Relaxation is serious work. And it can be surprisingly difficult, what with congested commutes and discourteous drivers, work deadlines, and slogging through all that fake news filling one’s newsfeed (seriously, Internets, knock it off. The real news can be bad enough!). Let me tell you, most days it is way easier to get wound-up and stressed-out than it is to find a moment of peace.
The trouble is that stress just seems to happen, ratcheting up over time, but a person actually needs to seek out serenity.
For those of you who might need a little help down this road, allow me to suggest the New Age music section at your local Denver Public Library. In this eclectic collection one can find the chanting of monks from many traditions, ambient electronic music, guided chakra meditations, and ocean wave soundscapes. This is atmospheric music to meditate to, do yoga by, to accompany a massage, or just chill.
Follows are some of the interesting finds I turned up on a recent drift through the collection.
I Am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America 1950-1990 by Various Artists
This compilation of formerly private release and underground New Age music is a lot of chilled-out psychedelic fun. Curated and remastered by the good folks at Light in the Attic (everyone’s favorite Seattle music label), this album represents a wide survey of this formerly underground musical genre from its noncommercial heyday. I think what is great about this collection is the variety of music that falls under this umbrella: harmonic harp compositions follow spacey electronic drone, and are matched with dreamy spirit-channeled music, and this paired with a track composed using mathematical algorithms. Highly recommended.
Shakuhachi Flute Meditations (Zen Music to Calm the Mind) by Riley Lee
It is amazing to hear the variety of tones that a skilled musician like Riley Lee can conjure from a Shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute). Lee is credited as the only non-Japanese master of the instrument and he has definitely earned his place among the greats. This album weaves layered tones into an organic rhythmic composition; great music for meditation or to set a mellow mood; pairs well with a sushi feast!
And if Japanese flute is your jam, you can check out more music by Riley Lee from Denver Public Library’s catalog.
Your Best Music for Sleep by Steven Halpern
The Grammy Award winning musician Steven Halpern is widely considered one of the founding fathers of the New Age genre, with a musical catalog going back to 1975. This album is billed as designed to relax the body and quiet the mind, so that one can, “drift off to sleep at the speed of sound.” The music itself is gently rhythmic, with a lot of left-right audio channel shifting; psychedelic and almost too much so: one night as I lay in bed listening with headphones I thought “this is way too busy for me to fall to sleep to…” But looking back, I think I was already dreaming, having fallen asleep without realizing it. As you might have guessed, this album isn’t strong on musicality; It wasn’t made to be listened to as music so much as designed to drop a person into sleep. But it does this much well. Not recommended for long haul truckers and road-trippers; pairs well with chamomile tea.
For a wider selection of music by Steven Halpern you can check the library’s catalog.
The Long Night by Steve Roach and Kelly David
Steve Roach has been busily producing ambient electronic since 1982, with a lot of it released over the years on the Goth/Darkwave/Dreampop record label Projekt. Roach’s composition on this album is impressively orchestrated, I’d describe it as being richly cinematic, subliminally layered, with a dose of psychedelic dream logic. Of the albums I listened to for this review, The Long Night is by far the most compelling; I’ve given it a number of listens and so far hasn’t failed to layer on another surprise.
If you find yourself wanting to explore more by Steve Roach, follow this link down the rabbit hole.
Enjoy folks, and remember to take some time out to relax. I think we’ve all earned it!