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The best spa music is the kind that puts you to sleep.

By Valli Herman IN COUNTLESS spa treatment rooms, therapists knead muscles and array rocks on chakras to the sound of tinkling chimes, muffled chants and meandering guitars. The person lying under the sheets likely will emerge from the treatment calm and relaxed, still smelling the scented massage lotions, but with virtually no recollection of the music wafting through the room. And some would say that's a blessing. One man's soothing soundtrack "performed using organic flutes" and "inspired by the power and magic of crystals" is another's didgeridoo torture. Ubiquitous, and striving to be inconspicuous, so-called spa music--perhaps the only genre that counts itself successful when it manages not to annoy--struggles for recognition, definition and, in the mainstream, respect. Millions know who tops the pop charts, but only the devoted can name the stars who show up in New Age Reporter, which tracks the Internet and radio airplay for the top 100 New Age, ambient or world music albums, or guess which collection of whale songs or harp electronica will appear on the Coalition of Visionary Resources' CD of the year. The best snapshot of the genre may be Billboard's New Age and world charts, which map a parallel universe where labels such as Malibu's Gemini Sun are major players. The fastest-growing and most significant spa music label in Southern California, Gemini Sun was founded six years ago by Nicholas Gunn, a classically trained platinum-selling flutist and former fashion model. For 55 weeks running, songs by Gemini Sun artists have been among the top 15 on Billboard's New Age chart, Gunn says. And the label's new release, "Echoes of Light and Shadow" by David Arkenstone, a three-time Grammy nominee, hit the No. 7 slot on the New Age Reporter chart earlier this month. "As crazy as it may seem," Gunn says with a hint of sarcasm, "there are people who actually care about this stuff." His brand of music, he adds, "is alive and well, but not in the mainstream consciousness." He's signed contracts with veteran musicians from around the world who are creating music to be heard inside or outside spa walls. Culled from New Age, Celtic, world, ambient, chill, American Indian and other categories, it's a genre Gunn calls "lifestyle music." Lately, Gunn's label is gathering albums created expressly for the spa experience. He's been selling a new Spa Cents program that he likens to Netflix for spa music. He's licensed the United Kingdom's Paul Lawler, who composes and performs music to accompany healing arts, notably his CDs "True Reiki", "True Chakras" and "True Champissage Indian Head Massage". (You don't see a lot of "SexyBacks" in this genre.) "Younger kids come to us and say, 'That music makes me sleepy'," Gunn says. "I say, 'That's the best compliment in the world'. Think about it, when you are falling asleep, you want to be in a really nice space where you feel secure, safe and comfortable." This is the essential paradox of spa music When it's really good, it's a soothing form of white noise. And when it's great, all the whales, flutes and tablas float into a sea of zzzs. You won't even know they're there. LATWP News Service

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Aug 18, 2008
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