Friday Favorites 1/3/2014
You can trace the history of my tastes in music in vinyl, in the rpm of something we old folks called records, in hi-fi but inconvenient reel-to-reel tapes and a relatively lo-fi but convenient recording medium known as cassettes, and in bright shiny CDs (Nope, no eight-tracks for Older Eyes). These days, most of my music resides in the Music folder on my PC, smartphone and tablet in the form of mp3 and wmv files. You’d find a very eclectic assortment of music, including: rock and roll oldies (that weren’t old when I collected them); Motown soul; classic rock (that wasn’t classic when I collected it); standards by a variety of vocalists: a lot of jazz (smooth jazz and what jazz snobs call real jazz); rhythm and blues; and classical (from full orchestral to chamber music to opera). There’s some really old folk (not old folk’s) music like the Kingston Trio and an odd assortment of country (mostly by female vocalists). Perhaps the oddity in this stew of genre and recording media stew is a few years of New Age music.
Wikipedia defines New Age music as downtempo music intended to create artistic inspiration, relaxation, and optimism. It is used by listeners for yoga, massage, meditation, and reading as a method of stress management or to create a peaceful atmosphere in their home or other environments, and is often associated with environmentalism and New Age spirituality. Yes, that was all true for me in what I like to call my New Age period, when I was searching for myself (and eventually found I was exactly who I am). But not at first. It started when a friend at work showed up with a recording on the new Windham Hill label by a guitarist by the name of Will Ackerman. Although the music was quiet and relaxing, it was also highly improvisational, so I thought it was just quiet jazz. How was I to know I was at the forefront of a musical movement that would eventually be looked down upon by serious music listeners? In my arrogant forties, I regarded myself as one of those and had I known, I probably would have avoided Mr. Ackerman and Windham Hill like a low-brow plague. Instead, I found quite a bit of music I still love. You can call that open-minded by accident if you want.
William Ackerman is a self-professed poet and guitarist who founded Windham Hills records, one of the best known purveyors of New Age Recordings. His music is usually solo guitar and features non-standard tunings in which one or more strings of the guitar are tunes differently that in standard tunings. Such tunings allow certain notes to be played without fretting, giving them a purer sound. As the producer of Windham Hills Records, he discovered such artists as Liz Story, Alex de Grassi, and George Winston, who became the labels biggest seller. The Bricklayer’s Beautiful Daughter is typical of the tone and tempo of Ackeman’s music:
Another discovery of Ackeman’s is guitarist Micheal Hedges, whom Ackerman refers to as the guitarist from another planet. See of you don’t agree in this beautiful performance of Ackerman’s Hawk Circle.
Yup. William Ackerman’s my first Friday Favorite of 2014. Enjoy (you can find more of his work on YouTube).