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26.1.08

A cid Symphony (1967)

"The style of A-cid Symphony is a bit acid folk with fusions of Middle Eastern influences with yodeling, blues, folk,.. It uses a raga-like slightly droning and flowing effect, with instruments like dulcimer, guitar, .."

Unquestionably a harbinger of the times, A Cid Symphony — a folk-and-ethnic music collective that incorporated instruments as wide-ranging as dulcimer, hand-held brass, and Hindustani ankle bells into their extended Middle Eastern-cum-country and folk music drones — was instigated and helmed by Dustin Mark Miller. Miller, was a part of the mid-'60s Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley, spending his time selling protest records to raise money for the movement. The musical passion stuck, so in 1966 he enlisted old pal and neighbor Charles Ewing, whom he had known since kindergarten, and Ernie Fischbach to start a folk/ethnic flower-child band aligned with the San Francisco Diggers. Ewing was an avid flamenco guitar aficionado, and he had met Fischbach while the two were in graduate school together at Cal State Long Beach. The two shared a passion for music, and Ewing soon discovered Fischbach could play any instrument with strings, as well as drums and harmonica. The trio converged in Los Angeles and A Cid (originally Acid) Symphony was born.Early in the band's genesis, Fischbach married teenage model Deborah Cleall, who promptly became a part of the group, which, more like a collective, soon grew into a loose group of nomadic friends, a family, a tribe. John Goeckermann and Tom Harris often added their percussive skills, and David Goines contributed as well. A Cid Symphony began playing mostly at colleges, often with like-minded peers the Firesign Theatre and sponsored by friends, Students for a Democratic Society, or whoever would support the music. They also crashed the Monterey Pop Festival, playing on the grounds of the festival and meeting Ravi Shankar. According to Digger principles, the band would hold free concerts at which they fed everyone that showed up.When the band earned its first write-up in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, they all quit their jobs on the spot and migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Ewing and Fischbach studied Hindustani music at the Ali Akbar (Khan) College of Music. San Francisco music columnist Ralph J. Gleason introduced Miller to Max Weiss of Fantasy Records. Weiss allowed the band to use Fantasy's studios, and they recorded and released their first and only record, a self-titled triple LP, in 1967, published by the Thermal Flash Music label of Denise Kaufman, an original Merry Prankster. Fischbach and crew went on to play with the Golden Toad, one of California's premier folk/ethnic music bands led by Bob Thomas and a sister band of sorts to the Grateful Dead. They would often join A Cid Symphony at functions such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. By the late '60s, after three years together, A Cid Symphony dissolved for the most part as a collective musical entity. Miller and Ewing's families, however, went on to live communally for the next two decades.
Any CD that opens with over a minute of country harmonica-backed yodeling followed by an entire 35-second track of silence is bound to be peculiar, even if it was created in a time that hosted more than its fair share of bizarre music. A Cid Symphony certainly wasn't the pop group next door. In fact, there is nothing remotely pop about the group, from their psychedelically derived moniker to the nameless "songs" and original 3-LP, colored-vinyl packaging, and the completely counter-pop, noodling droning of their music — droning sometimes indescribably beautifully, but occasionally in the pejorative sense of that word. The band is unquestionably of their time, yet their music is unique from any other during the '60s. The most obvious way in which their sound is grounded in the heady, spiritually yearning malaise of the '60s is its complete immersion in Hindustani and Middle Eastern music, with modal, raga-esque scale progressions and a discernibly mystical bent filling the entire first CD and a portion of the second. A Cid Symphony easily conjures an image of college-aged kids who are caught up in the kaleidoscope of social and cultural energy of the period, sitting in a public park completely engrossed in the strangely expressive, foreign music coming out of the instruments they're playing, oblivious to any passers-by. This is actually very close to how the music was actually conceived. Ernest Fuschbach's fluttering dulcimer is the basis of these songs, interspersed with Charles Ewing's flamenco-picked guitars. At times, alongside the Eastern underpinnings, the music is wholly evocative of front-porch Appalachian folk and blues, and the mixture of the two genres mostly works brilliantly, and at least much more successfully than it would seem possible. There are also elements of Native American ceremonial music, Spanish music, and a smattering of 12-bar acoustic blues, especially on the second CD, where A Cid Symphony performs several actual folk-blues songs with vocals, although even these are rarely straightforward. At times the music can touch on a palpable dissonance, while at others it can be so lyrical and innocent that the only way to describe it is heart-wrenchingly romantic or entirely sensual. There is no doubt that this is indulgent music, hopped up with not a little bit of naivete and the sort of self-righteous austerity that is only the province of the young, compounded by the righteousness of the era. It can seem underdone or convoluted in small patches, and after long stretches of undisturbed listening, it can also blend together a bit. By and large, though, a profound and transforming sort of innocence shines through these songs, and A Cid Symphony frequently hit on a groove so beautiful that it is mandala-like in its transcendence.

More info http://psychedelicfolk.homestead.com/A_CID_SYMPHONY.html

2 comments:

The Bomber said...

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Heavypsychmanblog said...

I must hear this

Thanks for sharing

Nice blog you have

HPM