Board Logo
« University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Rock »

Welcome Guest. Please Login or Register.
Sep 19th, 2017, 08:38am


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

« Previous Topic | Next Topic »
Pages: 1 2  Notify Send Topic Print
 hotthread  Author  Topic: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Rock  (Read 2614 times)
NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Rock
« Thread started on: Jul 10th, 2013, 10:55am »

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, split into 3 posts because it's 3000 words long. I don't know how this essay received a perfect score, because although I was proud of it when I completed it, I assumed it was going to get a solid score of 60-70 marks; I never imagined it would a 100.

Enjoy! smiley

To what extent has progressive rock evolved to become an indefinable genre of music?

The progressive rock genre of music has undergone considerable evolution since its inception in the late 1960s, to the point where its diversity makes it difficult to apply the term to any specific style of music. Like many genres developed during the period, it now has numerous subgenres formed through experimentation by various bands, and as a result of this the term can now be used to refer to a wide range of unconventional music styles, some more progressive than others. The following essay is an examination of two of the most historically important progressive rock bands in music history – Genesis and Pink Floyd – and how the individual and complicated evolutions of their music corresponds with the evolution of the genre itself. It shall also examine a number of other notable progressive rock groups of the era, link them in with the diversity of the genre, and come to a conclusion as to whether the word “progressive” can still be accurately defined.

Progressive rock could originally be defined as a genre of music written to elevate the traditional, conventional sound of rock music far beyond a commercial level, converting the sound into an art form that explored musical ground previously unexplored, challenging the listener to absorb the music differently. The genre is best known for its complexity, with many progressive rock songs featuring elaborate and often highly outlandish instrumentation in a number of forms, with lyrics inspired by literature and philosophy. Evans writes that “Amidst this maelstrom, all aspects of rock art flourished.” (Evans, 2010:76) and indeed, the musical range of progressive rock has grown to become very large, with the genre’s bands showing inspiration from numerous traditional sources and transforming them into full, multi-part compositions, intending to give audiences seeking more intellectual music the privilege to make use of their imaginations when experiencing the music.

As a result of this initial definition, the genre received considerable criticism through its day, regarded as over-indulgent nonsense created and performed purely to demonstrate superiority. It has been consistently labelled as pretentious, especially due to the increasingly long compositions crafted by progressive rock bands often performed in their entirety during live shows. Borthwick and Moy write that “In many circles, it was felt that the genre embodied the worst excesses of pretention, expenditure and detachedness.” (Borthwick, Moy, 2004:61) This has led to various biased stereotypes of the music, including some which make the music appear to be created for artistic protest, to ruin the reputation of rock’s development in the 1960s by giving it an overblown feel, or simply to belittle the less musically talented. People may have been also been offended by the genre due to the fact that it prioritised unconventional experimentation over enjoyable melody, rendering the music tedious in a way that difficult for people to relate to, or understand the music.

Nonetheless, progressive rock continues to be influential thanks to having produced an eclectic range of talented bands. Borthwick and Moy write that “despite the cruel though sometimes justified criticism heaped upon the genre, prog did much to encourage a more conceptual and experimental approach to composition, sound palette and performance.” (Borthwick, Moy, 2004:63) However, some progressive bands have enjoyed more success than others, depending on how each band evolved their sound. Though most bands within the genre remained loyal to it, others would slowly alter their direction in order to drop the label that had been applied to them. The two bands most prominent for modifying their sound and evolving their history like this are Genesis and Pink Floyd, both bands having created a huge number of songs considered to be classics in the genre yet also releasing a lot of material that appealed to mass audiences, some unfamiliar with the general notion of progressive rock.

Of the numerous progressive rock bands that emerged at the end of the 1960s, Genesis is widely considered to be the finest of most and influential of them, famous for their songs being considerably refined and elaborate, showcasing countless innovations on musicianship and recording techniques. Their most progressive era, the “Peter Gabriel era” which lasted from 1967-1975, featured a broad range of theatrical and symphonic elements to the music and lyrics, and continues to be highly favoured by the Genesis fandom, some regarding it as the nucleus of the progressive rock scene due to the fantastical imagery prominent in the music and the often bizarre shows the band would put on. In this way Genesis represented not just a band but actual performers, rendering themselves the representatives of the progressive rock scene.

Many consider the group’s crowning achievement to be the 23-minute epic Supper’s Ready, the closing track from the Foxtrot album. Though not the first progressive rock epic to be released, this particular piece is built from a large number of motifs and emotions, mixing various forms of artistic music together to create a song that appeals to almost every branch of progressive rock follower; Derogatis writes that it “deals with no less than the balance between good and evil and man’s place in the universe.” (Derogatis, 1996:90) Likewise, the band’s Selling England By The Pound album celebrates the typically British sound of the new firmly defined genre, notably featuring all-time Genesis classics Firth Of Fifth and The Cinema Show (both of which were performed a large number of times throughout their career, both separately and as part of medleys, Macan referring to the former as “the finest nine and a half minutes Genesis ever put down” (Macan, 1997:106)). And despite the departure of vocalist Peter Gabriel in 1975 being considered a heavy blow to the band, they easily made up for this loss with two albums that fans considered to be among their best – A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering.

However, the departure of Hackett in 1977 caused the band to undergo a change that instantly split the “Hentschel era” (1976-1980) into two halves; the half with Hackett, and the half without him. For many fans, the band seemingly dropped their progressive status one album later with …And Then There Were Three… as it featured notably shorter tracks, some far more accessible than that of their earlier work, and a number one pop rock hit (Follow You, Follow Me) that closed it, but remained inherently progressive nonetheless. The last album of this era, Duke, continued this new direction, featuring more hit songs yet still applying a strong progressive quality to it; these two albums bookend the classic Genesis sound.

Nonetheless, despite their music having now shifted to a commercial sound aimed at a wider audience, the band were still arguably a progressive rock band, no matter the amount of hits released. Not only did the band manage to continue creating several progressive rock songs in this period – with roughly two to three entirely progressive songs per album after exiting the Hentschel era (their 1991 We Can’t Dance album featuring two ten-minute songs) – but the band continued to perform old classics from their early days. In this way, the band drew together both sides of their music in their later years, being able to please almost everybody in attendance to their shows.

In terms of album artwork, the Genesis albums feature famously elegant fairy tale illustrations which advertise the mysterious and progressive music within. Their covers also convey the characters featured within the songs on the albums in order to give their albums a storybook feel. Evans writes that “Paul Whitehead’s bizarre landscapes and surrealistic visualisations seemed strangely appropriate to the musical ambitions of progressive rock bands like Genesis.” (Evans, 2010:79) It is here that we see why Genesis is so rightfully hailed as the kings on progressive rock throne, as their fairy tale-influenced covers added greatly to the band’s identity as tellers of tales.
« Last Edit: Jul 10th, 2013, 11:01am by NoSonOfVine » User IP Logged

NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution of Progressive Ro
« Reply #1 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 10:56am »

Pink Floyd is often placed in direct competition with Genesis for the most important progressive rock band, though in this case their eras are reversed, with their more commercial output appearing first, only for the band to become more experimental as the 1970s began. Despite this, Pink Floyd’s legacy is colossal in comparison that of Genesis, and never suffered the same level of criticism as other progressive rock bands. Hatch and Millward note that “Though often placed in the same context, Pink Floyd did not completely follow the same precepts. For one thing, they avoided lengthy displays of instrument proficiency.” (Hatch, Millward, 1987:153) and indeed, Pink Floyd is fondly remembered nowadays not so much as a progressive rock band but as a rock band, largely thanks to their 1979 album The Wall, which features their most famous hit, Another Brick In The Wall, a song which appealed to fans of dance music, a genre almost never associated with progressive rock music.

Also unlike Genesis, Pink Floyd’s career, despite being comprised of several progressive rock albums, has never very much had its own ideal era, as all parts of their discography have been praised: their psychedelic beginnings (Piper At The Gates Of Dawn to Ummagumma) to their most progressive era (Atom Heart Mother up to Animals) and slightly their more commercial era (The Wall up to The Division Bell). Also unlike Genesis these three eras overlapped each other, each sharing aspects of each other and each rooted in psychedelic rock regardless; as a result Pink Floyd’s change of sound was more slow and steady that that of Genesis. It is also interesting to note that Pink Floyd had a starting point where Genesis did not; Pink Floyd’s fans initially germinated out of the late 1960s culture of psychedelic music and recreational drug use.

Pink Floyd’s album covers also demonstrate the band’s allegiance to experimentation. A good example is the 1970 Atom Heart Mother album, which features an image of a dairy cow on the front cover, an image that has very little to do with the music contained within it. Evans notes that “there was something almost surreal about the image of this solitary animal.” (Evans, 2010:82) Similarly, the album cover for their 1973 album The Dark Side Of The Moon – an album widely considered to be the greatest album of the 1970s – features the famous light prism, an ambiguous item which leaves the listener clueless as to how the music will sound until the record is played. This is an example of an aspect that differentiates Pink Floyd from Genesis; whereas Genesis’s storybook-style album covers gave fans an insight into their sound, Pink Floyd were more secretive about it. Thus, the two bands, despite both being progressive rock and both achieving acclaim throughout their careers, are almost nothing alike, sharing very view similarities.

Nonetheless, the genre’s impact died down in the latter half of the 1970s due to the emergence of two music genres which would go against the ideology of progressive rock music – punk and heavy metal. Though the latter took some inspiration from progressive rock, both genres became followed by subcultures that become more prominent than those who followed progressive rock. These two genres were notably raw, favouring power, emotion and angst over soundscapes and poetic lyrics, and this more straightforward approach to rock music drove progressive rock away from its limelight, and as such bands such as Genesis and Pink Floyd were forced to adapt to the change in some form, and both did so but at varying speeds.

The band Yes is another significant example of a progressive rock group that released work considered to be classic of the genre. Their trilogy of albums comprised of The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge, along with the live album that followed it, Yessongs, blended intricate guitar and swift, melodious keyboards in with powerful, uplifting and operatic vocals to create highly symphonic music overflowing with blatant progressiveness. However, unlike Genesis and Pink Floyd, Yes notably pushed the progressive genre to its extreme, taking the aspects that made it critically rejected and blew them up beyond their serviceable limits to the point of near obnoxiousness. Derogatis notes that “The indulgence and pretentions might have been tolerable if the music still rocked, but most of the art rockers checked their pomposity only when they tried to score a hit single.” (Derogatis, 1996:86) The most notable example of this can be observed in the Tales From Topographic Oceans double album, released in 1973, which contained one epic composition per side of vinyl. As a result this album featured 80 minutes of progressive rock spread across just four songs, and has since become known as an example of progressive rock that fits the stereotypes associated with it.

However, on the opposite end of the progressive rock spectrum, bands such as Gentle Giant can be found, whose music is noticeably a lot less reliant on keyboards and guitars for experimentation, instead articulating classical instruments to create elegant music derivative of medieval arrangements. Macan writes that they “added elements of cool jazz and renaissance music to the classic/folk framework, creating a dauntingly complex approach.” (Macan, 1997:24) Their songs are also notably a lot shorter, with their classic Octopus album for example having no songs that reach the six-minute mark. Unlike the music of Genesis and Pink Floyd Gentle Giant’s music is far more underground in comparison, having little musical legacy outside the progressive rock scene despite a modest attempt to commercialise their music – a move which resulted in the band’s break-up. The band Camel, who produced more instrumental progressive rock than other bands, is in a similar situation, having not enjoyed the immense critical success that both Genesis and Pink Floyd enjoyed. However, Camel is unique among progressive bands for managing to continue on during the demise of progressive rock, managing to blend a commercial sound and imagery in with their progressive music, as shown as albums such as Breathless and I Can See Your House From Here. Ultimately both of these bands displayed a different direction of progressive rock, both showcasing significant talent and ambitiousness, but prioritised charm, whimsy and accessibility in order to remain neutral in comparison to bands as blatantly progressive as Yes.

Additionally, a number of other bands contributed significantly to the genre. King Crimson, for example, integrated progressive rock with jazz to create a largely unique branch of experimental music, with their In The Court Of The Crimson King opening with a dramatic, somewhat frightening blast of cacophonous jazz fusion melodies and distorted vocals. Emerson, Lake and Palmer on the other hand dabbled greatly in classical music and indulgent use of the organ, crafting two notably complicated epics in their career: Tarkus (1971) and Karn Evil 9 (1973), the latter being a four-part song that clocks in at other 28 minutes. Lastly, another highly influential progressive rock band is Jethro Tull, whose music was adapted from country, folk and celtic music. Macan notes that the genre “is able to achieve an impressive variety by drawing on a number of different types of melodic expression.” (Macan, 1997:44) As with the comparison between Pink Floyd and Genesis, none of these three bands sound similar in any fashion, yet all remain key to progressive rock history, demonstrating the conflicting diversity of the genre and how it is difficult to define it.
« Last Edit: Jul 10th, 2013, 10:59am by NoSonOfVine » User IP Logged

NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution of Progressive Ro
« Reply #2 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 10:57am »

It is also difficult to determine which progressive rock band is the most progressive, as there are many factors that can be considered. Genesis can be regarded as the most progressive in both music and in visuals, but on the other hand, Pink Floyd succeeded in innovating a template for the genre beforehand. Technically, if we take into account that the term can refer to any music that goes against what is expected from rock music, then no genre is fully progressive. According to Borthwick and Moy, “hardly any prog act would refer to itself as progressive rock”. (Borthwick, Moy, 2004:64) Additionally, after the progressive era ended, with many bands disbanding due to the genre having lost popularity and any respect it gained, it was instantly revived and expanded further with the introduction of both progressive metal and neo-progressive rock. The gradual rises of these two subgenres again demonstrate how any genre cannot die out entirely because its legacy is enough to inspire later musicians to implement it differently.

It is also worth noting that many bands that were not famous for progressive rock music still created music that was, in some ways, progressive. Key examples include The Beatles, who provided their landmark record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, an album consistently ranked as the greatest of all; Cateforis refers to it as an “album that dramatized rock’s claim to artistic seriousness to an adult world that had previously dismissed the whole genre as blathering teen entertainment.” (Cateforis, 2007:136-137). Two others are The Who’s rock opera Tommy and Queen’s A Night At The Opera, which famously features their iconic song Bohemian Rhapsody. Though none of these bands can described as progressive rock bands, they were able to create progressive music and gain mass acceptance despite this, mainly due to having previously released more accessible music in the past.

Progressive rock is a genre that is so broad that the term is impossible to accurately define. It has evolved into many different forms that, essentially, the word can be applied to any music that the listeners considers to be innovative. This in general can extend to any form of music that deviates from the norm, attempting to explore ground not previous covered by earlier artists in order to appear unique. This ultimately makes the genre name into a label, and application of the term to any style music depends purely on the listener’s understanding of the range of genres that have been solidified. In this way the progressive rock genre is valuable because it can be attributed to any band that aims to be ambitious. Regardless of this however, any form of music, whether progressive or not, should be enjoyed foremost, as all music is made to satisfy an appetite for culture in some way no matter how it sounds.

WORDS: 3000

BIBLIOGRAPHY

• Borthwick, S.; Moy, R. (2004). Popular Music Genres. Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, UK. Pages 61, 63 and 64.
• Cateforis, T. (2007). The Rock History Reader. New York, NY, United States: Taylor and Francis Group. Pages 136-137.
• Derogatis, J. (1996). Kaleidoscope Eyes. New York, NY, United States: Taylor and Francis Group. Pages 86 and 90.
• Evans, M (2010). The Art Of British Rock. London, UK: Frances Lincoln Ltd. Pages 76, 79 and 82.
• Hatch, D.; Millward, H (1987). From Blues To Rock: An Analytical History Of Pop Music. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. Page 153.
• Macan, E. (1997). Rocking The Classics: English Progressive Rock And The Counterculture. New York, NY, United States: Oxford University Press. Pages 24, 44 and 106.
« Last Edit: Jul 10th, 2013, 10:57am by NoSonOfVine » User IP Logged

slowdancer
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 4590
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #3 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 11:43am »

That was a very enjoyable read, Thomas, thanks for posting it.
User IP Logged

Down And Out
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 29001
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #4 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 11:47am »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 11:43am, slowdancer wrote:
That was a very enjoyable read, Thomas, thanks for posting it.

Agreed. smiley One question though. You describe Follow You Follow Me as a "number one pop rock hit": In which country(ies) did it reach number one?
User IP Logged

It's good to be here, how've you been?
NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #5 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 12:38pm »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 11:47am, Down And Out wrote:
Agreed. smiley One question though. You describe Follow You Follow Me as a "number one pop rock hit": In which country(ies) did it reach number one?


Oh no! shocked I thought FYFM was a UK no. 1 single. It was actually a UK top ten single. I really should have checked that... sorry for that blatant error... embarassed
« Last Edit: Jul 10th, 2013, 12:42pm by NoSonOfVine » User IP Logged

MonsterMouse
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar

the stumpy hobbit !!!!!


PM

Gender: Female
Posts: 1814
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #6 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 12:49pm »

A great read and a very well written essay young man - very well done and thanks for sharing.
User IP Logged

You gotta get in to get out !


User Image
NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #7 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 12:56pm »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 12:49pm, MonsterMouse wrote:
A great read and a very well written essay young man - very well done and thanks for sharing.


Thank you very much, MonsterMouse. smiley

And thanks to D&O and slowdancer as well. smiley
User IP Logged

Down And Out
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 29001
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #8 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 12:58pm »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 12:38pm, NoSonofVine wrote:
Oh no! shocked I thought FYFM was a UK no. 1 single. It was actually a UK top ten single. I really should have checked that... sorry for that blatant error... embarassed

No problem. That said, perhaps your essay should only have got 99% rather than 100%.
User IP Logged

It's good to be here, how've you been?
NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #9 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 4:12pm »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 12:58pm, Down And Out wrote:
No problem. That said, perhaps your essay should only have got 99% rather than 100%.


Indeed, it should have done... I feel a tad guilty now... undecided
User IP Logged

Lily
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar

I'm just spoiled


PM

Gender: Female
Posts: 4701
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #10 on: Jul 10th, 2013, 9:03pm »

Very very good! cool
User IP Logged

User Image
Down And Out
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 29001
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #11 on: Jul 11th, 2013, 03:29am »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 12:38pm, NoSonofVine wrote:
Oh no! shocked I thought FYFM was a UK no. 1 single. It was actually a UK top ten single. I really should have checked that... sorry for that blatant error... embarassed

As far as I can remember, Genesis's highest charting single in the UK was Mama (#4) and in the US was Invisible Touch (#1). Of course this confirms that British fans have superior taste to American fans. grin wink
User IP Logged

It's good to be here, how've you been?
boredatwork
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Female
Posts: 2312
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #12 on: Jul 11th, 2013, 06:35am »

on Jul 10th, 2013, 12:38pm, NoSonofVine wrote:
Oh no! shocked I thought FYFM was a UK no. 1 single. It was actually a UK top ten single. I really should have checked that... sorry for that blatant error... embarassed

That’s very impressive. When the tutor realises you know a subject more thoroughly than they do, they take what you say on trust rather than check what chart position “Follow You Follow Me” reached smiley

What degree is it for? Music, or something related like Social Studies? (sorry if you’ve already explained this somewhere else).
User IP Logged

alanh
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM


Posts: 3956
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #13 on: Jul 11th, 2013, 06:37am »

Hi there



Excellent stuff - a well thought out analysis.



Alan H
User IP Logged

NoSonOfVine
Lord/Lady of Lords
ImageImageImageImageImage


member is offline

Avatar




PM

Gender: Male
Posts: 14130
xx Re: University Essay - Evolution Of Progressive Ro
« Reply #14 on: Jul 11th, 2013, 06:51am »

on Jul 11th, 2013, 06:35am, boredatwork wrote:
That’s very impressive. When the tutor realises you know a subject more thoroughly than they do, they take what you say on trust rather than check what chart position “Follow You Follow Me” reached smiley

I think it's because the tutor marks the essay based on the level of analysis and understanding and the application of quotations and critical theory, whereas minor nitpicks are not considered to be important.

Quote:
What degree is it for? Music, or something related like Social Studies? (sorry if you’ve already explained this somewhere else).

My essay was for the Popular Music module for one of my two university courses, Media and Cultural Studies (my other course is American Studies).
« Last Edit: Jul 11th, 2013, 07:00am by NoSonOfVine » User IP Logged

Pages: 1 2  Notify Send Topic Print
« Previous Topic | Next Topic »

Donate $6.99 for 50,000 Ad-Free Pageviews!

| |

This forum powered for FREE by Conforums ©
Sign up for your own Free Message Board today!
Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Conforums Support | Parental Controls