What Western music is there that creates a profoundly peaceful or contemplative state of mind in a serious or complex or somehow musically interesting piece but is not the Classical-Romantic-Modern tradition of a conflict-filled war of one musical force against another? I am looking for composers who create serious music like this. I don't know of hardly any! I know Hohvaness has, and some of his is good. Of course there is New Age but most of it is trite pop or not even really music but simply a sound effect. Also, one can find excerpt-like sections from Albinoni, Mozart, Debussy, etc. but these are always just short breaks in between.
In this style of music I like e.g. Phillip Glass Violin Concerto (specially the 2. movement) or his music for "koyaanisqatsi". Of the violin concerto (btw commisioned by The American Composers Orchestra and dedicated to Paul Zukofsky and Dennis Russell Davies) DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON released a record with G. Kremer and the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by C. von Dohnányi. If you don't know I can highly recommend it. Great music and maybe something what do you are looking for.
Leaving aside the whole 'Minimalist' school which some would argue includes contemplative works, I have to say it's funny, as I was reading the first few lines of your post I also thought of Hohvaness first. A professor of mine (back then...) may also be worth checking out, Peter Sculthorpe. He has been very much influenced by Asian music, but especially by the Australian landscape (very conducive to contemplation) and aboriginal myth and ritual (dreamtime etc.). Because of this, his music tends to have a - what I would call primitive quality through a) allusion to primitive ritual through repetition (not minimalism), resulting in both contemplation and trance, and b) an impressionistic musical canvas of the Australian wild (including very characteristic bird-calls). Overall, he certainly has his own voice and is very convincing when at his best. Works I would recommend to start with would be 'Irkanda IV', 'Memento Mori', 'Earth Cry', his Piano Concerto, and for more hardcore, his string quartets (if I remember, as with Shostakovich, his 8th is the best known) also recorded by the Kronos.
It might seem a little one dimensional and a little stagnant if an artist's only language was of a peaceful contemplative mood. That is why one will only find moments where this will occur (other than "new age"music). That is when it can be even more profound- after the listener is taken to a place of unrest, tension, and chromatic dissonance, and then brought to the calm and tranquility of a meditative like state. I recommend Scriabin's late piano works, and above ALL else, sections of his unfinished (realized by Alexander Nemtin) "Preparation for the Final Mystery", which would have been a prelude for the 7 day long "Mysterium".
Here is a tiny bit from youtube
That is true from the Western classical tradition, but is not the goal of some more Zen-like or meditative art in various cultures mainly Eastern. I understand what you mean though, about the potential for boredom or stagnation. That is exactly what happens in New Age music almost all the time.
Oddly enough I have noticed that Ligetti's Lontano - which one would never think of in this context - seems rather like what I am seeking. It is complex and serious, and yet is not about the typical build-up of conflict, tension, crisis then relaxtion and resolution that all other music in the West is about. It is a mysterious and contemplative state of mind.
i am trying to write music of this kind i am asking about, but it is a huge change for my style...
btw that Sculthorpe certainly sounds interesting with the Australian aborgine influence. thanks for that reference.
Hovhannes (sic) and Scriabin were indeed the first which came to my mind.
You may also like to listen to anything by Arvo Pärt before he immersed himself in "Sacred Music".
This may be controversial: I'd also add Morton Feldman to lists of composers whose music "creates a profoundly peaceful or contemplative state of mind". It does that to me, while I have met people who relate to it as something like "random meanderings with not much happening".
Paul Dolden does mainly electroacoustic work - I reckon he stands up nicely alongside the other four I mentioned, though. His music is serious in intent, complex, and I find it stimulating in a peaceful way on many levels.
It's actually Hovhanness; hard to remember... I thought of Scriabin too but a) I was sure William would know about him, b) He is much more complicated and ecstatic than contemplative, and that was also his purpose in life. However, you're right in mentioning how incredibly effective electronic/electro-acoustic music can be in this respect, and the output is vast and in many cases underrated. I can't believe I forgot about it since I've composed electronic music myself; I'll be checking that Paul Dolden.
It's actually Hovhanness;
yes, I was being so smart, spottet the "h" in the wrong place ... and missed the missing "s" ... ah, well ...
I'd like to add two more to the list:
Giacinto Scelsi and Gerard Grisey
I am listening to "Uaxuctum" by Scelsi right now.