Dawn of a New Age

in Daily Programme, Radio Riel Main

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 11 August, 2018

Dawn of a New Age

Today we’re taking you back to the late 1980s with a programme of music generally described as “New Age” – of the kind you might have heard on a couple of FM radio stations in California at the time.

New Age music came to the fore in the mid‐1980s, paralleling the rise of labels like Windham Hill, with radio stations like Metromedia’s KTWV in Los Angeles and KLRS in Santa Cruz. Ultimately the field (or at least the radio stations) morphed into “Smooth Jazz” – which perhaps had a rather broader appeal but at the same time rather lost the uniqueness and spirit that had originally typified the stations’ music.

Wikipedia says of KTWV, “The station changed [from rock station KMET after 14 February 1987] to a New Age Music/Soft Rock/Contemporary Jazz format with the nickname ‘The Wave’. The initial focus of this new format was primarily non‐vocal new age music but over the years, the station moved to more of a smooth jazz sound. …The Wave had the title of being the first NAC station in the country but other media writers disagree with actually giving that title to KLRS (Colors) in Santa Cruz, CA which went on the air one month after The Wave – but KLRS played a true New Age music format thus becoming the first station in North America to debut a true New Age format until its demise in 1990.”

Today’s programme includes primarily (but not exclusively) the kind of music and artists that you might have heard on KTWV during a day in the second half of the 1980s when, in the view of many listeners from that time, it was at its best. It includes some of the station’s Wave Aid AIDS charity fundraising albums and a wide range of artists from the period.


Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. If you are in the United States or Canada, please click here to launch the Stream Licensing player. 

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*As an experiment today, we are broadcasting with an enhanced bit rate — 320kb/s instead of the 128 we’ve been using for the past decade. This should provide higher audio quality, yet with the general increase in available bandwidth over the past few years this should have no impact on your ability to listen. Let us know what you think.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bookworm August 11, 2018 at 11:39

Oh, this takes me back.

There were syndicated programs that featured new age music that started before the radio stations you mention, including the very popular 'Heart of Space,' which played on a number of public radio stations, and one called 'Soundscapes,' which is the one that introduced me to new age music.

At that time, I had a clock-radio with a built-in cassette tape player and recorder. So when Soundscapes was on, I'd be sitting on my bed, hunched over the radio, hitting 'record' at the start of every song. I had about a minute to decide if I liked it or not - if I didn't, I had time to stop recording, rewind back, and find the end of the last song so I could be ready for the next piece of music. I filled almost a dozen long-play cassette tapes that way, and since I recorded the announcements of what the songs were, I could keep track of what I had, and even devised a rating system, so I could determine which artists I liked best.

That came in handy when I finally starting having enough money from my allowance and chores to start buying released cassettes. First one I ever bought was 'Out of Silence' by Yanni. Soundscapes also introduced me to Tangerine Dream, Kitaro, Enya ("Before she was cool!" yells my inner hipster new-ager *grin*), and Checkfield. (Love, love, *love* Checkfield!)

Much as I like streaming services now, they somehow don't capture that sense of true exploration I had in the mid- to late-80s.

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Elrik Merlin August 11, 2018 at 14:22

I recall "Hearts Of Space" as being rather more "space music" - like Constance Demby for example - rather than "New Age" per se; but certainly those programmes pre-dated the dedicated radio stations (of which KLRS in Santa Cruz was, I think, the first).

I'm also a fan of Checkfield and you'll hear a few tracks from Distant Thunder in the mix today.

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