Symphonic rock

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Symphonic rock is a sub-genre of progressive rock. Since early in progressive rock's history, the term has been used to distinguish more classically influenced progressive rock from the more psychedelic and experimental forms of progressive rock.[1]

Symphonic rock can be described as the combining of progressive rock with classical music traditions.[2] Some artists perform rock arrangements of themes from classical music or compose original pieces in classical composition structures. Additionally, they may play with the accompaniment of a symphony orchestra or use a synthesizer or mellotron to emulate orchestral instruments.

As the term is used in music criticism (and this article), orchestral renditions of hit rock and pop songs do not necessarily qualify as symphonic rock, though various outlets sometimes market them using that term. Using an orchestra does not make a piece symphonic rock; it must meet the criteria for being progressive rock in addition to the qualities listed for being symphonic.

Attributes[edit]

Classical devices often employed in symphonic rock include the following

Artists[edit]

As early as 1966, with The Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds,[3] concept albums started appearing that tied all the songs on an album into a thematic whole. The Beatles followed with their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) incorporating significant orchestral passages and studio editing. In the same year, The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed merged rock playing with orchestral accompaniment. Procol Harum's 1968 album Shine On Brightly contained the epic length song "In Held Twas In I". These works and experiments led to what would become progressive rock, specifically symphonic prog in the United Kingdom.[2]

The Moody Blues[edit]

The Moody Blues are an English rock band. Among their innovations was a fusion with classical music, most notably in their 1967 album Days of Future Passed. For many, the mellotron epitomised The Moody Blues and their symphonic sound.

The Nice[edit]

Initially formed as a backup band for the jazz singer P. P. Arnold, The Nice went on to produce their first album The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (1967). It was the first attempt at art rock heavily influenced by psychedelic rock. The album Ars Longa Vita Brevis (1968) contained rock versions of classical compositions such as the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius and The Brandenberg Concerto by J.S. Bach. It was their third album Nice (1969) where they charted a course for symphonic prog with its mix of psychedelic rock, jazz, blues and classical elements. They ended with Five Bridges (1970), a work commissioned by the Newcastle Arts Festival. The Five Bridges Suite contains five movements written by the band members instead of using existing classical works. The big criticism of the group was that they did not have a good lead singer. Keyboardist Keith Emerson went on to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

King Crimson[edit]

King Crimson released their landmark album In the Court of the Crimson King in 1969, bringing acclaim to progressive rock.[4] Guitarist Robert Fripp enriched his melodic palette by reading Vincent Persichetti's Twentieth Century Harmony: Creative Aspects and Practice[5] and used techniques of atonal harmony, such as whole tone scales. The 1974 song "Red" (1974) used an octatonic scale.[6]

Renaissance[edit]

Renaissance were formed after the breakup of the Yardbirds. Their first album, Renaissance (1969), came out two months after In the Court of the Crimson King. The album saw them mixing classical, eastern, jazz and folk elements with rock.[7] They became a recognised symphonic prog band when they reformed in 1971 with Annie Haslam as the vocalist for the album Prologue (1972). They peaked with their albums Ashes Are Burning (1973), Turn of the Cards (1974) and Scheherazade and Other Stories (1975).

Emerson, Lake & Palmer[edit]

Emerson, Lake & Palmer kicked off '70s Symphonic Prog with their first album Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1970). ELP performed classical compositions such as Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" on the album Pictures At An Exhibition (1971) and Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" on Works, Volume 1 (1977) with electric instrumentation.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer also composed suites that are considered classics of the genre. The 1971 song "Tarkus" uses quartal harmony.[8] Other songs include "The Endless Enigma" on the album Trilogy (1972) and "Karn Evil 9" on the album Brain Salad Surgery (1973).[2]

Genesis[edit]

Genesis emerged in the '70s as a symphonic prog band with their second album Trespass (1970). The high point of their symphonic prog output was Foxtrot (1972), which contains their only long suite, "Supper's Ready", written as a variation of sonata form, and Selling England by the Pound (1973).[2] After Peter Gabriel left the group following the tour for the concept album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974), they continued in the Symphonic Prog vein until 1976's Wind & Wuthering with Phil Collins as the lead singer. After Steve Hackett left the group in 1977, they became a crossover, arena rock band.[4] Hackett, prior to leaving Genesis, released his own symphonic prog album Voyage of the Acolyte (1975).

Gentle Giant[edit]

Gentle Giant were formed after the break-up of the psychedelic pop band, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. The band's first album was released in 1970 and its music is a mixture of different genres such as blues, classical music, soul, folk, jazz fusion and psychedelic rock. After this album, the band departed from this style and turned to a more experimental sound, as well as including more symphonic elements. The band's music combined multi-part vocal harmonies, complex lyrics, organization with concept album form, frequent changes in tempo, frequent use of syncopation and non-standard time signatures, use of complex melodies frequently contrasting harmonies with dissonance, extensive use of instrumental and vocal counterpoint, use of musical structures typically associated with classical music and use of classical and medieval instrumentation not generally associated with rock music.

Pink Floyd[edit]

Pink Floyd are usually not included in the symphonic rock genre because they are considered by critics not to be "orchestral" enough in sound.[9] However, their 1970 album Atom Heart Mother contains the "Atom Heart Mother" suite with extensive orchestra use. By Meddle (1971), specifically the suite "Echoes", they moved in the direction of symphonic prog rather than psychedelic rock. With albums such as Wish You Were Here (1975),[2] an ode to former band member Syd Barrett and screed against the music business, and Animals (1977), a concept album based on Animal Farm by George Orwell, they were firmly in the realm of symphonic prog. "The Trial" on the album The Wall is set up in the manner of a Broadway musical number, complete with string and brass ensembles, and is only topped by David Gilmour's guitar riff.

Yes[edit]

Yes, starting with their third album The Yes Album (1971), produced a highly successful blend of classical, psychedelic and progressive ensemble rock. Their approach was similar to classical music; each instrument played its own melodic line to generate a grand musical theme. The vocals in some songs (e.g. "Yours Is No Disgrace") were treated as just another instrument in the composition. They were also writing multi-part suites such as "Starship Trooper" on The Yes Album (1971), "Heart of the Sunrise" on Fragile (1971), "Close To the Edge"[2] on Close to the Edge (1972) and "Awaken"[10] on Going For The One (1977). What the mainstream rock press perceived as the excess of Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973) marked the start of the backlash against Prog music.[11]

Focus[edit]

Dutch band Focus, containing Thijs van Leer and Jan Akkerman, began to assert symphonic prog[12] with their second album Focus II (Moving Waves) (1971) despite their hit song "Hocus Pocus" (which is noted for lead singer Thijs van Leer's yodeling). This album brought them worldwide acclaim. After their next two albums Focus III (1972) and Hamburger Concerto (1974), they fell away from symphonic prog.

Rick Wakeman[edit]

Rick Wakeman was an on again-off again keyboard virtuoso for Yes who also produced several solo symphonic prog concept albums. The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1973) consisted exclusively of Rick and all his synthesisers. Journey To the Centre of the Earth (1974) and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (1975) made use of symphony orchestras and choirs along with his band. The following year No Earthly Connection (1976) had him pare down the production to just using his band, the "English Rock Ensemble".

Camel[edit]

Camel, consisting of Andrew Latimer and former Them keyboardist Peter Bardens, included elements from Canterbury and space rock in their brand of symphonic prog starting with Camel (1973). They moved firmly into symphonic prog with their next album Mirage (1974) and their 1975 concept album The Snow Goose. Unfortunately, they did not have a recognisable lead singer, unlike Yes, ELP or Genesis (The Snow Goose was entirely instrumental) which limited their success).[4] After Moonmadness (1976), they too moved into more mainstream territory.

Electric Light Orchestra[edit]

Others such as Electric Light Orchestra played rock music with orchestral arrangements and/or orchestra backing. They also released their own concept album with 1974's Eldorado. But starting with 1975's Face the Music they favoured more of a pop rock style.[4]

Development in Other Countries[edit]

Europe[edit]

Italy[edit]

Italy's symphonic rock boomed in 1972, after the successes of New Trolls' Concerto Grosso, No. 2 and Van der Graaf Generator's Pawn Hearts. The most popular bands, such as Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Le Orme, played symphonic prog heavily influenced by classical music, against the backdrop of the Italian canzone tradition. Bands like New Trolls, Osanna, Metamorfosi, Alphataurus, Semiramis, and Biglietto per l'Inferno had a harder edge, but still with traits of the symphonic tradition. (see Italian progressive rock)

France[edit]

Bands in France arose in the mid- to late '70s influenced by both King Crimson and Genesis. Ange, influenced also by French folk music, released Le Cimetière des Arlequins (1973) and Au-delà du Délire (1974). Atoll, incorporating the influences of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, released L'Araignée-Mal (1975). Pulsar, heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, released The Strands of the Future (1976) and Halloween (1977). Mona Lisa, noted for being very theatrical, released Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard (1978).

Germany[edit]

Amidst the Krautrock bands, there were several symphonic prog bands that gained recognition. Triumvirat, best described as an ELP clone, released Illusions on a Double Dimple (1973), Spartacus (1975) and Old Loves Die Hard (1976). Grobschnitt were known not only for their symphonic passages, suites and synthesiers, but also for the absurd humour and strange noises in their work, as heard on Ballerman (1974) and Rockpommel's Land (1977). Both use English vocals. Anyone's Daughter started up just as Prog was ebbing in America and Britain. They had a string of symphonic prog albums with Adonis (1979), Anyone's Daughter (1980), Piktors Verwandlungen (1981) and In Blau (1982). With the latter two albums, the band sung the lyrics in their native German. Novalis, noted for a heavy organ sound with comparisons to King Crimson and Pink Floyd, released Novalis (1975) and Summerabend (1976). Eloy, a progressive rock band formed by guitarist Frank Bornemann in 1969, had a distinctly symphonic sound in the second part of the '70s when Jurgen Rosenthal and Detlev Schmidtchen were part of the group (which also included Klaus-Peter Matziol). The album "Dawn" includes "Symphonic Orchestra arranged and conducted by Wolfgang Maus." These four artists (ELOY from 1976 to 1979) also produced the albums "Ocean", "Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes", and "Eloy Live".

Yugoslavia[edit]

During the 1970s, a large number of Yugoslav progressive rock bands experimented with symphonic sound. In 1973, progressive rock band Korni Grupa, under the name Kornelyans, released the symphonic rock album Not an Ordinary Life.[13] The symphonic rock band Opus released only one album, Opus 1 (1975), featuring Dušan Prelević on vocals, before disbanding.[14] In 1978, keyboardist Laza Ristovski and drummer Ipe Ivandić, both members of the hard rock band Bijelo Dugme, released the symphonic rock-oriented album Stižemo.[15] In 1979, Bijelo Dugme released symphonic-influenced album Bitanga i princeza, and during the same year, their frontman Željko Bebek released his first solo album, symphonic-oriented Skoro da smo isti.[13]

Outside Europe[edit]

North America[edit]

Once these groups became popular in the United States and Canada, bands such as Kansas, Rush, and Todd Rundgren's Utopia appeared in the mid '70s. These bands tended to have more of a hard rock edge than the European bands mentioned above. French-Canadian band Harmonium had a short career in the mid '70s during which their most notable release was Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison (If We Needed A Fifth Season) (1975). For a long time, the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame declined to induct any "prog" bands.[16][17] Pink Floyd were finally inducted in 1996 and were the only "prog" band of any kind in the Hall. It was then announced in December 2009 that Genesis will be inducted into the hall. Speculation is that this induction will open the floodgates for the other overlooked "prog" bands.[18] In 2013, Rush was inducted into the Hall of Fame, while later on it was announced that Yes were now nominated for the Hall.

Japan[edit]

Bands in Japan arose in the early 1980s, many of them influenced by Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, and Genesis. Representative bands include Teru's Symphonia, Pagent, Midas, Mugen, Gerard, Outer Limits, X Japan, Raphael, Mr. Sirius, Shingetsu, Versailles, and Asturias.

End of the "classic" period[edit]

By the late 1970s, the "classic" period of symphonic rock was coming to an end. The backlash against any "prog" by the mainstream rock press was in full force. Disco and punk rock emerged as the primary forms of music.

1980s neo-progressive era[edit]

In the 1980s, British neo-progressive rock bands such as Marillion, IQ, Pallas, Solstice, Twelfth Night and Pendragon continued the traditions of 1970s' symphonic prog, but without the complexity. The main influences on the neo-prog genre are Genesis, Yes, Camel, and Pink Floyd.

International[edit]

While the 1980s saw neo-prog keeping a glimmer alive in the UK and US, symphonic prog was reaching other countries around the world. Asia Minor from Turkey released Between Flesh and Devine (1981), Bacamarte from Brazil released Depois Do Fim (1983) and Hungarian band Solaris released Marsbéli Krónikák (Martian Chronicles) (1984). Only Solaris survived into the '90s releasing Nostradamus Book of Prophecies in 1999. The early 1990s saw groups like After Crying from Hungary release Overground Music (1990), Quaterna Requiem from Brazil release Velha Gravura (1990), Änglagård from Sweden release Hybris (1992) and Isildurs Bane, also from Sweden, release The Voyage - A Trip To Elsewhere (1992). The last two paved the way for a symphonic prog movement in Sweden.[19]

1990's Resurgence[edit]

Interest in symphonic prog flowered again, starting with Echolyn's eponymous first album in 1991.[20] This marked a resurgence to a degree in the 1990s and 2000s with bands such as The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, Karmakanic, Nexus, Pär Lindh Project, Arena, Glass Hammer, and many others.[21]

Muse[edit]

The English alternative rock and new prog band Muse featured Exogenesis: Symphony, commonly known as simply "Exogenesis", on their 2009 fifth studio album The Resistance. Written by lead vocalist, guitarist and pianist Matthew Bellamy over the course of a number of years, the song is presented as a symphony in three movements entitled "Overture", "Cross-Pollination" and "Redemption" respectively, each occupying a separate track at the end of the album.[22] The song has been acclaimed by critics, including NME, who declared "Exogenesis" as one of the highlights of The Resistance, describing it as "more bombastic than anything Muse have ever previously done."[23]

MCT: The Symphonic Rock Band[edit]

Formed in 2011, the Wisconsin-based, 40-person band performs music written and arranged by Curtis Aderholdt. Featuring lead-vocalists Tyler Kundinger and Loren De Lonay, the band is said to be "wow-ing audiences of their own."[24] The symphonic rock band is currently recording new material for a potential 2015 release.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Essential Elements Of Symphonic Progressive Rock, Tom Karr, Progressive World, 2004.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Rocking The Classics by Edward Macan
  3. ^ Priore, Domenic (2005). Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece. London: Sanctuary. ISBN 1860746276. 
  4. ^ a b c d The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll edited by Patricia Romanowski & Holly George-Warren
  5. ^ Eric Tamm, Robert Fripp, Chapter Two: The guitarist and the practice of music.
  6. ^ Keeling, Andrew (2007). King Crimson: Red: An Analysis by Andrew Keeling.
  7. ^ The History of Renaissance by Russell W. Elliot, 10-Nov-2002
  8. ^ (Macon 1997, p. 55)
  9. ^ Archetypes of progressiveness in rock, ca. 1966-1973 (Beatles, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Jimi Hendrix Experience), John Sidney Cotner, The University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2001
  10. ^ "Yes, ‘Awaken’ and the progressive rock style" by JOHN R. PALMER, Popular Music 20, Cambridge Journals, 2001, pp. 243–261
  11. ^ "History Of Punk - Genesis, ELP & Yes". Punk77.co.uk. 2009-01-18. 
  12. ^ Focus, Get Ready To Rock, 2007
  13. ^ a b Janjatović, Petar (2007). EX YU ROCK enciklopedija 1960-2006. Belgrade: self-released. p. 116. 
  14. ^ "Non-Aligned Prog: The Music of Serbia (Part II)", prog-sphere.com
  15. ^ Laza i Ipe at Progarchives
  16. ^ Why the Rock Hall says: No Rush for you! Prog rock gets ignored by the selection committee every year, msnbc.com, 30-Mar-2009
  17. ^ Yes heads to A.C. and rock hall of fame, maybe, CourierPostOnline.com, 12-Feb-2010
  18. ^ Getting progressive: The Rock Hall votes in Genesis. Is Yes or Procol Harum next?, LA Times, 29-Dec-2009
  19. ^ Metal Shuffle Magazine, Norway, Geir Larsen, editor
  20. ^ Echolyn and American Progressive Rock, Prog band, North Star, American Rock and the Classical Music Tradition. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 2000, Contemporary Music Review, vol. 18, no. 4, ISBN 90-5755-119-5, pp. 13–61, John Covach & Walter Everett (Editors)
  21. ^ Big sound, new technology: The resurgence of progressive rock, Vermont Guardian, 21-Jan-2005
  22. ^ "Exogenesis - 12". Muse. Retrieved 26 March 2010. [dead link]
  23. ^ "Muse in NME". Muselive (quoting NME). 8 July 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2009. 
  24. ^ Kraus, Lisa. "Band "MCT" Pays Homage to Pink Floyd; The Beatles". WSAW.com. WSAW-TV. Retrieved 19 May 2014.