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by Mike McGuirk

November 5, 2012

Getting Weird with New Age

by Mike McGuirk  |  November 5, 2012

For some of us, the best thing about New Age music is how damn weird a good portion of it is. Encompassing a broad range of styles, New Age music can be beautiful, psychedelic, creepy and, unfortunately, sax-y.

In 2009, I happened upon these things called "Solfeggio frequencies," tones they used in Gregorian chants a thousand years ago that apparently have healing properties, as in they repair DNA. How monks back in medieval times knew about DNA is beyond me -- as is the unit of measurement they use ("hz," whatever that is) -- but honestly, I think the less you know or understand about this kind of thing, the better. Rhapsody doesn't have the ones I really dig -- a single tone that doesn't sound all that different from the Emergency Broadcast System and this one, with cool electronic music and trance-induction-via-trippy-female-voice -- but we do have an album of different ones, and I included an example here.

The resulting playlist is meant to show that New Age is much more than cheesy Windham Hill samplers. Other awesome stuff you don't want to miss includes the percussive sounds a turkey makes in "Turkey Talk" (the first one starts at 0:48) and the freaky animalisms approximately 6:25 into "Hoots and Howls," both from an album of jungle sounds. This is not exactly party music, unless you're partying with sacred cacti or something, but it is soothing as hell. The whole playlist is.

As far as the more traditional songs go, the Tangerine Dream piece is simply awesome, "Oxygene II" was a pop hit in Europe in 1976 and "Contemplations of the Endless Abyss" is by Karl Sanders, who is also the dude behind Egypt-obsessed death metal band Nile.

Finally, representing the potential for snake-oil salesmen, the super-duper trippy "Hypnotic Induction" is weird enough (and possibly nefarious), but the Brainwave Mind Voyages "subliminal" track is actually silent -- as in no sound, no lie. And there are dozens exactly like it with names like "Attracting Women" and "Male Enhancement." The one I included is "Be the Life of the Party," so if you're at work and you go to a meeting with a lampshade on your head, you'll be able to explain yourself.

The idea here isn't to make fun of New Age music; it's more a celebration of its weirdness. I am by no means an expert on the genre. I just know what I like, and most of these songs put me in a meditative state that is very real. It's just that I also have a taste for music that is made by and/or for elves.

(P.S.: You want headphones for this. Also, please do not operate a vehicle or heavy machinery when you get to the Brainwave Mind Voyages stuff. Who knows what that guy is really up to.)

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