January 2012

Gregorian Chant

"Old Age" Meditation Music

Gregorian Chant is not New Age music, but it's usually sold in the New Age section. Why is that? Because it shares certain features in common with New Age music and is usually marketed to the same market.


Gregorian Chant is actually the oldest surviving form of Western music. It's a type of “plainsong” or “plainchant,” which means that any given chant has only a single, simple melody. These chants were created as liturgical music for the medieval Church, and they still have a quality of timeless, almost eerie spiritual presence. Most people find them profoundly relaxing, though- the eerie quality I mentioned is very subtle.

Spiritual Materialism In New Age Music

The Illusion of "Enlightenment Technology"


According to the website for Bliss Music:


“We have taken one of the most ancient and proven eastern secrets to meditation (Shaktipat) and turned it into a powerful sound technology.


So when you listen to the meditation music, you can actually feel the peace washing through you, enabling you to experience states of meditation you may not have been able to attain in decades of practice.”


This is a fairly typical marriage of New Age music with New Age thought, but despite the genuine beauty of much New Age music, it suffers from one of the central weaknesses of New Age thought. That weakness is “spiritual materialism.”

Moments In Space

Space Music and Fractals

Fractals are odd geometric shapes that can be broken up into smaller pieces, each of which looks the same as the full-sized piece. This happens for complex mathematical reasons that are way, way over my head. Math has never been my strong suit. Anyway, fractals interest a lot of people for a lot of reasons. They're mathematically interesting, if you're into that sort of thing. They're aesthetically interesting, because the shapes are often compelling to look at. And they occur naturally, which is kind of neat.

Cultural Colonialism

A Problem For The New Age

What is cultural colonialism or cultural imperialism? It's the equivalent of regular colonialism in the realm of ideas. Just as colonial rulers strip the material assets of the conquered country for their own benefit, cultural colonialists exploit the spirituality, art, music and other cultural expressions of the culture they target. Cultural colonialism is often the final stage in the process of ethnocide, the murder of one culture by another.

Peruvian Pan-Pipe Players

They're Pandemic!

I first became aware of the Peruvian pan-pipe players when I lived and worked in Boston. There were always musicians in the Boston subways, and one bunch in particular stood out. They were a Peruvian band who played on these pan pipe instruments, with a few drums in the background. The music was haunting, yet soothing. I always enjoyed running into those guys on the subway platform.