There was a time in the late 60s when the drugs no longer worked. When the utopian hippies of the 'Summer of Love' became disillusioned with the integration of their culture into the mainstream. When the commercialization of the psychedelic movement threatened to topple the cornerstone. And when the general realities of growing up, getting a job, and raising a family took hold. However, all was not lost. Following the relatively short lived musical slump of the post-psych/pre-disco early 70s, a new genre was spawned out of the ashes of the psychedelic movement. New Age.
Constructed from the kosmiche building blocks of German musicians like Klaus Schulze and Ash Ra Tempel, and linked with a message espousing the unlimited potential of the infinite man, the music caught fire amongst those still grasping for new experiences, new vistas, and new sounds - no drugs needed. Initially sold through independent channels like health-food stores, festivals, and metaphysical book shops, the genre continued to grow until big-box record stores like Tower in Mountain View, California began adding entire New Age sections to their racks and major labels like Geffen came calling.
From the get-go, the intention of the genre was more about effect or feeling as opposed to the actual instruments used, melodies, or styles. It was meant to put the listener in a relaxed, or meditative state. And it worked. For a almost two decades, pioneers of the zeitgeist like Iasos, Vangelis, Steven Halpern, Ashra, Brian Eno, and Emerald Web released incredibly original, chakra-aligning beatific albums - selling hundreds of thousands of copies around the world in the process.
Then, sometime around the mid-90s, the tides turned to the worse for the genre. In addition to cultural shifts in taste, cheaper music technology allowed a whole range of aspiring amateurs with little musical insight to flood the market with what became commonly known as "massage parlour" music, "Enya sounds" - or even more awful names. With the genre's currency devalued and often ridiculed, the New Age movement faded to the bargain bins of memory amongst the music connoisseurs of the world.
And while the genre still enjoyed healthy success within niche communities, it no longer was the mighty juggernaut of it's youth. In recent years, however, strange phenomenon have been witnessed within underground pop culture, and the pendulum seems to be rocking back in favor of the crystal sounds of yesteryear. The breathy, hypnotic chords, arpeggiated basslines and reverb soaked aesthetics native to the genre have slowly crept back into the contemporary musical fabric through artists like see Oneohtrix Point Never, Hype Williams, the Not Not Fun label, and astoundingly, Lil B. Something is definitely in the water. We talked to the man largely credited with pioneering the New Age musical movement in the US, Iasos, about the genre, and he offered some insights into what that "something" may be...
After moving from Greece to the US, I was enrolled in college at Cornell University, and I kept changing majors. After my third year there, I realized all my creativity was in music and I should make that my career, although I figured I’m in the middle of this schooling, so I’ll finish. I graduated with a BA in cultural anthropology, and I got a wonderful postgraduate scholarship, but I passed it all up because I wanted to work on music. So when I graduated from Cornell, I made a paper airplane out of my diploma, threw it out the window, and moved to California to work on music. That was in 1968. I initially moved to Berkley, then Marin County. I moved there because it was the hotbed of the psychedelic movement, and I figured that’s where the new sounds were. I kept on starting different bands, but I also kept having extreme failures with them, because the tendency of all the other musicians in the band would always tend to bring it towards conventional, normal, Earth music. I was hearing in my mind something totally unique and different, and I was trying to do it differently, so I had miserable frustration and failure working with bands. For instance, in the band we would be doing one of my pieces which was really far out, and I’d have to take a break to go to the bathroom, and when I came back the band would be playing conventional Earth music. It was really frustrating. So, at a certain point, one of my friends suggested to me, “why don’t you create the music yourself using a multi-track tape recorder?” As soon as I implemented that idea, bam, my career took off right away. I didn’t have to compromise with anyone; I could just manifest the inner visions in my head. I didn’t have to make it even close to conventional music. That’s when my career really took off. This was around 71-72.
Years earlier, I was hearing paradise music in my mind and I had no idea where it was coming from initially. It was wonderful music, and I thought, “Gee, if I could create this, I bet a lot of people would like it, not everybody, but a lot of people!” It felt like paradise music, but now I call it Inter-Dimensional music. It was not only unusual music, it was unusual sounds - although synthesizers didn’t exist yet. I wasn’t hearing trumpets and violins, I was hearing really strange sounds. I had no idea how to create them, but a big booming voice spoke to me and said, “YOU CAN DO THIS!” You know, a big booming voice with a lot of reverb. Haha! I trusted it and went for it.
There was a time in the late 60s when the drugs no longer worked.
In 1975, Steven Halpern released ‘Spectrum Suite’, and I released ‘Inter-Dimensional Music’, and those two albums began the genre of new age music. Actually, my electric flute playing was on a little bit of Steven’s album, so I was on both really. Haha!
When the record came out, I would go to new age festivals, which were a new thing then, and practically every booth would be playing my album. Because, at that time, there were only two new age albums to sell, ‘Spectrum Suite’ and ‘Inter-Dimensional Music.’ Ha! Before I had a company to produce this record, I was going around to the conventional record companies, and all they understand is previously established success formulas - they can’t foresee a new success formula. For example when Zappa went to all the big companies, they told him, “absolutely no commercial potential whatsoever.” Hah! When I took it to Columbia records in San Francisco, they listened to it and said, “Where’s the lyrics, where’s the catch, where’s the beat?” They didn’t get it at all!
It’s kind of funny, but when I was telling people I wanted to create a whole new kind of music, they said, “Is it jazz?”
“Is it pop?”
“Well what is it?”
“It’s a new kind of music.”
“It can’t be a new kind of music. All kinds of music already exist.”
They thought it had to fall into some pre-existing genre. They couldn’t picture it.
Here’s the deal, for a few years I was hearing paradise music in my mind, and I was hearing it telepathically. I didn’t know where it was coming from. It sounded heavenly, sounded wonderful, and it melted my heart. I knew it would be spiritually uplifting for a lot of people if I could externalize it and manifest it so other people could hear it. Then at a certain point, I had a spiritual teacher who told me about automatic writing. So you would have a paper in front of you and close your eyes. You simply started writing whatever is in your mind, and before you know it, you have a message from some spiritual being. Whenever I would do that, I wouldn’t see these beings, but I would sense the unique personality of each one of them. Well, one day the teacher said to me, you will now write with “Vista”.” So I started writing with Vista, and at a certain point I sensed his personality, and as soon as that happened, BLAM, there was instant memory recognition! I got a whole download in an instant. And what the download was, was that Vista and I had made an agreement to work together before I was born. The agreement was: I’m going to incarnate on planet earth, I’m going to get competent with music and music gear, he’s going to transmit music ideas to me and I’m going to do my best to receive them, manifest them, and get them out there publicly. And the point of the whole thing was not fame and fortune, the point of the whole thing is that our planet is now going through a tremendous vibrational upshift. It’s quite historic even by galactic standards. There are very few cases in galactic history where a planet goes through so fast a spiritual evolution in such a short period of time as what is happening right now on planet earth. So, the whole point of all this music was to facilitate and help people go through the vibrational upshift by helping them raise their vibrations, so they could continue with the planet and they don’t have to die and end up on some planet with lower vibrations. So they could stay with the planet as it’s going up in frequency, because it is definitely going up. Either you vibrate with it, or you go somewhere else. So the whole point of it, was to facilitate the process - to help people raise their vibrations. So that’s the spiritual motivation and intention behind the music.
When I recognized this being Vista, it instantly released a tremendous amount of love from me to him. It felt like a waterfall of love. And I loved him the way a younger brother would love an older brother, just totally look up to him. He’s a magnificent being; he’s a very high up being in terms of the music of the spheres. He’s like a river of cosmic music. He’s just a tremendous being, and so, I just love the guy! And by working with him, his influences are rubbing off on me. They don’t call him Vista for nothing, because a lot of it was visual inspiration. I don’t know if you’re familiar with my DVD “Realms of Light”? If you get that, you’ll see the visual aspect of him, because from Vista’s point of you, this is how it works – music doesn’t have any built in obligations or roles, but it is capable of producing divine emotions, meaning high frequency pure emotions. Visuals are capable of inducing divine thought forms. When music and visuals are working together synchronistically and synergistically, their combined influence can ignite a state of higher consciousness. It can pop a person into a state of higher awareness. So the whole point of Vista is not just music. It’s music and visuals working together as a team. There is no message; it’s just concentrated beauty patterns. Well what for? Because beauty has the effect of raising wellbeing. It’s emotionally uplifting, mentally stimulating, spiritually inspiring, and healing on the body. Beauty is healing because love is the cause, beauty is the effect. Beauty is the cause, and healing is the effect. Beauty is healing because it’s caused by love. Haha! Love is healing. When you’re afraid you get uptight; when you feel love it opens up your energy systems. That’s the spiritual intent behind my music and visuals.
For thousands of years, there have been a lot of dark forces that have basically been in control of the planet. Right now it’s switching over to where they are losing power and control, and pretty soon the Federal Reserve will be down. The bad guys are losing control of the planet; the good guys are coming in. In another two years, the planet will be a lot more harmonious. Well the bad guys, they control government, they control media, they control military, and they control the entertainment industry. And they get off on producing fear, because fear facilities them being in control. So they do everything they can to put out TV shows, movies and music that promote negativity, harshness, fear, and meanness of spirit. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum, where I’m doing everything I can to put out uplifting, beautiful, positive, harmonious energies.
Basically, each musician puts out where he’s at… In other words, a musician is a merchant. He’s not selling music, he’s selling emotions served on a platter of sound. In my case I’m a merchant selling ecstatic emotions served through sound. So, if a person is feeling a lot of rage in their being, they might put out heavy metal. So those people that enjoy feeling rage (because it’s confirming the emotion they have inside them anyway) are going to love heavy metal. It boils down to frequency matching; whatever you basically feel all the time or would like to feel - you gravitate towards that style of music. So people that like feeling love, harmony, and ecstatic feelings tend to like what I do. People that love feeling rage, sadness, or anger - they’re not going to resonate with what I do at all. They’re going to gravitate towards other stuff…
The planets frequencies are going up at a tremendous rate. A really high, phenomenal rate. We’ve become a tourist attraction on a galactic level. There are civilizations from all over the galaxy that are coming here to sociologically observe this fascinating transition that our planet is going through because, I won’t say it’s unheard of, but it’s practically unheard of, for a planet to be raising it’s frequency so fast in so few years… It’s just unheard of. Something is occurring, yes!
The public at large is become extremely more aware – it’s happening all over the planet. Not only people, but also it’s happening to animals, it’s happening to plants, it’s happening to everything. For example, on YouTube you see that video of an elephant from Thailand painting a self portrait! Animals are getting more conscious. Everything is raising consciousness including angels, elementals, fairies, humans, plants, animals, rocks, minerals – everything is raising in frequency. And those people who want to use their free will and say, “No, I’m not going up, I’m staying where I am.” That’s fine. The Infinite Creator honors them and says, “No problem. We’ll find a planet that’s just right for you so you can maintain that low vibration for just as long as you darn well please.”
Think of a picture of Mount Fujiyama. Imagine that being a graph. It starts slowly, and goes higher and higher, then it peaks and goes back down again. You can think of that graph as the rate of acceleration our planet is going through, and the peak being roughly 2012 (plus or minus 10 to 15 years). So right now, we are right near the peak. Right now the evolution is happening really fast. Look at all the Middle Eastern countries not putting up with the dictatorial control anymore. It’s happening all over the planet. There are a lot of people breaking free and claiming their sovereignty. Pretty soon there will be a change in the governments around the world, a change in the financial system around the world, and pretty soon there will be public disclosure that aliens are here, and for the most part, they are very beneficent and want to help us like our brothers. It’s profound changes that are affecting the entire planet. It’s by divine decree, and there are a lot of beings coming here to help. There are also a lot of beings coming here to watch it happen because it’s so sociologically fascinating to watch a civilization shift as fast as we are. We are the courageous souls that chose to incarnate on earth at this time, knowing in advance that when we chose to incarnate, we would be watching a historical event by being right smack dab in the middle of it. We knew that when we incarnated. We are the courageous one who chose to take that wild roller coaster ride.
When I was doing my stuff at first, I was mainly using electronic effects on acoustic instruments. I was using slide guitars with feedback loops, and using non-distortion feedback. I was running sounds through compressors, into a volume pedal, into an Echoplex, and that was going to a speaker for feedback. So I would pluck a string when the volume was off, and while strings were vibrating, I would turn down the pedal so it swells in and echoes. While it’s echoing, I turn the volume pedal off and can make the next sound, so there is continuous sound.
When synthesizers first came out, I wasn’t interested in them, because I couldn’t stand the way they sounded. It was very cold, sterile, inorganic, didn’t turn me on at all. And then the RMI Keyboard Computer came out, and I was fascinated because it had these old fashioned computer punch cards with holes in them. And it reads the numbers, and each of those numbers created a wave shape. Based on 32 numbers you’d get the first ¼ of a wave shape; if you get the first ¼, then it would reflect that to make the second ¼, then it would be negative for the 3rd ¼, and reflect that for the 4th ¼.
For melody work, I use an ARP Pro DGX; a monophonic instrument that I still use in concerts. It’s basically a digital control of an analog oscillator. Because it’s analog, it has a warmth that really connects with your heart. I call that instrument the “Heart Flame.” It has the most perfect implementation of portamento; you couldn’t ask for better. And it has the best pressure sensitivity.
I also have a Yamaha DX-7. I have a whole library of sounds I created myself for the DX-7, which I’m very proud of. But now, it’s mostly just software instruments that I use. I’m just now getting up to speed with all these modern synthesizers, and logging all the thousands of sounds that I might be interested in using for my next album.
Music technology has become progressively more abstract. First it was physical instruments like a violin, or a mandolin, or a cello or flute. Then it became electronic keyboards, like a Rhodes electronic piano. Then it became even more abstract, where it was a synthesizer, and the keyboard doesn’t generate any sound acoustically at all, but it puts out an electronic signal, which goes through a speaker to hear a sound. Then it became even more abstract where it’s a box that is a module, and if you play a MIDI keyboard somewhere else, that MIDI keyboard can trigger sounds in the box. Then it became even more abstract where you don’t even have a box which receives MIDI note information, it’s all software in the computer, where it transmits sounds after going through soundcard and an amplifier and speaker.
You know what I do sometimes? I get a kick out of this. Sometimes, you know, when you’re conscious while your sleeping, you can travel to other dimensions and other places. Sometimes you can steer in advance where you’re going to end up by putting out an intention just before you fall asleep. So, sometimes I put out an intention to travel to other planets to explore their version of music, just to stretch my own sense of what music can be, rather than be limited to Earth’s idea of music.
I’m jealous of some of these Music Masters that exist on higher dimensions, because they don’t have to carry equipment around. Let me give you a scenario, because these kinds of scenarios happen... On the realms of the Ascended Masters, there might be an amphitheater where everybody is coming to experience a concert from just ONE musician – a Music Master. These amphitheaters are huge; they have enough space for 350,000 souls. These amphitheaters are so high consciousness, that when you first enter them, they have high consciousness plants at the gate that you walk past, or float past (you don’t necessarily have to walk, you can float if you like) and as you walk by, they telepathically tune into your consciousness and telepathically figure out what your favorite fragrance is. They quickly produce that fragrance, and as you walk past, they blast you with your most favorite fragrance. Then you walk into the amphitheater and sit on benches made of moss. As soon as you sit on the moss, the moss releases more wonderful fragrances. There are beings there of all different sizes - humans, elementals, fairies, angels, archangels, and Ascended Masters. Different beings, all sizes and shapes. Then there is a hushed silence and the Music Master walks in. Just one person, no equipment at all. He stands at the focal point of the theatre… And then he transmits the entire symphony from his third eye! And they all hear it. And they hear it not just as sound, but they hear it as color, as emotion, as fragrance, and a few other senses that we don’t have here on Earth. He doesn’t have to carry any sound equipment; he projects it all from his third eye! And there in the amphitheater, everyone is enraptured. They’re spellbound. They’re spellbound by just what this one Music Master can produce – just from his third eye! So, that’s where we are headed, to hop many generations forward. Everything is getting more telepathic. What do you need equipment for?
New Age music has the intention to harmonize a person, to raise their frequency, raise their awareness, help them connect to celestial realms, help them connect to love - universal love. If you’re not vibrating on a higher frequency, you’re not in tune with that music. But now that the planet’s frequency is going up, the masses are slowly raising in frequency, which means more and more people are getting into the frequency range where they can appreciate New Age music. So I’m having a gradually increasing audience of people that appreciate what I do. That’s my understanding of why I’m getting more downloads of my music than I was years ago.
Each of us as an incarnation is a projection of our higher self. Once you are incarnated, you’re in a time/space matrix where you experience linear time – past, present, future. But our higher self is outside time. There is only the Eternal Now. So from the point of view of yourself, there are previous incarnations and future incarnations, but from the point of view of you higher self, it’s all happening right now. The you that you were 2000 years ago in ancient Egypt is happening right now. The you that are you 4000 years from now on Alpha Centauri is happening right now. That’s hard for the finite mind to comprehend, but so what? The infinite mind doesn’t care if the finite mind has trouble understanding; it’s not going to limit it’s creating to what a finite mind can understand, just like we don’t limit our operas to what a worm can understand. Likewise, the infinite mind is creating its infinity. Part of that is simultaneous time – the eternal now – it’s all happening right now.
Here’s the funny thing about music. An architect creates forms in space. I think of a musician as a time architect. I create forms in time. But the irony of that is that time is an illusion! How’s that for irony?
Iasos is busy performing for audiences around the globe, releasing records, and creating visual DVDs to accompany his music. For more info, visit his website. James Pants is still buying new age records and listening to them after dinner.