progresszív rock

A progresszív rock irányzatainak közös jellemzõje az új, modern hangzás érdekében történõ kísérletezés.
Leginkább a rhythm and blues, valamint a szimfonikus és jazz-zene alkalmazását, a rockzenével való ötvözését próbálták gyakran improvizatív módon megvalósítani.
Keletkezése idején, 1968-1969 körül az uralkodó általános popzenei irányzatokhoz képest haladó volt.
art-rock, szimfonikus rock

What is Prog?

In the Beginning

The first usage of I'm aware (which, naturally, does not make it the first!), of the word “Progressive” in relation to music, was Progressive or Cool jazz, in the late 1950s.


We'll ignore this, except to note that there was a propensity among musicians and music fans to want to label their music as Progressive - and there was probably something in the music that made this an appropriate tag.


The first usage of the term "Progressive Rock" that I'm aware of is on the sleeve notes to Eclection's 1968 album entitled "Eclection". Therefore, it makes absolute sense that this album defines what Progressive Rock is, in the absence of any hard records of anything preceeding it – but it makes just as much sense to assume that the term was already in common use, as it was among the Underground or Progressive Music scene of the late 1960s.


A full review of Eclection’s album will be forthcoming, once the band are added to this site, but a summary is useful to this discussion; It is a rather charming lightweight folk/rock album with obvious flavours of the jangly sound of the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Fairport Convention and the Mamas and the Papas - but infused with Hammond and strings recalling the Moody Blues. The frequent trumpet solos also draw comparisons with Love, and once or twice I'm reminded of the Doors, Jethro Tull, and a less psychedelic version of Chrysalis.


This is quite a surprising mix of influences, for such an apparently lightweight folk/pop album, and there is something about it that makes it stand out from those greats, but in a really subtle way that you only get after a few listens - this is not the immediate blast of the album commonly held to be the first Progressive Rock album proper - and if you look at any list of "Elements of Progressive Rock", you will find a great deal in Eclection, and get more out of every listen.

King Crimson

As everyone knows, "In The Court..." was the first Progressive Rock album proper - therefore this is the album to listen to examine in order to discover what it's essentially all about. This does not mean that every Progressive Rock album has to sound like "In The Court..." - by implication, a Progressive Rock album must sound like itself.


“In The Court” has a concept running through it, the songs themselves pay no attention to 3-minute hit single formats – and chip away at standard intro/verse/chorus song structures (but not completely destroying them). The music is rooted in the Hard Rock of the Yardbirds and Cream with its tendency towards distorted guitar riffing, especially in 21st Century Schizoid Man, but meanders off dangerously into territory as far away as it can get from Rock Music in the avant-garde explorations of MoonChild.


The latter is particularly remarkable in that it is a true avant-garde composition, rather than a simple impovisational experimentation, which characterised the more “far-out” aspects of Psychedelic acts of previous years, and the former is remarkable in that the jazz explorations are similarly tightly constructed, yet feel improvised – again, distinct from Psychedelic bands which used “jazz exploration” to mean noodle away using a pentatonic scale over two chords.


Going further, the title track is split into many sections, the most interesting of which is the Dance of the Puppets – on the surface a simple, jaunty little tune, but in context, a largely improvised strip-down and development of the main thematic ideas.





The music is clearly showing us 3 things;


1.      Tight composition with a strong feeling of improvisation.

2.      Development of thematic material.

3.      Stripping away the notion of Rock music, leaving something else entirely.



One could easily extend this list, just by using the ears;


There’s something about the melodies; They’re longer than we’re used to in Rock music – the phrases are not stand-alone, short, repeated units, but conjoined in multiple phrases to make  bigger phrases, similarly to Classical music.


There’s something about the harmonies too – dischords and soft, jazz-flavoured chords are more prominent. The use of I-IV-V is almost redundant - completely redundant in “MoonChild”, where the sense of diatonic harmony and movement towards a cadence is completely destroyed.


And what about the rhythms? Aggressive, strident rhythms, soft, echoing rhythms, percussion rather than straightforward rhythm – there’s a wide mixture, and this is a difficult album to dance to without looking silly.


Timbre? An extreme range (for the time) is utilised – a mega-distorted guitar across to acoustic. Harsh-edged saxophone, soft, blurry Mellotron, crashing drums, subtle percussion and chimes, stops, starts and contrasting sections in the music, providing a hitherto unheard of range of dynamic in rock music.


Form, the most critical aspect when distinguishing Progressive music from non-progressive music, we’ve already covered, and found it to be destroyed utterly for a few tantalisingly brief moments.


As demonstrated and discussed, every aspect of Rock music is either taken to an extreme or obliterated on ITCOTCK – and, despite the strong word, “obliterated” is exactly what happened to it. More pertinent to the cause, it is what this album alone achieved on or before the day of its release – so Progressive Rock is a very apt label for this album indeed, and it certainly stands as a benchmark for the genre.


Of course, there are albums with these qualities that preceeded it – as nothing is without precedent in music… as far as anyone knows – but these are mere qualities, elements, if you will. Nothing is ruled out, as the rules of music, while strongly binding like an elemental force, are not carved in stone, and the first Progressive Rock album can be whatever you like, really – as long as you have a good understanding of what it is. I hope I've assisted you in achieving such an understanding even, or particularly, if you disagree with everything I've said.



So what is Prog?


It’s Progressive Rock Music, music that defines itself, music that boldly goes, music that dares, music that creates, music that thinks as it creates, fuses left brain with right, music that allows itself to be influenced by anything and everything – the free-est form of rock music, yet the most tightly controlled, music that puts form over function, head over feet and soul overall.

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