New Age music, is a vaguely defined style of music that is generally quite melodic and often primarily instrumental. Defining certain groups or albums as New Age can be a source of contention among fans, since the borders of this genre are not well defined. Partly due to some artists' affiliation with New Age beliefs, many other artists and bands have specifically stated that they do not consider their own music to be New Age.
A large percentage of music described as New Age music is electronic and instrumental, frequently relying on sustained pads or long sequencer-based runs. Very long songs, up to 20 minutes and more, are not uncommon. Vocal arrangements and usage of acoustic instruments is less common (in many cases, high-quality samples are used instead of the latter). Recordings of naturally occurring sounds are sometimes used as an introduction to a track or throughout the piece. Said features also apply to many sub-genres of ambient music as well, and there is no boundary defined between ambient music and New Age music.
There are three major groups of fans with different beliefs as to what New Age music is and which artists should be classified as New Age artists. The three points of view are:
that New Age music is a branch of electronic music that includes melodic, non-dance pieces with miscellaneous kinds of arrangements (as opposed to typical dance styles such as techno and its sub-genres, experimental electronic music that can be non-melodic, noise music, several sub-genres of ambient music, etc). According to this point of view, artists and bands like Michael Cretu's Enigma, Aeoliah, Enya, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, Popol Vuh, Steve Roach, Klaus Schulze, Suzanne Ciani, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Yanni all belong to the New Age category. This is somewhat problematic for two reasons: first, artists like Enya, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream's Edgar Froese stated that they do not consider their music to be New Age, some of them perceiving "New Age music" as a genre necessarily connected with the religious movement. Second, music by artists like Tangerine Dream and Vangelis is stylistically very varied, with many albums that cannot be classified as New Age (for instance, Vangelis' output includes musical collages and experimental electronic music), and so it is unclear whether it would be fair to label the artists New Age.
that New Age music is a branch of electronic music which appears mostly on the meditation or relaxation CDs, which are frequently seen in New Age bookshops and music stores. Artists include Anugama, Cusco, David Arkenstone, Deuter, Gandalf, G.E.N.E., Karunesh, Kitaro, Software and Space. This definition's accuracy can be questioned, since virtually all the artists mentioned above have numerous pieces that are stylistically reminiscent of meditation CDs.
that New Age music is electronic music that is melodic, soothing and relatively simple sound-wise, with wide pads, gentle melodies and long tracks. However, since many artists confine themselves to creating only this specific kind of music, it is widely used. According to it, some Vangelis and Tangerine Dream albums can be called New Age music, but the artists can't be called New Age since their output is very varied. Similarly, Suzanne Ciani's music is New Age, but Klaus Schulze's and Enya's is probably not, because both have a very distinct style, different from generic melodic, soothing electronic music.
From 1968 to 1973, German musicians such as Holger Czukay (a former student of Karlheinz Stockhausen), Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream released a number of works featuring experimental sounds and textures build with "electronics", synthesizers, acoustic and electric instruments; their music, referred to as Cosmic music can be regarded as Ambient or New Age, depending on point of view. Later Brian Eno defined the styles and patterns of Ambient in a way that easily merged and co-developed with the styles of many musicians such as Robert Fripp, Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Harold Budd, Cluster, Jah Wobble from late 1970s to today.
Other influences are early electronic music, classical music, ethnic music and world music. The minimalism of Terry Riley and Steve Reich (Indian influenced in the former case) can also be cited as an influence, along with artists like Tony Conrad, LaMonte 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.
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 eponimous 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 Andy Summers, William Ackerman, Alex de Grassi, George Winston, and Michael Hedges. All of these artists were called New Age Musicians for much of the last 30 years.
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. G.E.N.E. produced a string of albums that described, musically, places like Pacific and Mediterranean islands, and a special CD with recordings of sounds of different oceans. The band Software has several albums that specifically state the electronic aspect of music, such as Chip Meditation, Electronic Universe (both in two parts) and Digital Dance. Titles of New Age songs are frequently descriptive: examples include Principles of Lust (Enigma), Purple Dawn (Anugama), Shepherd Moons (Enya), Straight' a Way To Orion (Kitaro), The Quiet Self (Gregorian), and One Deep Breath (Bradley Joseph).