In the summer of 1988, I was 12 years old and attending my first summer school session at Duke University through the TIP program. It was my first experience with any kind of magnet program, and I even crafted a new nickname for myself. (Which means that nobody there will be able to find me now, as “Ella Glantzberg” has no existence in the social media.) I met so many amazing people and encountered many new things, even just through my roommates. My first roommate was a dancer, with waist-length hair that she kept in a braid. I was always fascinated with long hair, and would watch her brush it out, braid it, then coil it into a bun every morning. My memory of that bun prompted some of my own hairstyles for keeping my hair up after I had kids.
In 1989, my second roommate introduced me to a song called Celestial Soda Pop by Ray Lynch.
She had a copy of this song on a cassette. It was only this song, there was nothing else on the tape. I had never heard anything quite like it. I would listen to it constantly. Play, rewind, play, rewind, over and over. I loved it. When I went back home, I eventually found the song on a tape by Ray Lynch, and bought it. I would scour the music stores every time I went to the mall, looking for more music by the same artist. I eventually collected all of his albums on cassette. I discovered there was an entire section of music called “New Age,” and I found some other artists there, like Kitaro and Yanni. I would keep my walkman on at all times, listening to the wordless melodies while I read. The tinkling and flowing notes now form a permanent background to my first memories of things like Flatland, Discover, Heinlein, and Scientific American.
Those three artists in particular are still among my favorites. It’s hard to find music like that now. It seems to have been a brief period in music. Now, anything labeled “New Age” is more likely to be ambient or soundscape material. Music labeled “Electronica” is more suited to dance floors. Neither provides the happy, relaxed feeling of the bouncing notes and rhythms of the New Age music I grew up on. Every time some of that music comes up in my playlists, I get a smile on my face.