New age, long derided as so much crystals-and-incense mumbo-jumbo, has seen its reputation improve in recent years. Partly, that’s thanks to compilations like Light in the Attic’s I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990 and Soul Jazz’s Space, Energy & Light: Experimental Electronic and Acoustic Soundscapes 1961-88. Both served to remind listeners that some new age was pretty awesome, even if it did have titles like “Dolphin Dream” or “The Third Eye of Atlantis.”
There’s considerable overlap between the new age movement and the early years of ambient music. The pioneering synthesizer musician Suzanne Ciani dipped into new age on albums like 1982’s Seven Waves. Ambient and new Age pioneer Laraaji ended up recording for Brian Eno’s Ambient series after Eno heard him playing new age music in Washington Square Park. And today, pioneering new age work is being folded back into the electronic music canon: Consider the case of Pauline Anna Strom, whose ethereal, drifting synthesizer music-recorded at home in the 1980s-was recently reissued by New York experimental powerhouse RVNG Intl.