It's so hard to find a concrete definition of the term "new age music" that even some of its best-known practitioners won't give it a try.
"New age" is a generic term of convenience for a thoughtful, deliberate and eclectic type of music that ranges from the acoustic to the computer-generated. It combines influences from many eras and cultures.
People don't so much define it, as describe it.
But however you treat it, some of the music's top performers will be performing at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis at 8 p.m.
FOR THE RECORD - The date for the upcoming Winter Solstice concert of selected Windham Hill recording artists was listed incorrectly in yesterday's "Datebook" section and in a story in Sunday's Anne Arundel County Sun.
The correct date for the concert, which will feature soloists Philip Aaberg and Liz Story and the group Nightnoise, is 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Tickets are $18.
Information: 263-5544, 269-1087 or 261-1553.
The Anne Arundel County Sun regrets the errors.
Sunday, Nov. 24.
The visit, which includes solo performers Philip Aaberg, Liz Story and the Irish-American group Nightnoise, is part of the Windham Hill label's current 40-city "Winter Solstice" concert tour.
The tour will showcase the performers in solo, duet and ensemble settings. They will perform selections from Story's album "Escape of the Circus Ponies" and Nightnoise's "The Parting Tide," both newly released works, and samples of Aaberg's work.
This is the second national tour of selected Windham Hill musicians. It follows both a successful 1989 trip and gold records for their two previous "Winter Solstice" albums. The third record has just been released.
Film and television composer Carol Nethen of Annapolis, who released her own album, "A View from the Bridge," on the Narada label last year, calls new age music the "medium where both the composer and the new technology can shine."
Nethen used a computer-based system, along with music-composing software, to compose her album and other works. She said that people "would be surprised at what can be done on the computer that can't be done on the piano."
Hammered dulcimer and traditional music authority Maggie Sansone of Eastport seems to have been drafted into the new age category, for the convenience of the marketing side.
She explained that her five independently produced records of traditional, folk, Renaissance and Medieval music tend to be advertised in new age music catalogs because of the delicate, peaceful and sometimes ethereal sounds the hammered dulcimer can evoke.
Pianist and composer Philip Aaberg, originally from Colorado, claims descent from a long line of church musicians in Alsace-Lorraine.
He has four albums on the Windham Hill label, another one for a store chain called The Nature Company, and has done session work for a number of other recording artists.
Aaberg says the new age term was "invented by some people to let other people know where it is in the marketplace. It's a very People magazine and Time magazine approach that I reject utterly."
"I consider classifications harmful and dangerous," he added. "They're not conducive to real understanding. It's better to go and find out about the music for yourself."
But, said the composer, for those who at least find the term convenient, new age music is an iconoclastic form "evolving from people who are constantly creating, an awakening of consciousness and awareness that we are all a part of one world, and we're not going to do any better until we realize this."
Aaberg has performed regionally in Norfolk and Baltimore, but this will be his first visit to Annapolis.
"I've been all around the Chesapeake Bay," said the environmentally active performer, who supports his convictions with frequent benefit concerts. "You have some great natural features here."
Nightnoise member Troina Ni Dhomhnaill (pronounced Trina NiDonnell), is more simple and direct. "I don't know what new age music is," she said.
Nightnoise grew out of a studio collaboration between Micheal O Dhomhnaill (pronounced Meehal O'Donnell, Troina's brother) and violinist Billy Oskay of New York, which eventually expanded to include Dublin-born flutist Brian Dunning for live performances.
"Our music is a mix of influences from what we've all been listening to since we began playing," including classical, jazz and traditional Irish music," Troina Ni Dhomhnaill said. "Basically, we just set out to play music -- period. Whatever comes out is the best that we can do."
Arizona-based Pianist and composer Liz Story once actively rebelled at the classification, which she found confining.
She described the term as "a kind of marketing device that came along around 1984 for music that doesn't really fit any category. It's become a bogus term, loaded with a lot of baggage that really doesn't refer to anything I'm doing."
Story, whose music recalls the fluid expression of Chick Corea combined with Thelonius Monk's economy of notes, prefers to describe what she does purely as "solo piano music. It's a simple, clear term."
"I'd prefer that people just listen to the music and react to that," she said, "and not be so fussy about what to call it."
At one point, Story, who has spent most of her career with the Windham Hill label, said she found the term so confining that she had to leave. But the term stayed with her, so she returned to Windham Hill.
Now, when the new age term crops up, "I ignore it. I'm just glad to be able to go out and play my music.
The Winter Solstice Concert, sponsored by American Airlines, is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Constitution Avenue and Greenfield Street. Tickets for reserved seats are $18, and can be purchased at the Maryland Hall box office on weekdays from noon to 4 p.m. Information: 263-5544, 269-1087 or (301) 261-1553.