Archive for John Renbourn

Electric Eden

Posted in Specials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2010 by fred6368

Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music

This month I have mostly been reading Electric Eden, the marvellous book by Rob Young which looks at the Arcadian tradition in British music in the twentieth century, or folk rock to you and me. At the end of the nineteenth century the Victorians had made our world so safe for piano legs that in 1904 a German music critic actually wrote a book describing Britain as Das Land ohne Musik; the land without music. Yet, in the nineteenth century we had developed a marvellous Romantic poetic tradition which had come from a spiritual engagement with nature, even as the industrial revolution developed apace. Electric Eden looks at how this emerging cultural tradition infused and changed various musics in the twentieth century. In some ways the first example of this spiritual, or even pagan, development in music was Charles Parry’s arrangement of Blake’s Jerusalem.

This post will try to summarise the book with a selection of tracks reflecting its concerns and interests. Rob Young starts his book with the metaphor of Vashti Bunyan‘s one year road trip in a Romany caravan to join Donovan’s artistic commune in Scotland. He’s moved on by time she got there; like other putative musical collectives in 1969 commerce got in the way of his vision. So Vashti, along with her dog and husband, kept on her pilgrimage until she reached and settled in the Irish countryside. She was living out of time but engaging directly with nature in the countryside in a series of Just Another Diamond Day. Continue reading