MARGEN (Spain) no. 13 (June 1998), p. 6


The pursuit of new forms within styles that are already fully delimited is, or should be the ultimate goal of the innovative musician. Ed Macan, the Californian composer, music professor, and author of Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture, believes this, and the best piece of evidence is in listening to his first album, Hermetic Science, an inventive demonstration of the limitless capacity of some music to surprise us, as well as one of those works that the act of defining tends to weaken, given its enormous imagination and amplitude of forms. But we will try anyway: what Ed Macan has succeeded in doing with Hermetic Science is taking progressive rock to hitherto unfamiliar terrain where the classic influences of the genre flow into the vanguard of chamber rock, but with the added twist of having recourse to a compressed lineup (trio) and featuring in a leading role instruments like the vibraphone or marimba that are not too often connected with this aesthetic.

I grew tired of listening to the stereotypical lineup of keyboard, guitar, bass, and drumkit. With Hermetic Science I attempt to feature in a lead role instruments like the vibraphone and marimba which, with the exception of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, have not been utilized in progressive music. Furthermore, I have approached these instruments in a radically new way, and have developed a technique that allows me to play very full textures.

It is certain that an instrument like the marimba is still, to many, a foreign sonority, more related perhaps with Caribbean or African music, from where it originates, than with rock or contemporary music. However, composers like Steve Reich have reinvented its timbre in works like Music for Mallet Instruments or Six Marimbas, and, in fact, Ed Macan goes much farther in enormously amplifying the possibilities of this brilliant timbre, endowing it with a greater density and giving to it the leading role that in other lineups would be held by the keyboards.

Unlike vibraphone players in jazz, for example, I use this instrument as if it were a Hammond organ or a twelve-string electric guitar. This is why I utilize the trio format, so that the marimba and vibraphone create the desired effect and the bass functions like a second lead instrument as in the cuts "Esau’s Burden" and "Fanfare for the House of Panorama."

But, moreover, Hermetic Science is also the opportunity for intermingling the progressive sound with outside influences.

I have been intent on bringing elements not presently common in progressive music like minimalism, spatial jazz (in "Fire Over Thule"), music of the middle east, and essences of Renaissance music, like in the fugue of "Trisagion." All of this is united with influences recognizable for the fan of classic prog as coming from the 70s (ELP) as well as the new chamber groups like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd.

In summary, a bold proposition, and one that is committed to seeking the most contemporary terrains of rock.

Rafa Dorado