About

It’s true. I’m a Windham Hill fan.

This site is dedicated to the first 100 Windham Hill albums.

Like many, I started listening to Windham Hill because of the success of George Winston’s “Autumn” album. In 1981, I was a 15-year-old primarily listening to metal and post-punk, but had heard about Keith Jarrett and was open to acoustic music. Over time, I’ve collected most of the early Windham Hill albums simply because there’s always something to them. They’re contemplative, but not depressing. Relaxing, but not soporific. They sounded good on my home stereo, and on tinny cassette decks when I was a camp counselor in the Sierras. I’m from Northern California, and I think there’s something regional about the music – it’s especially good listening while driving along Highway 1 near Big Sur, or on rainy nights in a dorm room at UC Santa Cruz.

About Me

I’m John Dark, a Bay Area father, husband, music-lover, audiophile, gardener, and sales/marketing/public relations consultant. For years I was the lead marketer for a satellite phone service provider, and for innovative GPS communications products. Learn more about my professional life at http://www.linkedin.com/in/johndark

Windhaming…

I wanted one place to share details about each album including liner notes, credits, and maybe a few thoughts on the album. Neither Amazon nor Wikipedia have a complete list of albums, and are often incomplete regarding liner notes. The other online discographies might have a (mostly) complete discography, but no notes on each album. This site is intended to be a place where a fan can find all of the details from the original albums in one place.

Why Windhaming?

In the late 80’s I took a “Clapping for Credits” course (actually titled “American Popular Music” and strangely focussed on Billy Joel) while at UC Santa Cruz. A marketing rep from Windham Hill came down, played us Tibetan Monk throat singing, and told the story of how young Japanese couples would go off into the countryside with a cassette deck and play Windham Hill music while picnicking. They called it “Windhaming.” I’ve always thought that this was a brilliant story because it was so over the top –  a whole movement of stylish young Japanese couples out picnicking just because of the music!  I wasn’t crazy about the very high-profile marketing that Windham Hill was doing, as the brand seemed to appeal more and more to middle-aged yuppies than my wanna-be hipster self, and yet for a moment I fervently believed that Windham Hill would spawn a generation of Japanese who could not live without fresh air, Bento Boxes and Windham Hill.

For the love of Vinyl

While the recording quality of Windham Hill albums varies, the very best sound fantastic. They all sound better on an excellent vinyl setup. Most of the original CD issues sounded tinny, and most of the re-issues suffer from the same dynamic compression as all newer CD’s. Try listening to Michael Hedges’ “Aerial Boundaries” or to “Live at Montreaux” on a quality vinyl setup and you will be impressed. Indeed many of the same techniques were used to produce the Windham Hill albums as the much vaunted Mobile Fidelity releases of the time.

If you like Windham Hill, then you’ll love…

Windham Hill Artists on other labels.

Of course, George Winston continues to release music on the Windham Hill imprint. But Liz Story, Alex De Grassi, Philip Aaberg and many others continue to release music on other labels. It’s worth following their discography.

William Ackerman’s current works

Will’s recordings as an artist and producer, and recordings made at his Imaginary Road Studios.

Ackerman continues releasing great music, and has produced many award-winning albums including new releases from Lawrence Blatt, Rocky Fretz and Kori Linae Carothers.


MA Recordings A well known label in audiophile circles, there are many parallels between Windham Hill and MA Recordings. Both are the vision of an artist who founded his own label. Both are dedicated to the best recording quality of their time, and both primarily focus on acoustic instrumental music.  MA Recordings is more experimental and so it’s rare to find someone who loves every pressing. Start with their first release, Todd Garfinckle’s “Prayers Wishes Illusions.” It alone is reason to check out this label; the album is a thoughtful, positive but not sappy, intelligent but fun, just plain lovely work that stands one of my all-time greats. From there, try any of the Bruce Stark recordings, and then explore the other samples on the site.

ECM This European label was around before Windham Hill and after. They put out some great music, and some very tedious music. If you’ve never heard of ECM, you should check out the top-selling Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny albums, which are on ECM.

Additionally, there’s an entire universe of ambient music from artists like Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie, Brian Eno, David Sylvian, and John Foxx that’s essential, and a whole new generation of electronica artists who make great music nothing like Windham Hill, but I find serving the same musical purpose as Windham Hill – folks like Boards of Canada and Bonobo.

As Duke Ellington said, “I like only one kind of music. The good kind.”

Great music deserves a great stereo

There are a few high-end audio manufacturer’s that really help you get closer to the music. If you like good acoustic music, check out some of my favorite brands:

Magnepan Speakers

Audio Research Electronics

Bel Canto Design Electronics

VPI Turntables

Acoustic Zen Cables and Speakers

And, if you’re in the LA area, visit my friend Laurence Lau at GNP AudioVideo for advice on all matters audio.

Other Windham Hill resources and discographies

Web Inspiration

I need to thank Michael Williams for his outstanding American Fashion/Design blog A Continuous Lean. http://www.acontinuouslean.com. Michael has a point of view, good taste and a blithe way with words. I don’t know him, but I’ve been following his blog for the past two years and it’s really refocussed my interest in design, and showed what a great blog can be.

Thanks to Bob Westal for his ongoing friendship and complete inspiration as a blogger. Bob really puts his heart into the excellent blog dedicated to film critique and politics called Forward To Yesterday http://www.forwardtoyesterday.com

39 Replies to “About”

  1. John-

    Well done on the site! I’m yet another musician that has played with Will Ackerman live in concert a few times (also with Liz Story a few times, too), and I VERY much appreciate the amount of work you’ve put in to this!

    Jeff

    1. Jerry, I do have the first four Winter Solstice albums, and will post them in due time. I’ve been busy with my consulting business, and spending what little time I have transcribing an interview (watch for it soon!) so haven’t posted many albums the past few weeks.

  2. I found your Blog through the Facebook WH/Narada Group. It’s interesting to see the things that this Label has induced in many people along the time and the world.

    Since March 2003 my site, Disappointed with New Windham Hill is on line, which while not as specific as yours (WH, First 100 recordings, only on vinyl), is born from the admiration that awakens on me this Project, and his musicians.

    I believe that no other label has the feel of WH at the time since its inception until 1992, more or less, even when artists are the same.

    Disappointed with the New Windham Hill starts from a message posted on the WH Website message board (now defunct), in which a certain Andrew laments that the old artists are out of print (even at that time)

    From this, as you do in your blog, I added some impressions of my own initiation in the genre, my pursuit for Transit and Elements, an overview of what happened to the catalogs in my country, and finally an Index, a Ranking and a Forum.

    Contrary to what you post on your blog, I do not write analysis or criticism about the albums(although I would like to), because the music gives me a feeling that I could not rationalize with words.

    Also contrary to your collector spirit, but totally agree with you that nothing compares to the sound of vinyl, I take what comes, wherever it comes from (Read: Downloaded from the Web), in whatever the format that it comes. However, over time I could get a few originals, that are my treasure. But my collection already has more than 3500 albums (of which, no doubt, 2000 can be discarded because they simply are not quality works)

    Visit the full collection http://disappointedbynewwh.iwarp.com. You can perform dynamic searchings and even will serve to you as a reference.

    I’m glad to find your blog and will visit it more often in future.

    Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina

  3. This site is the best! Thanks for bringing such a wonderful concept to the web. I was able to track down several on Amazon, thanks to this website and your effort.

    Keep up the wonderful work.

    ~Manny

  4. Soon I will scan the cover art for GEORGE WINSTONS December released in former YUGOSLAVIA, if you wouldlike to publish it on your great site, dedicated to this famous label.

  5. My Dear Mr. Dark:

    First, back in the early 70’s at UNL, a fellow broadcasting student used “Johnny Dark”. So that alone intrigues me, though last I heard he was in Florida working in TV news. I thought Tom Collins was a better name, but then at the time I considered it a pretty good drink too. Times change.

    What brought me to your site was Windham Hill, of course. I fell in love with the music years ago and to this day if it’s a mint copy, I pick it up. I don’t see them all that often, obviously. I think it was George Winston Piano Solos (December) that got me hooked. So different from all else I was listening to at the time. I think I’ve got three copies of it.

    Could be that I just love the aspens in snow.

    I don’t run into too many people who love the same music I do. Frankly, I don’t run into many people who love music at all. Perhaps I need to get out more.

    But clearly you like some of what I like and so I know you’ll share my enthusiasm for my little thrift store treasure trove find from today. Hey, sometimes you just have to tell somebody, right?

    SO HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ME!

    Someone in the Kansas City Missouri area apparently decided to give away Windham Hill, Black Cat, Living Music and Open Air vinyl promo copies. I can imagine they were just sitting in the back room of some station that long ago moved out of analog.

    So here’s the story.

    I came across one mint disk in one store, happily picked it up and moved down the street to a store aptly named Second Chance. There, at the front of the bins, all upside-down and backwards, apparently just brought out from back, were all these albums. The cover art was unmistakable and I just kept flipping and flipping. They took up six inches each of two rows. I couldn’t believe it. To me it was a gold mine. To everyone else, just, well, old records I suppose.

    I started spot checking. They all had the original poly sleeves, and the vinyl looked M (M- to purists of the grading system). In between some of the titles were bio sheets. There was a 1984 promo letter from Jeff Heiman that went out with three of the latest releases. Far to many to visually grade in a thrift store on a Tuesday Afternoon. I checked about half. Good enough for me. I grabbed them all.

    So what treasures did I get for a buck a pop? Don’t know, but I’ve got a LOT of listening to do (Besides The Nylons, which I already had and don’t much care for). Well no time like the present to put them in order. So tell me, Mr. Dark, how’d I do?

    * denotes promo copy

    Windham Hill
    WH-1004, WH-1028*, WH-1033*, WH-1036*, WH-1039*, WH-1040*, WH-1043*, WH-1044*, WH-1049*, WH-1050*, C-1015*, C-1022*, C-1025* (more aspens), WH-6-1035*, WHS C-1009*.

    Dancing Cat
    DC3001*, DC3004*, DC3005*, DC3006*

    Living Music
    LM-0007*, LM-0008*, LM-0009*, LM-00011*

    Hip Pocket
    HP104*, HP105*, HP106*

    Open Air
    OA-6-0305*, OA-0301*, OA-0302*, OA-0303*

    Proof this all came from someone who knew the artists: Suzanne Vega A&M SP6-5072, credits include artists from Windham Hill and Hip Pocket.

    And then there was this Gem: Allinchino – David Low and Jackson Berkey (1979 SR 7123 Sound Recorders, Omaha). I actually toured Sound Recorders decades back. Always was impressed with the quality of their stuff.

    As I said, my dear Mr. Dark – I’m in Heaven tonight!

    Regards,

    James W. Neal

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and sharing the find! That’s quite a good load, particularly all in one place and in mint condition. In Berkeley and San Francisco, Amoeba is a reliable resource for Windham Hill selections, but even at our local Rasputin’s in Walnut Creek, the buyer doesn’t keep any Windham Hill on hand.

      The albums I’m having trouble finding are those that are WH-1081 and above. They’re generally available online, but it pains me to pay $15-20 a copy when I’m spoiled by all of the $1-5 finds in the bins at Amoeba and the Beat in Sacramento. I’m sure I’ll have to do it as I get to some of the albums that I don’t yet own.

      Regarding my name – It really is John Dark. It’s been a family name on and off for 500 years. Both johndark and darkjohn were taken when I signed up for WordPress, so I went by Johnny in honor of my grandfather. I feel fortunate to my name.

      1. Hi John,

        I read a bit about you, so I can confirm you really are John Dark, in the event there was any question in your own mind.

        I plan on going back to the same thrift store today on the off chance I missed something or they had more in back that hadn’t come out yet. If I come across above your threshold catalog # I’ll let you know.

        I did a quick check on Discogs using the advanced search which lets me just input catalog numbers. A couple popped up in people’s collections, but nothing was up for sale. I’ve never bought from anyone via that site (or any other online site for that matter) but they certainly have more competitive pricing than eBay. If you’ve never dug around the site, you might want to take a peek.

        Jim

  6. Wow, great work there Mr. Dark. You’ve produced an enormously rich site for Windham Hill fans. And bonus points for the audiophile recommendations. Funny, I was the WH guy who spoke to your UC Santa Cruz back in the day. I thought everyone in that auditorium was asleep at the time!

    1. Thanks so much for the comment. I’d love to hear stories about your days with Windham Hill. Would you care to contribute something, or if you’re in the Bay Area meet for coffee?

  7. Thanks so much John for putting up this site. I do hope that Sony somehow restores the WH label to its former glory, but I know how unlikely that must be. Just know that your work here is greatly appreciated by those of us who have enjoyed the Windham Hill brand.

    Oh, and you probably already know this, but there is a site dedicated to selling vinyl – http://www.recordsbymail.com/ I did a search for the keywords “Windham Hill” and turned up many listings there.

    1. Thanks, Rick. Records by mail is where I picked up Mary’s Garden. Great site. I think Dawn Atkinson is still at Sony Legacy, but they seem to only be reprinting the most popular and licensing the rest to Valley Entertainment.

  8. Mr. Dark,

    I seem to keep coming back to your site. Rather nice to peruse when listing to the music you and I (and many others) love. Cossu’ & Friesen’s Renunion makes a good accompaniment for my morning coffee today. I’ve picked up a few disks not on WH I imagine you know about. Cossu’ Still Moments was just sitting in a bin and the name was enough to make me grab it.

    The other two are by a pianist new to me, Tom Splitt. Recorded in 1984-85, both appear to have been recorded in Illinois. The 1984 is on Quaver Records in Evanston, but the 1985 is on Ivory Record, Balboa Island, CA.

    I’ve yet to play them, so can’t speak to the music, other than to pass on that the liner notes for one states several tracks are “entirely spontaneous.” If you know of Tom Splitt by all means fill me in.

    Jim

  9. Thank you for this wonderful resource! George Winston’s December came out the year I was born, and it is my first memory of music. Thanks to your work I have been able to find other “sound memories” I thought I would never hear again..

    Saludos from Argentina!

    Gigi

  10. Do you know why some tracks were omitted from some of William Ackerman’s albums when they were issued on CD? For example WOMAN SHE RIDES was left off the CD version of Turtle’s Navel, and GIDEON was left out from Childhood and Memory.

  11. I appreciated the idea of Windham Hill when a friend first introduced me to Winston et al. in 1984, but it was during the winter of 1986, very late at night, as a college senior, in a 1920s house in the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids, MI, when a roommate put on a vinyl copy of Scott Cossu’s Wind Dance, that I became enamored of Windham Hill. Specifically, while hearing the third track, Kinsa, and seeing the large snowflakes falling outside in the still night. One of those enchanting, hard-to-describe moments in which the music was inseparable from everything else in the environment. Who could not love the music after that?

  12. Great blog – I started listening to Windham Hill when I was given the ’82 sampler CD, then went onto the Mark Isham and George Winston records, some on Cd some vinyl.

    I DO have a question for you though – something I’ve looked all over the net for but can’t find the answer.

    What is the font used for the track details and the WH numbers?

    Once again, brilliant site

    1. Thanks, Conrad. I don’t know exactly what they used; it seemed to vary from cover to cover. To approximate the look, I would start with Helvetica Neue Ultra Light. You might also check out House Industries Neutra font. Good searching.

    1. Windham Hill is owned by Sony/Legacy, who does not seem to be issuing any new music using the Windham Hill name. I’m a huge music fan, but it’s outside of the scope of this site to suggest the best ways of going about publishing your music, particularly in this age where everyone seems to own their own publishing arm and there are a million options from major labels through Magnatune through self-publishing. Best of luck in making your music be heard.

      1. Hi Paul/Johnny Dark

        That is true Windham Hill is owned by Sony/Legacy, and is correct that its not releasing any music under the Windham Hill name. The best suggestion I can make to you if you want to release your music, is to create your account on CD Baby and release it there. From there, iTunes will release it. IF you want publishing, I would suggest creating your own label. Just FYI, if you send your music to a label unsolicited, like Narada or Real Music, you will hit a wall. ( Trust me, I know I’ve done it!) You CAN however go to Real Music’s website and follow their instructions on how to send your music in. Your best bet tho, is creating your own record label and publishing it yourself. THAT is what I have done, and continue to do.

        Btw Johnny thanks for the mention in your above description of your website. Its a lovely tribute to Windham Hill and Will Ackerman.

        Peace in Music,

        Kori Linae Carothers

  13. I like to help as much as I can, because I know how enormous the task is to get music published. It is always a good thing to start small, and then things progress from there. Working with Will Ackerman was/is a wonderful experience!

  14. I discovered Windham Hill records in the early 80s and was mesmerized by the photo on the cover of George Winston’s December. It touches a part of me that goes way back to being a kid growing up in Canada. I’d love to get a framed copy, or at least a large scan from photographer Greg Edmonds or the copyright owner.
    Do you have any information on the photograph and its availability? I’ve tried on and off for 25 years to chase up the photo, and it’s about time I gave up!

    Fingers crossed.

  15. I actually discovered this blog by accident when doing a search on Windham Hill’s discography. Since all these younger cats I work with have hipped me to Pandora, Spotify, and Songza within the last few months, I’ve “reconnected” with music from the label (all my vinyl has been in storage for over a decade).

    My personal experience with Windham Hill was through John Schaefer’s “NEW SOUNDS” program on WNYC-New York during the early 80s. A few years later, when I became a radio DJ at WCCR-City College Radio, I made calls for material. Other than many of the underground Hip-Hop stuff I was getting, Winham Hill and GRP Records were the ONLY labels to come to my aid. I later met WH rep Eleny Portifekus (butchering her name I’m sure) at a CMJ Convention around ’85/’86. I also met Ericka Lindelholm from GRP. Had a blast with both ladies as we talked music and their label roster.

    Of course I bought tons of records from both labels. But those “freebies” didn’t hurt either. Espcecially since I was the only one playing them at the station.

    When I moved to Oregon in ’90, I wrote to WH West Coast office for possible job opportunities. Though nothing was available, I was sent an extremely gracious letter thanking me for my interest.

    I really wish that SONY/LEGACY/whomever would get their act together and re-issue a lot of these works in their entirety. Not various compilations. I do have most of the several works on vinyl (and later CD).

    To me with their exquisite album covers and ground-breaking music, Windham Hill was the Blue Note and CTI of its genre and time.

    I’m truly happy that I’ve found fans like myself here.
    Thanks for this blog.
    You may hear from me often.

  16. Thank you for the wonderful site, John. I just reached out to you on Linked-In as well. Today, I am listening to the WH Records Sampler ’84 which was basically the soundtrack to the first half of my Freshman year of college in the fall of ’84” The disc sounds great through a nice set of Grado headphones! Still have the vinyl version from the old days, I think.

  17. Back in the early 90’s I discovered George Winston, then Will Ackerman then………30+ CDs later many more of the wonderful Windhamring Hill artists. Twenty years later I still hope for a return of the label from the Sony graveyard but maybe I’m dreaming. Thanks Windhamring for keeping the dream alive. The dream lives-on here in Kilsby, Northamptonshire,UK too !!. Peter

  18. I have a seldom used collection (approx. 76) of Windham Hill albums that I need to let go of, so I surely would like to make them available to someone who would appreciate them. About 8 out of the 76 are sleeved (unopened).

  19. Dear John and all of Windham Hill fan in the USA,

    Greetings from Japan !
    I have been a loyal fan of Windham Hill in Japan scince 1980. I have been in charge of marketing of Windham Hill in Japan from 1982 – 1989 at ALFA Records and Panu Canyon Records who were the destributor in Japan. It was my job but I just love listening their music as one of the loyal fan.
    It was my lifetime experience to work with Will, George and other Windham Hill artists and the relationship with them, especially Will, is still very strong.
    This autumn, we invited Will and Todd Boston to the special concert at Kasuga Taisha shrine, a World Heritage site,
    http://www.kasugataisha.or.jp/about/index_en.html. We suceeded to be invited at the dedication concert for the special festival commemorating 60th re-building the Shrine every 20 years. They are 1300 year old and the god supports art and music.
    I, as just a fan of WH, have been planning for years “Returning” their music in Japan again. So I am positioning this concert as a next step for 2017.
    The concert was just fantastic. He played “Processional” and “Visiting” with Kifu Mitsuhashi, a traditional bamboo flute master who played with Will on “Imaginary Road” album, as well as Kotaro Oshio, #1 acoustic guitarist in Japan who had a great influence by Will and Michael. Will played two solos “Impending Dearth of the Virgin Spirit”, “Unconditional ” and one with Todd “Last Day at the Beach”. Please see http://www.asahi.com/articles/photo/AS20160919002360.html
    I have a lot to share with you and US fans but this is my first report .
    Hide Katada

  20. Hi!
    Thank you for such an uplifting letter. I toured Japan with Windham Hill in the late 80’s. The tour was called East Meets West. It was a wonderful time and I enjoyed ever minute and everyone I met. I have attached a poster to Windham Hill Lovers Facebook from that trip. Wonderful memories!
    Scott Cossu

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