Jon Schmidt. David Lanz. David Nevue, to name a few. I don’t know how they ended up where they are, but somewhere along the line they tossed some things together for the piano and labeled it “New Age” music. But first of all we need to define what exactly that means. According to AllMusic, New Age music “aims to induce a sense of inner calm” and is generally “allied with new age philosophies encouraging spiritual transcendence and physical healing.” Since categorization has its flaws, I’m very sure there are types of New Age that don’t fit in the category. However, if you’ve heard or read through music of the above artists you know what I mean. Perhaps the most popular of the genre of which I am speaking is Yiruma’s “River Flows In You“. Yeah, most of us played it when we were learning how to play the piano.
So what’s the deal with New Age piano music? Is it pop music? Though I tend generalize (a lot) with the term “pop”, if anything is pop, this definitely is. It’s simplicity – for the simple-minded. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with simplicity, I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea. And that idea is that this is a suitable substitute for classical piano music. Just because it’s got solo piano doesn’t make it classical guys. And it may go great under vocals in order to stay out of the way. But some of these guys put out album after album of their solo piano creations. Some of their melodies are worth listening to, but others are not worth the money paid to receive them.
I understand that meditative music is meant to be relaxing, inspirational, simple. I don’t see how it can satisfy one on any given day, but on the positive side there is indeed a spot for it when one is going crazy and has the need to meditate. And I can agree with it on the listening side of things; here I am strictly speaking of the compositional/performance side. I do know that a critical consideration of creating good music is to start with something simple and to build upon it. Sure, these pieces can build. But what is so wrong with actually playing a chord, with notes that are layered one on top of the other? That happens to be one of the many beauties of the piano. I’ll try one of these pieces for sightreading, but there is never a sense of fulfillment to me afterward.
Some of the first pieces I found I could write could be labeled New Age. I won’t release them – they proved to be a great stepping stone though. I thought I had it in me when I could arpeggiate my I-IV’s repeatedly. But it was much later when I realized that there is more to life than left-hand broken chords. If that’s the stage where you lie at this moment, I urge you to move onward! Don’t stop there; your journey is only beginning, but the rest is worth it.