Ray: How has the New Age musical community evolved? It seems that New Age is more widely accepted in the mainstream. But maybe there’s a little less focus and purposefulness, too, in some parts of what’s called New Age music.
Dudley: People really have discovered this music’s benefit, especially in the areas of health and wellness. As we get older, we become more aware of how important it is to take care of ourselves. People are tending to want to use holistic approaches to their wellness. And even when they become ill, they want to do as much as they can to take care of themselves.
We didn’t start out making healing music per se. We didn’t say, “We’re going to make healing music, and we’re going to study all the science of it.”
We started out making music that reflected the planet and that was about peace. Mainly because of our Native American connection and what we’d been learning about Mother Earth, we just felt a desperate need to get out and do something to communicate this voice of the planet. As a result, we created music that reflected our motto, “Peace Through Music.”
But very soon we started getting feedback from people who said they found our music was beneficial to their health or whatever process they were going through. One woman wrote that she could deal with chronic pain by combining biofeedback and listening to our music. The music also was played for children in a cancer ward, and it really gave them a sense of calm and peace in a very stressful time in their lives.
Dean: There was a facility in Texas where they took care of autistic children, and they called us up one day and said they’d been working for years trying to get this one child to respond. The album Ocean Dreams actually brought him out. And our music is used in schools with kids to spur greater creativity and higher test scores.
Dudley: In the early ’90s we got a call from Naomi Judd, who had discovered, also, Ocean Dreams. She got all of our music, and she literally played it everyday for years. Her husband would tell us that she would just get up and put on our music when she was dealing with hepatitis C. She is currently in remission, and she’s back on the road with The Judds, with her daughter Wynonna.
We’re not saying the music healed Naomi, but the music created the environment that supported all the other things she was doing to help her in her healing process. Then she sent Joan Borysenko all of Dean’s music, saying this was the best music for meditation and healing, and now Joan uses our music in her workshops.
Back to your question about how the music’s evolved — it has evolved. Before, awareness of this kind of music was limited to a much smaller group of people who were already very much on a spiritual path.
New Age music came about because of the path that we and several other musicians were on. We were influenced by the East — by the long, slow tones of Eastern music — in creating a more meditative space.
People began learning about meditation and yoga, and this music’s popularity grew. A commercialism then occurred. Certainly people did jump on the bandwagon. Maybe they even marketed the genre of music better than we were marketing it, but the music quality wasn’t as good — and that became a little confusing to consumers.
Dean: It was a different form of music. It didn’t have the same intention. The intention of the musicians as they’re playing is very important in music, particularly in the healing process.
The music that came in from the larger labels — its intention wasn’t necessarily healing. It wanted to create a good feeling, but it was more focused on marketing and sales.
But there is a place for everything.
Dudley: There is a wide variety of New Age music, and certain kinds of radio have encouraged, say, smooth jazz. But I also would say there now is an exciting evolution in terms of the multicultural aspects of the music.
I hear a lot more rhythms in music. The Celtic music certainly gave it a new burst of energy. Then you’ve got African rhythms. Some of the Native American music has become more popular. And vocals added, too.
So I really see the music dividing into a couple of different genres, even though it will still probably be called New Age. Sometimes it also gets put into the world bins, because you now see a lot more world influences.
Dean: New Age became an interesting door that opened for all the music that didn’t fit into other categories. In some ways, that was a good thing.
Certainly it diluted the initial focus of where we were coming from, but on the other hand it opened up possibilities for other musicians to express themselves, too.
Dudley: And as you say, Ray, it’s reaching a much wider mainstream audience. There’s an increased awareness. And it’s just inevitable that most of the kind of music that falls under the category of New Age is going to have something to do with spirituality, meditation, and healing. Even if it’s the dancing rhythms, that’s healing, too.
What that means is that the world is waking up. It isn’t just an isolated group of people who are exploring these areas. The whole country and many parts of the world are interested in evolving their consciousness. They’re interested in finding ways to stay well and healthy and in lifting up their spirits.
I think that’s what this music is. It’s about positivity. It’s about —
Dean: — inclusion and not exclusion.
Dudley: We can see the importance of needing to open up to different cultures and to have an appreciation and an understanding of different cultures, so people don’t feel fringed out — left on the outside — and then they have to rebel against something.
*Learn more about Dean Evenson and Dudley Evenson and their wonderful music label Soundings of the Planet at Soundings.com. I did this interview for New Age Retailer magazine. Read more of my interviews and work at Hemachandra.com.