Friday, June 6, 2008

Prog? What IS prog?

A couple of days ago, when we learned that Yes was cancelling their tour due to Jon Anderson's respiratory illness, we got into an off-air discussion of progressive rock. I wanted to know what it really meant. I've never been too clear on the definition. "Progressive" seems to me to indicate that it is something that moves the genre of rock forward in some way. Which would indicate that all bands that create a brand new sound, but would still be considered rock and roll, are "prog". But the bands that are considered "prog" don't always fit into that mold. Yes, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, they all make sense. But Rush? Queen? Uriah Heep? What, exactly, did they do to move rock music forward? Nothing against those bands...well, nothing against Queen, anyway, but aren't they more "art" bands than they are "prog"? Art seems a more apt description of Alan Parsons, Pink Floyd, ELO and ELP as well.

Woody and Randall tried to explain it to me as big, theatrical music. Like, the kind of stuff that involves a mellotron and a choir, like ELP and Genesis. I don't hear that on The Court of the Crimson King. Doc explained it as music that was in odd time signatures and had a classical influence, like Procul Harum and Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa. But there doesn't seem to be one unifying definition for it in any way. It strikes me that "prog" was, in it's day, the same thing that "alternative" was in the early nineties. If something had guitars and drums and yet couldn't be considered rock music, it was classified "alternative". I think "prog" might have been the same idea fifteen years earlier. The difference being that "alternative" music tended to be more stripped-down, whereas in the days of progressive rock it would have been called "garage". And in the alternative era, what used to be called prog, with the big flourishes and choirs and 7/8 time signatures, became "new age". Or something. I'm just speculating here. And I still don't really get it.

No comments:

Post a Comment