By Kevin Alan Lamb
When you hear the siren call of Maxwell Edison’s music, do not fight it. The Chicago based handpan player will captivate you into his meditative, restorative chamber, where you will be tuned and toned for your life’s greatest adventure. Programmed to receive your heart’s marching orders for ascent; beamed to the mothership; engulfed in sacred and sympathetic vibrations of repeating frequencies. Bathed in the earth’s natural elements; the mysterious breath of steel, with a sound and story tuned specifically for you to feel and hear. Haunting and joyous, permission to be porous; absorb its lesson, absorb its peace delivered sacredly to you, with ease, when you breathe and let it be, to set you free. Grounded by its ethereal woody sound, and hearable overtones, feel the rushing river pouring over you, giving strength where you perceive weakness, breathing acceptance and love deep into the most narrow creases. Maxwell Edison is a hopeful romantic, who reminds us that “Love has a way of springing spontaneously from within us; it does not come from outside sources; you cannot coerce love; you cannot force love; you cannot be without love. It must be awakened from inside through self communication, knowing what you need to love and what you want to love, and being yourself.” – Ram Das
Offering both acoustic and electric performances, workshops, yoga accompaniment, and private lessons, Maxwell Edison has been sharing his music throughout the midwest for the past nine years. He first discovered the handpan from a live Shpongle concert on YouTube and it changed his life, inspiring him to quit his Third-Shift job at a gas station, and go back to college for music. Max studied at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, focusing on percussion performance, improvisation, music theory, and business. There, he transformed a C average into the Dean’s List. He has been a part of multiple percussion ensembles, principal percussionist of the SI Civic Orchestra, and busking for the past three years in greater Chicago.
Called to the handpan as a result of hand percussion and its lofty melodic sounds, Edison attributes their layout to lending the ability to play in unique styles from around the world. An instrument barely over 20-years-old, invites people (musician and non) to explore their own musical expression. Peter Levitov, another handpan player based out of Florida, talks about how the handpan is a mirror, and while you play one, you get what you put into the instrument.
Jenny Robinson, owner and builder of Isthmus Instruments, is one of Edison’s heroes and dear friends. She dedicated her life learning to build handpans, investing countless hours, working toward perfection. He is grateful for her tutelage, and the time he has spent under her wing as an apprentice, learning to build the instruments which have changed the course of his life.
Some of Maxwell Edison’s influences include EOTO, Grateful Dead, Dopapod, East Forest, Marc Rebillet, Pretty Lights, Jethro Tull, Iron and Wine, along with handpan players David Kuckhermann, Jeremy Arndt, Stevan Morris, Kabeçéo, Mark d’ambrosio, among others.
His late father, Kenneth Johnson, was Edison’s biggest supporter, expanding his musical palate, bonded by love and music.
In 2021, Maxwell Edison achieved a momentous personal feat at Summer Camp Music Festival, where he performed multiple sets and led a handpan workshop at the Soulshine Stage.
Summer Camp was his first music festival in 2012, and has since grown into a home where 20,000 of his best friends gather annually for Memorial Day Weekend, to celebrate their love of music, one another, and summer.
Just a few months later, he performed and led workshops at the pristine Suwannee Hulaween.
Since 2016, Edison has been an integral part of the Isthmus Handpan Gathering, in Madison Wisconsin. Additionally, he’s performed at Handpangea Handpan Gathering, and Steel Mountain Handpan Gathering.
Inspired to be a musician since kindergarten, Maxwell Edison has given himself permission to dream bigger, hoping to play Red Rocks, The Caverns, LiB, Sonic Bloom, Electric Forest, and HangOut, USA handpan gathering. And just in case there’s a little more magic in that dream, stars would align if given the opportunity to play with Jason Hann from String Cheese Incident, and Marc Rebillet (aka Loop Daddy!).
I met Maxwell while working Summer Camp 2021. Listen to his set at SCAMP. #thisisagoodsound