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William Ackerman

New Age Guru, master guitarist, founder of Wyndham Hill

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The most wonderful new age music available

  • Aug 6, 2009
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I am always amazed when I talk with someone and mention the name William Ackerman.....and they answer "who?"  I guess not everyone is into emotionally compelling guitar music as much as I am, but you would think they would recognize Windham Hill records.  Of course, they don't.  So, in 1970, William Ackerman was a carpenter who also played guitar.  He wrote his own music and performed that music for friends, in stairwells (which have GREAT acoustics) and for himself.  Finally, some friends got $300 together for him to enter the studio and record some of his pieces for solo guitar.  That album was titled IN SEARCH OF THE TURTLE'S NAVEL.  (Hey, it was the 70s)  Of course, even after that, no label was willing to offer a recording contract to someone who played fingerstyle acoustic guitar, no matter how talented or competent he was, so Ackerman started his own independent label, which he called Windham Hill.  In addition to his own recordings, he also recorded many other primarily acoustic musicians, including bassist Michael Manring, guitarist Michael Hedges,  pianists Liz Storey and Jim Brickman, and guitarist Alex De Grassi (who was also Ackerman's cousin) and so many more including some of the first recordings of Yanni.  Finally, in 1992, Ackerman sold his interest in the label to BMG for a whopping figure that was never disclosed, but is obviously enough to set Ackerman up for life, after over 20 years of recording his own music, finding and producing other musicians and acting as CEO of the label as well.  He did, however, continue to record for Windham Hill, although he did give up his CEO duties and his A&R duties as well (A&R means artists and repetoire).

Ackerman recorded over 30 albums (most of them released as CDs as well) but if you want one CD that is the perfect introduction, please try to find RETURNING.  In 2004, 28 years after he first recorded IN SEARCH OF THE TURTLE'S NAVEL, he wanted to return to some of the best guitar solos he had written, and redo them with the musical knowledge and feeling he has now.  This CD is Ackerman at his very best.  I admit to you all that I usually am very teary eyed when I play his new version of "The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit", my all time favorite Ackerman piece.  Wonderful chord progressions and the most heart rending melody I've ever heard put to guitar.  Not that the rest of the CD is any kind of let down.  It is not.

If you have never heard Ackerman, I envy you that first hearing, especially if that hearing is RETURNING.  Unlike a lot of so called New Age music, Ackerman's music has a depth of feeling, a complexity of musical form, a soaring and lyrical melody and unusual but wonderful chord progressions.  It sounds so simple when he plays it, but it isn't.  I'm still trying to figure out the first measure of "Virgin Spirit", as I have been for the past 5 years.  I ain't got it yet.

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August 06, 2009
Once again, I can't get the Wikipedia stuff to copy over to here. Can anyone please help me? Look up Will Ackerman on Wickipedia and copy some of the comments over here. I have tried and tried. Please help!!!!!
August 09, 2009
Thanks very much to whoever got the wiki to work. I really appreciate it.
About the reviewer
John O'Connor ()
Ranked #85
I am retired military. I served 6 years of Navy, nearly 6 years of Air Force, and just over 22 years of Air National Guard. I also was a full time technician for the Air Guard for just over 21 years. … more
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William Ackerman is a Grammy winning guitarist and composer of acoustic-based instrumental music. He founded and ran for many years the influential New Age record label Windham Hill Records.

William Ackerman was born in West Germany but was adopted by a couple who lived in Palo Alto, California. A self-professed poet and musician who briefly studied guitar with Robbie Basho, Ackerman grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended the Northfield Mount Hermon School and Stanford University. Before finishing his studies at Stanford, Ackerman dropped out to become a carpenter. Ackerman had composed some pieces of music for a performance of Romeo and Juliet at Stanford. In 1975, without having played a "paying gig"

(a) group of friends and informal fans got together and collected about $300 in five dollar bills to send me into a recording studio. I picked a studio out of the phone book named Mantra Studios (it was the 70s after all!). I walked into that room and made a record I called The Search for the Turtle's Navel in two afternoons. (William Ackerman, liner notes for Returning, 2005).

Initially William Ackerman kept up his job as a builder but recording music took up more of his time until he was working on music full time. Ackerman ran his music label Windham Hill Records for years. He did just about everything from picking cover art to producing the records. Early albums featured himself (It Takes a Year) and his cousin, fellow guitarist Alex de Grassi Turning:...

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