New Age music: artists like Enya

New Age music, often said to be Enya's musical genre, is a style originally associated with some New Age beliefs (but it's often not the case; Enya herself is catholic). It has its basis in the 1960s and is generally characterised as being primarily instrumental and repetitively melodic in nature.

Popular New Age-labeled musicians (besides Enya) are Celtic Woman, Clannad (Enya's family band), Enigma, Lisa Gerrard, Maire Brennan (Enya sister), Sarah McLachlan, Sissel, Vangelis, Yanni and Loreena McKennitt.

Celtic Woman is a musical ensemble comprising six Irish female artists: vocalists Chloë Agnew, Órla Fallon, Lynn Hilary, Lisa Kelly, Alex Sharpe and fiddler Máiréad Nesbitt. The group's repertoire ranges from traditional Celtic tunes to modern songs (and Enya covers). To date, the group has released three albums: Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration and Celtic Woman: A New Journey, have undertaken a number of world tours, and which musician has released a solo paralell work.

Loreena McKennitt, born in February 17, 1957, is a Canadian singer, composer, harpist and pianist most famous for writing, recording and performing world music with New Age, Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. McKennitt is often compared to Enya, but McKennitt's music is more grounded in traditional and classical invocations, using literary works as sources of lyrics and springboards for interpretation such as "The Lady of Shalott" by Lord Tennyson.

Partly due to some artists' open affiliation with various New Age beliefs, other artists and bands have specifically stated that they do not consider their own music to be New Age, like Enya herself - although their work may be labelled that way by record labels, music retailers, or radio broadcasters.

New Age music is largely typified by modal and consonant harmonies, usually in conjunction with patches of sound effects or nature samples. New Age music includes both electronic and instrumental forms, frequently relying on sustained pads or long sequencer-based runs; and acoustic forms, featuring instruments such as flutes, piano, acoustic guitar and a wide variety of non-western acoutsitc instruments. In many cases, high-quality samples are used instead of natural acoustic instruments. Vocal arrangements were initially rare in New Age music but as it has evolved vocals have become more common, especially vocals featuring Sanskrit, Tibetan or Native American-influenced chants, or lyrics based on mythology such as Celtic legends.

During the 1980s, the term "New Age music" was introduced more widely to the public by radio stations and then by music retailers and some record companies, as a marketing tag applied to a variety of non-mainstream instrumental music styles.

Definitions

Some listeners consider New Age Music to be a branch of Electronic Music. Others consider New Age Music to be defined more by the feeling it produces rather than the devices used in its creation. This is a subtle distinction but needs to be mentioned since while much of the equipment used to produce New Age Music is electronic, or computer-based, much New Age Music is also produced using purely acoustic instruments. 

There is a significant overlap of sectors of New Age Music, Electronic Music (or Electronica), Ambient music, World music and in that area there are at least three major groups of fans with varying beliefs as to what New Age music is and which artists should be classified as New Age artists. There are more than three viewpoints on this but as a starting point for understanding the varieties, three main points of view can be seen as follows:

  • that New Age music is a branch of electronic music that includes melodic, non-dance pieces with miscellaneous kinds of arrangements. According to this point of view, artists and bands like Michael Cretu's Enigma, Enya, Clannad, Mike Oldfield, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Yanni all belong to the New Age category. This is somewhat problematic for two reasons: first, artists like Enya and Vangelis stated that they do not consider their music to be strictly New Age, some of them perceiving "New Age music" as a genre necessarily connected with the religious movement. Second, music by artists like Vangelis is stylistically very varied, with many albums that cannot be classified as New Age, 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.
  • 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,  Enya's music is probably not New Age, because it have a very distinct style, different from generic melodic, soothing electronic music.

Influences and themes

From 1968 to 1973, German musicians such as Holger Czukay, 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. 

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. 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).

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