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. 

To lis­ten from out­side North Amer­i­ca, click here to start your play­er if your brows­er is set up to pass streams to an exter­nal play­er. 

You can also lis­ten via TuneIn, either with their web site or via the TuneIn App.

*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 Responses to “Dawn of a New Age”

  1. Bookworm says:

    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.

    • Elrik Merlin says:

      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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