Begin Again, Keep Going
This new CD I am recording now will be used for meditation, yoga, healing, massage, Reiki sessions, and so forth. Thus I'm writing it to sustain those purposes, not interrupt them. That calls for a particular kind of music. A particular tone and tempo very different from the dramatic, narrative songs I've been writing for most of this year. It will be completely non-verbal, instrumental music. It will use original recordings of Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist meditation bells, bells recorded from my own collection. It will use a fair bit of shakuhachi. No doubt there will be some synthesizers and keyboards in the mix, and Chapman Stick. It will have a variety of shapes and tones, but overall will hopefully take the listener deeper into meditative states of consciousness, the opposite of overstimulated, stressed-out, Type A caffeinated states of mind.
There's a lot of bland, boring New Age music out there. The best of that genre has always been music first, New Age music second. I think of musicians such as Paul Winter, Will Ackerman, and a few others, who pretty much invented the genre, but also transcended it. Contrast their vibrant, emotional music with the soulless boring pap of Stephen Halpern's random noodlings on electric piano. Contrast the powerful presence of the music in Stephan Micus recording against the flatlined neutral of most New Age music. Even ambient music, created in modern times by Brian Eno, inspired by Eric Satie's semi-joking idea for "furniture music" a century earlier, has more soul than most music you hear played in New Age bookstores, or most healing centers, massage offices, or new Age spiritual healing seminars. People often make the mistake of equating music meant to be unobtrusive and supportive with toneless, dull, bland, and spineless.
Yes, I do have strong opinions about New Age music.
That's because I was a participating witness to the development of this music from its start, back at its inception in the 1970s. Some roots of that style of music are ambient (Eno), folk, cool jazz, especially West Coast jazz, and the encounters of improvising musicians with the musics and spiritual values brought over from India, Japan, Tibet, and China in the 1960s. A lot of improvising musicians from the jazz and rock world contributed to growth of New Age music by introducing multicultural music into Western pop. The movement was strongly influenced both by world music, and by spiritual and moral ideas from the East.
If you want to blame someone, blame The Beatles: their introduction of Indian classical music into Britpop in the late 60s and early 70s, instigated by George Harrison's encounters with India, opened that door to a million and more people who otherwise would never have heard the music, or learned to meditate. The influence of popular culture icons, especially those as beloved, and as restless, as The Beatles, cannot be underestimated. George Harrison's post-Beatles solo albums have been part of the trend, seminal and central, even when basically pop music.
The music I tend to create, now, when asked to make healing music, or trance music, or meditation/yoga music, tends to be on the ambient side. Not static and unchanging, but not tonal or harmonic, not based on Western ideas of music theory, and essentially timeless. One of my influences is of course my years playing Indonesian gamelan music. Another strong influence is Buddhist music from Japan, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia, all of which I have listened to and studied for decades.
I am making it up as a I go along. It's an improvisation on a theme, a tone, an idea, a feeling. Most of my music is just so, whether notated or improvised. Art is improvised, life is improvised. It's all of a piece. So I keep going, making art, giving myself something to do that means something, a reason to go on, a purpose and a meaning, for my own life.
Music surrounds hate and forces it to surrender. —Pete Seeger
Hate, fear, all the corrosive forces of entropy, give way before music's power to make us all come together in harmony. So Mote It Be.