A sub-genre of ambient music that was prominent in the 1980s. New Age typically is a slow, meditative music with long, drawn-out notes and chords, usually with little or no percussion and often not played in strict tempo, but remaining melodic and mostly eschewing harsh or atonal sounds. As the genre arose, around 1979, the first performers did not use electronic instruments, but a subset of performers quickly arose that used synthesizers primarily or exclusively. Leading electronic performers of New Age music during the decade included Patrick O'Hearn, Mark Isham, Jonn Serrie, Suzanne Ciani, Kitaro, Michael Stearns, Vangelis, Steve Roach, and Lyle Mays. The polyphonic synthesizers of the decade proved particularly suitable to this style of music, and many of the performers transitioned to synth from some other instrument.
New Age music was associated with certain spiritual and quasi-religious practices, such as associating healing properties with certain types of crystals and candle flames, and questionable varieties of alternative medicine and psychiatric treatment. The genre came in for a fair amount of criticism for this, but most likely only a small subset of performers and listeners went in for the religious aspects. Most approached it as simply an enjoyable genre of music. Many performers tried to craft their music so that was suitable for both background use and critical listening; the peak popularity of the genre coincided with the popular advent of the Compact Disc, and some listeners would set up CD changers so that the music would play all night while they slept.
New Age declined in popularity in the 1990s. A big blow occurred when Private Music, one of the leading record labels in the electronic side of the genre, went bankrupt in 1996. Many of the performers from the 1980s era have moved into producing movie and television soundtracks; some others have returned to genres that they performed in prior to getting into New Age.