The Persistance of Prog Rock (New Yorker article)

Discussion in 'General Music Discussion' started by Mr. Big Noodles, Jul 7, 2017.

  1. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Thanks for posting.

    The article was well written. I'm not really sure what I take away from the ideas contained in it, though. :lol:

    It might be obvious that I love prog rock and prog metal, and I often think that the pretentiousness associated with prog is often a reflection of the pretentiousness of the people who hate prog fans, rather than the behaviour of prog fans by and large, and then I go on groups like "prog snob" and reconsider my position entirely. :lol:

    I really think that prog is more of a descriptor than a style or genre. If you start with that, it kind of throws a different perspective on music, I believe. But what I believe is all relative to what I observe, and equally important, not from the perspective of what I fail to observe.

    Overall, I fail to see how prog is more or less honest than whatever congruent descriptor you can attach to music. Is loud music more or less honest than soft music? Is 3/4 time more or less honest than 4/4 time? Is cheerful music more or less honest than sad music? Blah, these have nothing to do with the sincerity of the artist or the honesty contained within the song. Hell, an artist might make a song just to cash in on a trend, and the song might still strike a chord with me on a personal level - so what does that mean?

    The article got me thinking for sure, so I must admit it is a good article.
     
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  3. Dineley

    Dineley SS.org Regular

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    Good read definitely although as was mentioned above still unsurr of what the point he was making sas exactly. But i got to read a well written article about musi and i am a big fan of proggy stuff so bonus.

    Excuse the grammar that was a progressivr paragraph.
     
  4. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    The article leads with:
    It's nice to see prog get some good press, but it's still a bit backhanded to treat its persistence as transgressive or otherwise inconceivable. Maybe the "_____ killed _____" stories in music are BS and that the genres that perhaps sold attitude & affectation over substance were less fit to survive.

    Then again, critics are often befuddled by the popularity of things that they don't recognize or promote. There was an article about Dream Theater on some site (I think it was the now-defunct Grantland) whose bent was essentially, "How weird that this band is so successful without us critics- the anointed gatekeepers- paying any attention to them?!"
     
  5. ArtDecade

    ArtDecade Unhindered by Talent

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    The critics never rated KISS. Well, they did alright over the years.
     
  6. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    The assessment that prog rock shot off from the Beatles' later work is mostly a fair assessment, but, looking closer at how prog rock came about in the first place, I think it is quite fair to say that it was well underway before the release of Sgt. Pepper, with the Doors, the Moody Blues (after Hayward joined), and the Zombies. Yeah, the Zombies had a strong influence on early prog, although I would agree that their influence faded rather quickly, but they certainly were keen on combining jazz with pop/rock and they also employed a lot of keyboard in a way similar to how early British prog bands employed keyboard.

    My mom was big into prog. Her favourite records were stuff like Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pretty Things, Moody Blues, Queen, and Frank Zappa. My dad was into blues rock, more like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Animals. As a kid, I loved all of this stuff. I know the Police are hardly a prog band, but when I first listened to Synchronicity, to me, it was like a halfway point between the softer, more textured and thematic music my mom liked and the rougher rawer stuff my dad listened to. By the time I was a teenager, and I was playing guitar, it all exploded for me the first time I heard Dream Theater. Those guys clearly listened to all of the stuff my parents listened to and then some. But alas, my parents didn't like them, so the angsty teenager who likes music his parents didn't care for was born. :lol:

    Even outside of Dream Theater's sphere of influence, though, there were still proggy bands here and there that appeared on my radar. I went through a phase listening to Yes, and from there I discovered the more obscure Gryphon, and the well-known King Crimson (but my parents didn't have any of their records). And, of course, Rush.

    But, like I said in my last post, I think prog is more a general adjective. I would say that Green Day's American Idiot has some prog slathered on it, and not just because it was a concept album (but partly yeah). From time to time, a band makes syndicated airwaves that hits me right in the prog. I remember Pulse Ultra's "Despot" playing on the modern rock station as a sort of Post-nĂ¼metal thing, but they definitely hit on a new style with a heavy amount of prog in it.

    So even if "prog rock" bands fade from glory, their influences live on in the common thread that goes through all kinds of music. Eventually the web of thread gets tangled up into a "prog band" every now and again. It's like saying that rap rock went away. It never went away, it just got passed down to bands who were less prevalent on the radio.
     
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  7. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

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    Then again, many would argue that soloing for minutes on end and writing adolescent lyrics about folklore and pseudoscience is the exact opposite of substance :lol: Especially compared to the socially conscious and urgent messages of many other contemporary songwriters from that time. You could also argue that prog is about as "dead" as any other formerly popular genre, which is to say not literally dead. No genre is. But I don't think prog has any survival bragging rights over for example disco, hair metal or goa trance, it's down there with all of them to be fair.
     
  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    :lol:
     
  9. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    Oh, I wouldn't exactly say that I believe that prog is the apotheosis of intelligent musical expression or anything- please don't get me wrong. :lol:

    Maybe what I'm trying to say is that the king-of-the-mountain concept with music just doesn't hold up; the popularity of a type of music that seems to 'oppose' another doesn't necessarily spell the end of the latter music. There were movements like punk & indie that were supposed to make prog forever uncool, but those movements themselves have fallen by the wayside and are arguably as niche. Prog, I believe, survived their assassination- people still play it, people still go out to see it, and it gets by without journalists carrying their jocks.
     
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  10. Bobro

    Bobro SS.org Regular

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    Thanks, good article. I do like prog rock of all kinds, but coming from a classical music background, i don't buy into the idea that it's "complex and difficult". Sure, there is a tremendous amount of virtuoso instrumental performance, but that is an ancient and worldwide working-class tradition in most of the world's folk musics. Prog for me is the most proletariat of rock musics, though rock critics tend to subscribe to the view that "lazy" is the defining characteristic of proletariat music. Guys who work hard with their hands, doing skilled labor, tend to be the prog fans, in my experience.
     
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  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Wow! Yeah, you are 100% accurate, inasmuch as I have experienced. Every factory has a Rush fan or two. None of the wealthier people I know care at all about any prog bands, but prefer to listen to classical music to appear "classy," or Jimmy Buffet to lay back and relax.
     
  12. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    The idea that any musical style killed off any other musical style is absurd to me. Punk, which supposedly supplanted progressive rock, had different motivating factors and aesthetic goals from prog. It's like saying that rock killed jazz in the 1950s because rock was regularly in the top 40. Of course, anyone who knows anything about jazz can tell you that the 1950s were the most fruitful and innovative years for the style. That was also a period of canonization in jazz: John Coltrane and Miles Davis are arguably two of the most important musicians of the twentieth century, and were immediately recognized as such. Ditto for rock music in the 1970s. Stigmatization? Yes, progressive rock had its detractors. Punk certainly had its detractors. Bebop had its share too, as did swing (which I guess was replaced or succeeded by bop if you follow the logic of Hegelian social progress that is being applied to these prog/punk histories). I don't see how those narratives can be relevant.

    In my experience, it's a lot more diverse than that. I used to go to school with a trust fund baby who was really into Kanye West, etc. And you have to be pretty affluent to justify the expense of a Rush ticket. On the other hand, the one stranger who complimented my Magma shirt on the street was a house painter fresh off their shift. The lesson? Mass media (recordings, broadcasts, internet) has a huge democratizing effect (even if it has become a tool for the fetishization of commodities in late stage capitalism). Despite significant economic disparity all around the globe, musical tastes do not necessarily follow the same lines of segregation.
     
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  13. auntyethel

    auntyethel Skommeling

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    This may be a tangent, but is relevant to the attitudes talked about within the article... I share many of the sentiments above, but one thing I never understand about the pop-critical approach to music, especially prog: why is acceptable for artists across a broad spectrum to show virtuosity, but musicians should be good up a certain point? And if they cross that border, they are an "embarrassment", or "get carried away?"

    Just the general impression I get when any 'mainstream' source talks about the genre: a violinist widdling a Paganini song is the pinnacle of high culture, a guitarist widdling over prog is bottom of the barrel.
     
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  14. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    It's really a deep topic, but it has to do with the relationship between complexity and aesthetics. The more complexity in a piece of artwork, the more aesthetic regard is rewarded, until a saturation point is reached, and then it quickly goes from perceived as pleasant to perceived as unpleasant. The tipping point is determined by the culture at the time. A lot of musicians get around this by expressing themselves in more and more subtle ways.

    Coming back to prog as an element of musical style rather than its own style, maybe that element doesn't typically mix easily with subtlety.

    I'll pick on Rush again as an example - Rush seems to be one of those bands who has a fireproof fan base. You run into Rush fans here and there, and I don't think too many people who are Rush fans ever really stop liking Rush. But then, IMO, Rush is just an all-around great band. Take a counter example, Peter Gabriel, who fronted Genesis, then left the band. After he left, Genesis became much more popular internationally, and Gabriel's solo work became super popular worldwide. After a couple of years in the limelight, though, he became that aging dude who releases albums that keep winning awards, but the mainstream no longer listens to. I'm sure he still has fans, but I never run into them.

    I think a lot of the decline in progressive rock bands in the mid-to-late 1970's was because of those particular band's attitudes and actions. Robert Fripp was/is pretty much the top name in the who's who of prog rock, yet he went through a period when he was constantly bad mouthing the genre and the other bands involved in it.
     

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