Friday, July 15, 2011

Electric Eden-Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music, Rob Young; Faber & Faber, 2010

In October of 2010, Mr. and Mrs. Amnesiac found ourselves ambling through London, in between Primrose Hill and Camden Town, when we came across the Cecil Sharp House. The facility's varied spaces (theater, pub, class rooms) were fascinating to us as we took a brief, self-guided tour. Having read about some of the artists who had presumably sung/hung out there in Ugly Things magazine, I was thrilled to be hanging out there myself, albeit at a time of day when most musicians would either be asleep or just ending their evening.
This experience primed me for the immense undertaking of reading Rob Young's 600 page overview of British Folk-based music, Electric Eden.
Working from the premise that Britain has a long and rich history of folk-based musical forms of production (in contradistinction to certain German composers' stated opinions to the contrary), Young gives detailed description of those forms, from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries.
In Young's opinion, the British yearning for a return to an idyllic Albion, cleansed of the complications and crises of modern society, informs and shapes this indigenous music. Chapter titles such as The Inward Exodus and Orpheus in the Undergrowth underlie this central tenet; they and all the other chapters spin yarns describing the various voices of this musical movement.
Presented in a loosely linear form, Electric Eden moves from the early 20th Century British composers and their struggles to define their identities within composition (not the mention the immense heartbreak of the nation upon the advent and subsequent developments of WWI), to the post-WWII "purists", and onward to the 1960's technicolor polyglot, post-modern forms. These last two are given the most detailed treatments. One can see why, as the richness and variation of their participants are fascinating. Disaster Amnesiac particularly enjoyed the peripatetic story of Vashti Bunyan, the tragic yarns of Nick Drake and Graham Bond, and the detailed developments of the U.K. festival scene (linked very implicitly to the deeper currents of British earth-based mystical thought).
Electric Eden is a deep, engrossing overview of a fascinating musical development. The listener will find tons of sounds to dig into, along with detailed descriptions of many aspects of British culture and life. Recommended, even for German composers. Maybe, in a symbolic act of international peace and understanding, I'll shelve my copy next to the Kraturock coffee table tome.

2 comments:

NOVEMBERER said...

That Shirley/Davy poster is terrific...

Disaster Amnesiac said...

Thanks, Novemberer!