise diverse
forms of New Age music is supposed to be _feeling_ —
listening to them generates a peaceful and uplifting mood.
How dangerous is New Age music, if at all? The
primary means for conveying spiritual influences through
music is words. Since most New Age music is nonverbal,
except for song titles, this opportunity rarely exists.
When it comes to melodies and rhythms, there is much
greater possibility than with words for the original
intention to become diffused in the medium. Thus, while
the composer may intend to elicit a particular mystical
mood, the noninitiate listener simply becomes more
relaxed. I believe this would be the case with most
“inner harmony” New Age music.
After all, even when New Agers are specifically
attempting to induce altered states of consciousness
through their music, much of their applied theory is based
on New Age presuppositions which Christians would not be
inclined to accept. These include belief in the
correspondence of particular sound frequencies with more
or less mystical levels of consciousness, and an equation
of certain relaxed or emotional states with mystical
states. In any case, by and large only the inner harmony
school appears to be seriously attempting such an effect.
The strongest potential for a truly _New Age_ musician
to use his music for the New Age cause would lie in live
performances. He could evangelize between tunes, or lead
the group in a medita- tion or visualization. For
example, Hawaiian New Age musician Robert Aeolus Myers
likes to share the spiritual basis behind his music with
his audiences. “I just feel like there’s a personal
responsibility to allow people the opportunity for
awakening,” he explains. (Mike Gordon, “The New Age of
Music,” _Honolulu Star-Bulletin_, 5 Nov. 1987.)
Additionally, some New Age melodies are so obviously
patterned after familiar mystical or meditative rhythms
(e.g., the mystical refrain “om”) that their pagan
associations are inescapable. Listening to such music for
entertainment or relaxation could easily result in someone
being stumbled — either the listener or another believer
(see 1 Cor. 8).
Although these are valid concerns, I must say that I
have listened extensively to the Southern California New
Age stations, and have found almost nothing objectionable
(though this does not exonerate _all_ New Age stations
_everywhere_. Some are clearly New Age in every sense of
the word). It would seem to me that if the discerning
Christian remains alert to the possibility of undesirable
influences occasionally coming through, he or she could
listen to the progressive varieties of New Age music, in
moderation, without ill effect.
Given the heavily mystical orientation of inner harmony
New Age music, I would advise against the Christian going
out of his or her way to listen to it. As a general
practice, it is not wise to passively submit to the
influences of one who is seeking by those influences to
produce an unchristian effect. But if such music happens
to be playing within earshot (e.g., a relative or fellow
worker is listening to it), the likelihood of being
adversely affected is slight. And even then it would
probably have more to do with the Christian’s _perception_
of the music (e.g., associating it with his or her past as
a New Ager) than any hypnotic or occultic power in the
End of document, CRN0006A.TXT (original CRI file name),
“How ‘New Age’ is New Age Music?”
release A, May 28, 1993
R. Poll, CRI
(A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in
the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)
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