Ed Macan

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Ed Macan first became known to progressive rock aficionados as the writer of the book Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (1996, Oxford University Press), the first theoretical…
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Ed Macan first became known to progressive rock aficionados as the writer of the book Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture (1996, Oxford University Press), the first theoretical analysis of the genre to be published. But he is also the leader of the group Hermetic Science, which released a string of CDs on Magnetic Oblivion Records during the next few years. The group, a trio with an unstable lineup, performs Macan's compositions: intricate prog rock pieces of classical allegiance, featuring prominently mallet percussion (marimba, vibraphone).

Macan was born in Pontiac, MI, in 1961. He grew up listening to progressive rock in the 1970s and played keyboards with a few amateur bands while in high school. He pursued piano studies, eventually getting a Bachelor of Music degree from Oakland University in 1982. As a requirement for his degree, he took up marimba and later vibes, developing a very personal technique on mallet percussion he derived from his classical piano training.

Most of the 1980s was spent firing up a teaching career. By the early '90s, Macan reconnected with progressive rock and, now with the eyes of a scholar, he began work on Rocking the Classics. Around the same time, he started to toy around with the idea of a vibes-led trio, something he envisioned closer to the spirit of progressive rock (with the emphasis on "progressive"). He secured a tenure at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, CA, in 1994 (where he continued to teach), and completed his book a year later. He was now ready to put Hermetic Science together.

From the start, the unit included Macan in the leading role, and a rhythm section comprised of talented students from Redwoods -- there was an educational dimension to the project. The band started to perform irregularly in Eureka, a secluded, medium-sized city in the far north of California. Their first album, Ed Macan's Hermetic Science, came out in 1997, and surprised many critics. The group's sound had a very distinctive and highly unusual signature. After all, this was a vibraphone-prog rock power trio.

Prophesies, released in 1999, featured, instead of the short pieces of the first album, an impressive but cluttered 40-minute suite. The Biblical theme introduced a vein of Christian mystique in the group's sound. But more importantly, Macan expanded the instrumentation to include keyboards: piano, organ, and synthesizers. Moving closer to a more standard prog rock sound, the album received better reviews. En Route came out two years later and eliminated the flaws of its predecessor. Still active live, Macan and his group perform solely in California.