New Age Music Interview


Todd :

There are many perspectives held on New Age Music. Some see it as "yuppie elevator music," while others use it as the core to their meditation practices. How do you view the label "New Age Music?" Does it fit the music properly?

Shirley: 

The New Age Music category in the current music industry has many faces. Some feel it should only be music that helps you meditate. I feel New Age Music is now a title which tells the public that the music will most likely be easy to listen to and relaxing. It tends not to have vocals. It now can be synthesized ethereal sounds or simple piano or guitar playing. With that thought,…I feel the New Age Music title fits. Even though some CD's could be classified as "Instrumental", I think people tend to think of instrumental CD's as complicated or complex music where a New Age instrumental will be less complicated musically and more soothing.

Todd:

When, in your opinion, did New Age music begin and by whom was it started?

Shirley:

My guess it became popular in the 60's. I would visit http://www.allmusic.com for detail information on this. They break down the artist into decades, which will give some chronological information to add to your research paper. As to who started it? If you think commercially…I'm not sure. However, George Winston would be considered one of the earlier New Age pianists.

 

Todd:

When did you begin your musical career and what influenced you to produce the type of music you do?

Shirley:

I began playing the organ at age 4. Then I took piano, accordion, and drum lessons through my teenage years. I've been performing since I was around 7 My theater organ studies were on the "Big Theater Organ" compositions. My piano studies were more standard classical compositions. In school I was in the choir group which performed mostly classical pieces for the school concerts. Mr. Eckstein was our choir conductor. His musical theory teaching influenced my music greatly. My biography page at my web site will give you more detailed information if you would like to know more personal history.  My major artist influence is Barbra Streisand's orchestral arrangements. She has used the same musicians in her orchestra for years, which I think, give her creative staff the capabilities to create the wonderful arrangements that they do. I also love early Janis Ian when she was on Columbia Records. She used to have the most wonderful orchestrations for her songs.

 

My personal influence: I take something personal in my life or an event then try to think of the sounds I hear in my head that would express it. It's like painting a musical canvas. For example, on my next CD, "A SUMMER DREAM", I wrote a song titled "SPRINGTIME". I used light flutes and piano in the beginning to represent the beginning of Spring. The piece moves into a full orchestra to represent the full bloom of all the flowers that come up. I have a lot of flowers in my yard in the springtime and when they are all open.... It's like the whole yard is singing in full glory!!! A full orchestra really captures that for me.   But then the flowers slowly fade away…melting into summer…. So,.. I end the song with simple sweet piano and strings that reflect that mood for me. I hope that when people hear this song they can see these events in their minds, via the sounds. This style of music is considered cinematic.  You can see images in your mind through sound.

Todd:

What instruments do you primarily use in your music? What other types of instruments are used with New Age music?

Shirley:

I mainly use the Kurzweil 2500 keyboard. It has hundreds of sample sounds that I can choose to paint songs from. Twenty different pianos, tons of strings and drums, flutes, guitars and so on. It really gives me any sound I can dream of.   Other New Age artists play guitar, flute, harp or just piano. Artists like John Tesh and Yanni use a full orchestra. Jim Brickman play just  the piano but somtimes add vocals with simple string and band arrangements.

Todd:

Do you have a favorite composer/singer in the same music category as you and if so, who? Are you close friends or have you at least met this person?

Shirley:

I like Jim Brickman's music. I've seen him in concert, but have never met him.

Todd:

How would you describe the sounds/tones/rhythms of New Age music? Relaxing? Numbing?

Shirley:

I would describe the sounds/tones/rhythms of New Age Music as relaxing. Numbing?…no. Do you fall asleep sometime while listening to some New Age music?…yes! In the fast pace that society moves - people are finding New Age music a way to help them relax. I feel that people use music to create the environment around them that they need or want. For example: we play dance music at parties because it makes you want to dance and so forth. In the same breath…people play New Age Music to make a calm atmosphere. At dinner, after work. That's why I think it's becoming a popular genre.

Todd:

What are some of the inspirational aspects that helped you to decide and choose titles to your songs? Are there lyrics in your music or in any New Age music? How do you name a song without lyrics? Is it difficult? Does it take a long time?

Shirley:

My titles are picked by the main focus of the lyrics I write. (Like a title to a thesis paper.) Or if there are not any lyrics, then I try to pick a title that describes the story I am writing through sounds. (For example the title to the song SPRINGTIME.)

I write lyrics for about half of my songs. It gives the listeners thoughts to ponder about while they are listening to the music. I also write lyrics because a vocal artist might be interested in singing the song on their next CD. Jim Brickman writes lyrics for a few songs on his CD. In general, I would say a good portion of the CD's you will find in the New Age Music category do not have lyrics.

I always make sure that I do not pick an abstract title to my song. On my first CD, "Forever in Bloom", there is a song titled "Children's Play" that does not have lyrics. When you listen to this song you can feel the children playing by the sounds and melody line. The title compliments the music.

Is it difficult?…No….Does it take a long time? I never let time be a factor when I create, write or record in the studio. Some songs and their titles come quickly. Some have taken me over a year to complete! That's why it's art. I read how some artists panic when they can't write on demand. They call it writer's block. I have never worried about it. I'm lucky I quess.

 

Todd:

Do you normally have the titles chosen and compose a song to the title, or do you create the songs and come up with a title for it?

Shirley:

Sometimes a title comes to me and won't go away. For example…I have this title "Love at the movies". I do not have a melody for it yet, but I feel one. I imagine the song having beautiful strings and dreamy piano passages and romantic ethereal sounds in the backround. The title inspires me to want to write a song of what I think it would sound like if I was at the movies. Most of the time the lyrics or the title or theme comes to me first then the melodies. It's hard for me to think of lyrics in my head though without a melody. I do not hear them being spoken as a sentence but as a melody being spoken.

Todd:

Anyways, I hope I've given you enough questions to keep you occupied for a couple of hours. Once again, the sooner you return with the answers, the better. I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.

Thanks again.

Todd Ristvedt

 

Shirley:

Please feel free to send any other questions, thoughts or comments. I enjoyed answering them for you. ;-)

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