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    Music Genre – Progressive Rock Essay

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    Progressive rock is one of those genres that had an influence on popular music culture. Its effects gone far beyond than music culture, so it founded a new subculture. Progressive rock was born in late1960’s as a reflection to what happens in the society. Likewise the other genres progressive rock was also interconnected with society.

    It grabbed attention of middle class and boomed very fast. Starting from end of 1960’s till the late 1970’s music became very popular. In 1980’s it started to lose its popularity as result of creation of new genres such as: punk rock and new wave. Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and ELP were the most popular successors of this genre. Roots and History Progressive rock is mixture of rock and different music genres such as: folk, jazz, classical, that is why it is hard to define roots of progressive rock.

    However, most of the researchers think progressive rock’s roots goes to psychedelic rock. The genre has also been called “classical rock”, “art rock” and “symphonic rock” [Kev13]. Country of origin of this genre is Britain. It was British attempt to take rock to a different artistic level of creativity.

    However, it crossed the bother of UK at early stages and gained popularity in France, Germany and Italy. Mostly was music of white males that belong to middle class. It was not a high or low music. It was music in between that both high and low music fans listen. There is no exact date of creation.

    Most of the musicians and music researchers think early musical patterns have seen in Beatles’Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that produced in 1967. However the other group of people think it started with band called Pink Floyd. The name of genre appeared as “progressive rock” in 1969.

    During 1969-1974 in a lot of new bands appeared such as: Genesis, Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and the others. Some non-progressive bands such as Queen started to examine themselves in progressive rock. Progressive rock bands realised their most popular albums throughout these 5 years [Vin11]. We can give example of Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the moon, The Wall, Genesis’ Brain Salad Surgery, Gentle Giant’s Free Hands, Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (sold 16 million copies) albums.

    In Late 1970’s situation in all spheres of life changed. Hippie movement that played a huge role in popularity of progressive rock has been declined. That made progressive rock old- fashioned and it started to lose its popularity. New genres such as Punk and New Wave started to gain popularity and destroyed utopic stories of progressive rockers. .

    The record companies started to disappear and replaced by huge music corporations that cared more on profit rather than quality of music. That made corporations to step forward along the mainstream (Martin, 2002). A lot of progressive bands started to disappear. Musical Characteristic Progressive rock has a lot of sub-genres and each of them has unique musical characteristics that differentiate them from one another. However, there are some common musical patterns as well. Progressive rock has complex structure and colorful harmony.

    There is no time limitation. Most of the songs are longish, and exceed 5 minutes. There are some songs which continue more than 20 minutes. Verses, chorus bridges, rhythm are different than popular music. Instrumentation changes throughout the song.

    Instruments such as saxophone, violin, and flute are joined to a traditional rock instruments (bass, drum, guitar). Besides these classical instruments new instruments such as Mellotron , electron percussion were also used. Usage of natural sounds and sounds of things became popular in 1970’s (cashier sound in Pink Floyd’s Money). Rhythm is free; there is no need to shape it in 4/4 or 4/3 standards. Polyrhythm, metric modulations are also identical for this music [Kev13].

    Lyrical Themes One of the main aspects of progressive rock was concept albums that talked about history, metaphysics, fantasy and etc. Lyrical theme in progressive rock was totally different than the popular music of that time. Lyrical themes were more philosophic and included surrealist stories, classical literature, mysticism, futurist utopias, death, struggles, politics and etc. Subjects were away from rebellion and violence. That is why that was not a music of youth.

    Sex was not mentioned as much as it mentioned in the other genres. Totalitarianism and its degrading effects on society were criticized [Mar02]. We can see this tendency mostly in Pink Floyd and Van Deer Graf’s lyrics. Metaphysics, especially its spiritual transformation aspect was one of the main topics of Yes’s music.

    Social issues were always present in progressive rock. British bands were against the class system and harshly criticized it in their songs (Genesis “Selling Britain by Pounds”, Gentle Giant- Three Friends etc. ). Relevant topics such as: American dream (Supertramp-Breakfast in America), religion (ELP- The only way) were analyzed and criticized by British progressive rock bands. It was involved in politics especially in Italy and USSR. Sometimes financial support to held concerts was provided by Italian Communist Party.

    Rock in Opposition movement became popular in several countries. In the Czech Republic, progressive rock band called The Plastic People gained popularity during the Prague spring. The songs of band included political content. The famous dissident and frontier of Prague spring Vaclav Havel was also inspired by the band.

    Soon he realized that music helps to expand the idea of freedom and need of revolution. He started to work together with band and wrote lyrics for their music. It was popular among activists and political prisoners. However some members of band were jailed together with Vaclav Havel [How11].

    That was the result of the power of music that inspired them and helped them to stay motivated. As Hikmat Hajizadeh mentioned (ex-ambassador of Azerbaijan Republic in Russia), that made USSR government to feel anxious about this genre and they started to check lyrics of the songs before they were released and sang in bars and concerts (H. Hajizadeh personal communication, October 25, 2012). Pink Floyd as an Influential Progressive Rock Band Pink Floyd is one of the most popular bands in music history. Pink Floyd gained popularity not only in Europe but also in the overseas countries.

    The band founded in 1965 in Manchester. Name comes from two famous blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Band sold approximately 250 million records. The dark Side Of the Moon was their the most well-known album which stayed in UK charts for 348 weeks. It is the second the most selling album in the world.

    That album helped Pink Floyd to enter American market. The album cover became a logo of the band which represents the society. Album was about modern life and its post and cons. The album was heavily influenced by philosophic movement positivism. Pink Floyd has very unique music style. They mostly mix rock, jazz and classical music.

    Besides that they included non-musical sounds to their tracks such as: sound of cashier machine, rolling coins and ringing church bells. The band has done a lot of experiments in music which became mainstream in late 1960’s and afterwards it called progressive rock. PF was considered as intellectual music. Not all people understand their lyrics, they had a special audience. Pink Floyd was more than a music band.

    They were writing about philosophic topics, spiritual transformation, politics, education and search of self and etc. The band wrote several soundtracks to movies. “The Committee”, “More”, “Zabriskie Points” are some of them. They released their concept album The Wall in 1979.

    The band shot movie called The Wall. The centre theme wall was totally far from positivism. Perception Perception of progressive rock is differs. For some people it is incredible level of creativity and starting of a new era in rock music. On the other hand, some researchers think it destroys rock and it has no any relations to rock music in terms of lyrical theme.

    Rock was music of youth that mostly belonged to a low class. Against that progressive rock was away from youth topics and it belonged mostly to a middle-class people. Rock fans blamed progressive rock bands, especially Pink Floyd for all these changes. In reality that was a result of what was happening around. Positivist and metaphysical philosophy was popular, self-isolation was one of the main topics in literature and art. That was obvious that all these change will not just pass away from music.

    Most of the people thought that this genre creates depression in society. In reality, this genre was talking about the roots of different problems in society rather than talking some of its reflections. Today progressive rock is almost vanished and died. A lot of bands were founded in 80’s and 90’s but they were not as successful as Genesis, Pink Floyd and ELP. These bands were mostly focused on beneficial and monetary side of music rather than the artistic side.

    Neal Morse, Riverside, Dream Theatre are examples of those modern progressive rock representatives. However, there is a rock band called Radiohead which is still alive and the only successful modern progressive rock band. 4. Conclusion In conclusion, the progressive rock is more than just music. It is a lifestyle, stream of intelligent thought and philosophy.

    It is an understanding of eternal needs and implicit issues. It is a window looking through the unhidden aspects of real world. Progressive rock is a world-view. Even if bands and genre faded away, this music will always live. Songs such as “Brain Salad Surgery,” “Comfortably Numb,” “Hey you”, “2+2=4” and many others will never lose their popularity.


    1. Fitch, V. , ; Mahon, R. (2006).

    Comfortably Numb-A History of “The Wall” – Pink Floyd 1978–1981 (1st ed. ). PFA Publishing Inc. 2.

    Holm-Hudson, K. (2013). Progressive Rock Reconsidered. London: Routledge. 3. Martin, B.

    (2002). Avant Rock: Experimental Music fom Beatles to Bjeork. Chicago: Open Court. 4. Sullivan, J.

    (2011). How a Revolutionary Czech Rock Band Inspired Vaclav Havel. The Rolling Stones, paraghraph 1-5. 5. Vincent, T. (2011, April 11).

    Progressive Rock. Retrieved from Northern Illionis University’s Website:

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