“I Am the Center” – Private Issue New Age Music in America, 1950-1990 – DE HARTMANN, IASOS, HALPERN, SLEPIAN, STEARNS, LARKIN & Others – Light in the Attic (2 CDs)

by | Jan 23, 2014 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

“I Am the Center” – Private Issue New Age Music in America, 1950-1990 – Selections of GURDJIEFF/DE HARTMANN, LAUGHTON, CRAIN, BURCHETTE, IASOS, HALPERN, ANDREWS, DEMBY, EMMANUEL, SLEPIAN, LARAAJI, DAVISON, BROCK, STEARNS, AEOLIAH, KOBIALKA, LARKIN, TRIPP, BANNING & DAMON  [TrackList follows] – Light in the Attic LITA 107 (2 CDs) [10/29/13] *****:

Many years ago I reviewed audiocassettes for a now-defunct audio publication, and some of them were New Age music from local artists of Marin County, California. I knew or reviewed music from several of the above artists, and since I have been out of the New Age area for some years, it is pleasurable to have this first major anthology of the so-called golden age of New Age, and also the fact that it was done in a handmade manner, locally and with limited means and little commercial potential. These creators were in a way the forerunners of today’s many jazz and classical artists who record, produce and distribute their own recordings since the major labels won’t even speak to them. (And of the small alternate rock and hip-hop labels who are distributing their music only on audiocassette again, although most of these also offered CDs when that format became popular.

This was before the New Age, and its descent into a mostly retro, superficial prettiness thing has became big business. One online listener points out that at this time New Age had much more going for it than if someone today is only listening to Enya and Kitaro. Another calls it “New Age music for fans of experimental music,” and I think that places it most accurately. Constance Demby said “A musician sources that primeval, eternal sound, and it comes out as music.”  Those who were or are fans of Stephen Hill’s long-running (and still running) independent NPR series Music from the Hearts of Space will love this collection. (Stephen helped me get started distributing my program Audiophile Audition nationally for over 13 years.)

You may have previously heard of or heard the music of a few of the artists in this collection, such as Steven Halpern, or the piano music of the philosopher/guru Gurdjieff, as realized by Thomas de Hartmann (which opens the first CD). The thorough 44-page booklet with the album has a page of notes and a photo of each of the creators of this music, and helps to detail these musical-archaeological explorations, which were part of the movement of psychedelic music of the period. I have some of these and other selections on open-reel tapes directly from the composers, and I’ll always recall Iasos’ statement that the music came “thru him,” not “from him.” This is wonderful background music, but it can be much more than that as well. Some of it also illustrates my idea that the early synthesizers and the earlier musique concrete often achieved a greater emotional feeling in the music than the advanced electronic gear that is used today.

Perhaps these excerpts will stimulate some listeners to explore and purchase other albums from some these artists, and to imagine the creation of these sounds (as the note booklet says) in a “world before ubiquitous technological connectivity.”


1. The Struggle of The Magicians, Part Three – Gurdjieff / de Hartmann
2. Pompeii 76 A.D. – Gail Laughton
3. Gongs In The Rain – Nesta Kerin Crain
4. Witch’s Will – Wilburn Burchette
5. Iasos – Formentera Sunset Clouds
6. Seventh Chakra Keynote B (violet) – Steven Halpern
7. Seraphic Borealis – Joel Andrews
8. Om Mani Padme Hum – Constance Demby
9. Arabian Fantasy – Daniel Emmanuel
10. Awakening (excerpt) – Don Slepian
11. Unicorns In Paradise (excerpt) – Laraaji
12. Glide V – Peter Davison
13. Lifting Off – Joanna Brouk
14. As The Earth Kissed The Moon (excerpt) – Michael Stearns
15. Tien Fu: Heaven’s Gate (excerpt) – Aeoliah
16. Blue Spirals – Daniel Kobialka
17. Two Souls Dance – Larkin
18. Li Sun – Judith Tripp
19. Lunar Eclipse (excerpt) – Mark Banning
20. Waterfall Winds – Alice Damon

—John Sunier

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