HARMONIE (France), January 2000, p. 38
Hermetic Science is the project of the American Ed Macan, otherwise best known for his talent of chronicling the saga of progressive rock with his book “Rocking the Classics.” This monsieur, who is moreover a professor of music, holds an authoritative opinion upon all that takes place I the fluctuating world of progressive rock, and doesn’t abstain from giving opinions or setting himself up as a docteur of progressive giving a lecture! I am obliged to cite my sources, even if they stem from an eminent competitor who published, about a year ago, a long interview with the Monsieur. Big Bang, which I cite very willingly, in the name of the sacrosanct union of convergent interests, has permitted me to quote an impassioned harangue in which Ed Macan coolly states, among other pearls, this phrase which left me thunderstruck: “The Flower Kings or Spock’s Beard, I see nothing truly vital in their music. To be honest, I find it stale and lacking in imagination.”
We are clearly in favor of avoiding polemics; Ed Macan certainly has an extreme erudition in matters progressive that I am very far from equaling as a more or less enlightened fan, but this interview made me detest the Monsieur in question. His highly pertinent tone disturbed my convictions as a simple fan. This said, these words do not befoul me and especially not Big Bang, which has ferreted out for us, on this occasion, an exceptional interview. While the quality of an ethnologist of the progressive tribes that detains Macan is not to be denied, let us say that I am in violent disagreement with what he says. Aymeric Leroy isn’t mistaken when he says that the views of Macan become more contestable when he analyzes recent developments of the progressive scene. This reassured me, I admit it, and these words of the grandest wisdom leave me feeling less alone after experiencing the effect of alienation lent by the interview. Ouf!
All this very long intro in order to say to you that I have listened to Prophesies with an “evil” ear, that is to say, with a desire to nail this clever fellow and burst his bubble. For if assuming the right of judging others is one thing, realizing his own music is another.
As part of a trio or by himself, Macan realizes his second album under the auspices of a musical minimalism. This is flagrant when it is a matter of reviving ELP’s “Tarkus” as a solo piece for Steinway grand piano. Macan has taken the task of revealing a progressive music by banishing the rock aspects that we all know. On the first hearing, one is almost disappointed with this lack of warmth, I might say of life! But when one makes the effort to come back for a second hearing, the ear is remade in the image of the musician and one savors a musical exploration that owes nothing to the swagger of rock. It is the choice of Macan to offer us a blueprint that strives towards reducing things to their essence. It is necessary for a musician to have courage in order to engage in this genre of work. And for us, the listener, it is necessary to put a damper upon our normal expectations in order to attempt to succeed in “feeling” this music that is so different. One imagines more than once what this or that passage might be like if it passed through the turnstile of an electric progressive group, even an erudite one. The constant employment of vibraphone and marimba colors the music of Macan with a tint that scarcely reminds the listener of Spock’s Beard or the Flower Kings and yet, it is the same inspiration that informs the two tendencies; only a different vision of approach makes the two tendencies contrast. The fantastic suite of 41:10 that is the beating heart of this album is a marvel of concision and precision. Prophesies: A Suite In Six Movements abandons the vibraphone and the other “light” instruments in order to permit the bass of And Durham and the drumming of Matt McClimon to be expressed more overtly. “Hope Against Hope,” second movement of this suite, returns to a more conventional progressive style, for it is more filled with the electronic passages that any fan has the right to expect. The jazzy coloration of Macan and his vibraphone creates the atmosphere of the French spy movie music genre of the 1960s and it is without doubt this that holds the auditor in a more circumspect judgment. But Macan knows how to draw from the Hammond sound several atmospheres that owe a lot to that progressive music of the seventies that the musical pedagogue respects so much! Exploration without a trace of the progressive myth, revisited in his fashion, Prophesies is a formal creation interlaced with the threads of skeletal rock (without employing the means of it!), classical ambitions, and a jazzy hypothesis along certain lines. That is to say that even if Macan makes appeal to the past (Rush, ELP) in order to recall that which is without any doubt appreciated, he knows to create in his turn a music which is not of a particular era and rather makes appeal to the science of music. One senses the erudition of the professor of music who has chosen to write classical music in a rock voice, which is, in part, what progressive was all about at the beginning of its history . . .
Thus I make my mea culpa concerning the music of Hermetic Science that, after several listens, is no longer so hermetic as it seemed at first. I recognize very humbly the evident talents of Ed Macan the musician but I don’t always adhere to his views, which have very nearly caused me an apoplectic fit. I hope to make myself clear to everybody but it’s necessary for me to say what I think, the occasion having been given to me with the chronicling of this Prophesies CD. I savor the album, but Macan’s ideas about progressive rock, that’s another thing!