One of the best things my parents ever did for me was play New Age music to set the mood almost every Sunday morning instead of boring church music. I've loved it ever since and recently came to the realization that although I appreciate all genres, this one might be tied with metal and eighties as my favorite, if eighties counts as a genre, which right now I say it does. But if you were to ask me what New Age music actually is, I would say something lame like, "Uh, it's usually instrumental, but not classical, and sometimes it's not instrumental. And a lot of it is Celtic-influenced but a lot of it isn't." I know because that's more or less what I said once when someone did ask me. I don't know how to talk about music, I just know how to listen to it. According to Wikipedia, however, New Age music is a pretty vague umbrella term after all, with two competing definitions: it can be "music with an ambient sound that has the explicit purpose of aiding meditation and relaxation, or aiding and enabling various alternative spiritual practices, such as alternative healing, yoga practice, guided meditation, or chakra auditing," or it can be "[m]usic found in the new-age sections of record stores.... more of a marketing slogan rather than musical category." So that makes me feel less stupid.
New Age or New Age-adjacent artists that featured in my childhood included 2002, Acoustic Alchemy, Ayman, Cusco, David Arkenstone, Diane Arkenstone, Enya, Gandalf, Hennie Bekker, John Adorney, Loreena McKennitt, Mannheim Steamroller, Suzanne Ciani, Vangelis, and Yanni. Of these, David Arkenstone was by far most frequently in rotation. My parents had most of his CDs released from 1990-2000 and a couple of more recent ones. He singlehandedly showcases the diversity of so-called New Age music. To date, including collaborations, he has released ninety-nine albums drawing influence from cultures all over the world. I guess now that's cultural appropriation, but I don't care because good music is good music. He's criminally underrated. He's been nominated for five Grammies and I think it's a travesty that he didn't win any of them. I don't know who did win them because I don't pay attention to that sort of thing, but maybe there should just be more Grammies to go around in the first place. In my book he's tied with John Williams and Koji Kondo as the greatest composer of all time. He certainly deserves to be the most streamed artist in the world more than Ed Sheeran does. He even has an objectively cool-sounding name, and in his younger years he could have gotten the lead in The Chosen with his beard and long hair.
A while ago - I thought it was earlier this year but realized today that it was last December, which just goes to show how my life is exponentially slipping away - I joined his Facebook group and got some stuff in the mail. OMG, a childhood hero wrote my name.
He actually interacts with people in the group, not always in the timeliest manner, but still, OMG, a childhood hero spoke to me.
In conclusion, I urge everyone who isn't familiar with his music to rectify that situation ASAP. If I have to recommend just one of his albums, difficult though that is, I'll go with Citizen of the World (1999) because it earned a Grammy nomination and showcases several different cultural appropriations, I mean influences. If you don't love it, I'm still right and you're wrong.
The Gypsy Camp
I've shared this track on the blog before because when I first heard the Gerudo Valley theme from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it sounded to me like an inferior pastiche of this one. Don't worry, I got over that and learned to love them both.
Land of the Tiger
Carried Away Across the Sea
Temple of the Pharaoh
Into the Dreamtime
This is by far the most popular track of the album on Spotify for some reason, the only one with the six-digit streams that the others also deserve.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.