There has been in the last decade a true revivalism and reappraisal of new age music amongst a new generation of younger listeners, although what linked the meditative and expansive electronics of, say, Iasos or Steven Halpern to the rather unadorned acoustics of Ackerman and George Winston, was, I’d argue, less a sonic affiliation and more a connection born out of the need to market this music.
Some great points about “new age” music. But the author misses one thing. This music ended up being lumped in with the amorphous new age movement not entirely because of the music, or a “need to market” it, but because of where it was sold. Initially, Windham Hill records were not sold in record stores, but in health food stores and alternative book stores. That changed after a few years, as it became popular, but for early fans of that kind of music – of which I was one – it would always be linked with incense and organic food.
The author also mentions how ECM records had a similar sound. This is certainly true, and the two labels did develop in parallel, but I don’t really see much of a link between them. Early ECM records included some avant-garde jazz, and, while the ECM sound become lighter and softer. This said, it’s still not all mellow jazz, though a lot of it is. And the classical catalogue of ECM includes a fair amount of “modern” classical music.
I recently went back and listened to some of those records, and I still enjoy this music very much. It is a shame that it was pigeonholed into the new age category, which limited its distribution and appreciation.
Read this New York Times article from 1986 for more about the financial side of Windham Hill records.