My thoughts on what is Progressive Rock?
The word `progressive' in music, is like- art, it is difficult to define; and it can
have different meanings to each person. It is usually mentioned in the term Progressive
Rock, but progressive music can encompass every musical genre including metal, jazz, hip-
hop, and even classical genres.
I like to define progressive rock (or `Prog' for the initiated); as widening the
scope of the average 4/4 beat drivel that normally glorifies the airwaves (and Mtv). It is
usually characterized by superior musicality, time changes and syncopation, sometimes
longer compositions (songs that usually run from 5- 10 minutes, but can approach and
even exceed 30 minutes in length), and complex arrangements. Not factory-made.
ProgRock is sometimes defined by critics as old 70's `Art Rock, but it's
influences span the centuries, right up to present day. Yet many bands and progressive
bands dabble into progressive ideas and musicality, while some bands refrain, treading in safer commercial waters.
In my opinion, progressive music is a form of nonconformity; not selling your soul or copying popular trends, commercialism, corporate pressure and moronic stupidity just to look cool and
sell CDs. Prog is real outlaw music, with unlimited themes, no musical boundaries and the ability to think beyond the mundane. It usually takes more nerve, learning, dedication and talent to be involved in progressive music. Many of these musicians are virtuosos in their field (ex: Allan Holdsworth). And lastly, the music should stand on its own, without the lure of auto-tuned banality and greed. You shouldn't have to need a 2 million dollar video to sell your music.
Twenty years ago, I heard that there were 1500 Prog bands in the world; most of these musicians have a been influenced by one or more of: 70's Art Rock (ex:
Hendrix/Pink Floyd), Jazz-Fusion (ex: Return to Forever/Brand X), Krautr(ex: early Genesis),
Symphonic (ex: Enid/ Renaissance), Canterbury (ex: Caravan), Psychedelic Rock (ex:
Kraftwork), Classical Rock (ex: The Doors/Beatles), Folk-Rock (ex: Fairport
Convention), Space Rock (ex: Hawkwind/Amon Duul), Zeuhl, (Magma), and many other forms of music. Prog music has other sub-genres which I'll name only a few such as: Progressive Metal (ex: Dream Theater/Fates Warning), Neo-Progressive (ex: Marillion/IQ), Electronic Progressive (ex: Jean-Michel Jarré/Tangerine Dream), RIO (ex: Magma), as well as `difficult to label' bands like: Gentile Giant, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and Gryphon.
Some groups/performers lose their Prog roots (usually when they get older), when they make a musical change (Allan Holdsworth from rock to jazz), or the commercial (ex: Phil Collins, Gabriel, Marillion/Fish, Elton John). Many times bands change when they get popular and start to repeat themselves producing commercially safe music (ex: 80's/90's Genesis).
Progressive music is not exclusively defined by lots of keyboards (though many ProgRock bands use them), or 70's `dinosaur groups. There are many established Prog bands creating excellent material... check out IQ, Van Der Graaf Genertor, King Crimson, the real excitement is a plethora of new Prog bands that are alive and doing amazing work. Check out: Il Sentiero di Taus, Macroscream, Roz Vitalis , Aquaserge, Feronia, Cirrus Bay, Willowglass, Rachel Flowers, District 97, and many more.
Is all Progressive music good? Of course not! Sometimes it has to be listened to- many times to `get it.' Sometimes Prog can be as stifling as what is on the Top 20. Prog fans tend to be quite critical and rarely think whatever they listen to is perfect.
Are all Prog fans intellectuals that get it? No. Though it was fun to see Dennis Miller make a `Watcher of the Skies' 1972 Genesis reference on his Live HBO show yers back when Prog was dead.
Music will always be a personal taste, yet many will not even try to listen to something new or unusual for fear of being `different.' In this day and age of: corporate music tours and festivals, slutty performers that buy their billboard hits from writers, bands that talk anarchy but succumb to the corporate endorsement money train, past rock `n roll superstars touring the same work over and over ignoring their creative roots, hip-hop- rapped up in: complaining, showing off, and still afraid to get creative; it is a comforting thought that there are performers that are willing to take risks, to create great music instead of putting out a lame 3 min. pop tune. These are the bands who spend hundreds of hours practicing, creating and touring in small clubs, ( without earning much cash), just to express themselves on a higher level. Progressive music will always be around us, sometimes invisible, hiding in small venues, obscured by the commercially-dominated machine of the music corporation and Mtv/BET, but it can be discovered, obtained and enjoyed. It transcends race, sex, status and age. There's progressive bands in Europe, Africa, North & South America, Asia, the Middle East and Australia. Check them out. Explore. Enjoy the music over the attitude, the sweat over the slick. Become a Proghead! Of course this is just my opinion. I MAY BE WRONG!