Progressive music is a type of music that experiments with alternative routes and expands stylistic boundaries outward. Rooted in the idea of a cultural alternative and the basic concept of "progress", which refers to development and growth by accumulation, progressive music embodies a continuous move between explicit and implicit references to genres and strategies derived from various cultural domains, such as European art music, Celtic folk, West Indian, or African, and sometimes results in the creation of new aesthetic standards. The word is often deployed in numerous music genres such as progressive country, progressive folk, and progressive jazz. As a genre label, it is most significantly used in rock, whereas in marketing, "progressive" is used to distinguish a product from "commercial" pop music. "Progressive" music may also be associated with auteur-stars and concept albums, considered traditional structures of the music industry.
Jazz began to take itself seriously as swing gave way to bebop in the 1940s, but its listeners failed to move with the musicians. Following the economic boom of the mid 1960s, record labels began investing in artists whose ambitions paralleled these earlier attempts in jazz, allowing performers limited control over their own content and marketing. This resulted in a brief period in which creative authenticity among musical artists and consumer marketing coincided with each other, a situation that fell into abeyance between the late 1970s and the birth of Internet stars. Beginning in 1967, pop music would be divided by a "progressive pop" and "mass/chart pop" demographic that subsequently gave rise to the "progressive rock" movement. After the mid to late 1970s, "progressive rock" crystallized into a genre which could no longer be called "progressive", and was supplanted by a host of similarly-minded rock styles like post-punk and post-progressive.
Progressive jazz is a form of big band that is more complex or experimental. It originated in the 1940s with arrangers who drew from modernist composers such as Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith.[nb 1] its "progressive" features were replete with dissonance, atonality, and brash effects. Progressive jazz was most popularized by the bandleader Stan Kenton during the 1940s. Critics were initially wary of the idiom. Dizzy Gillespie wrote in his autobiography: "They tried to make Stan Kenton a 'white hope,' called modern jazz and my music 'progressive,' then tried to tell me I played 'progressive' music. I said, 'You're full of shit!' 'Stan Kenton? There ain't nothing in my music that's cold, cold like his."
AllMusic states that, along with Kenton, musicians like Gil Evans, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cal Massey, Frank Foster, Carla Bley, George Gruntz, David Amram, Sun Ra, and Duke Ellington were major proponents of "progressive big band", a style of big band or swing music that was made for listening, with denser, more modernistic arrangements and more room to improvise.
Pop and rock
In 1966, the degree of social and artistic dialogue among rock musicians dramatically accelerated for bands like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the Byrds who fused elements of composed (cultivated) music with the oral (vernacular) musical traditions of rock. Rock music started to take itself seriously, paralleling earlier attempts in jazz (as swing gave way to bop, a move which did not succeed with audiences). In this period, the popular song began signaling a new possible means of expression that went beyond the three-minute love song, leading to an intersection between the "underground" and the "establishment" for listening publics.[nb 2]
When the post-hippie music labelled "progressive" first emerged, it was dubbed progressive "pop" before it was called progressive "rock', with the term "progressive" referring to the wide range of attempts to break with standard pop music formula. A number of additional factors contributed to the acquired "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic; technology was harnessed for new sounds; music approached the condition of "art"; some harmonic language was imported from jazz and 19th-century classical music; the album format overtook singles; and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening, not dancing.
One way of conceptualizing rock and roll in relation to "progressive music" is that progressive music pushed the genre into greater complexity while retracing the roots of romantic and classical music. Sociologist Paul Willis believes: "We must never be in doubt that 'progressive' music followed rock 'n' roll, and that it could not have been any other way. We can see rock 'n' roll as a deconstruction and 'progressive' music as a reconstruction." Author Will Romano states that "rock itself can be interpreted as a progressive idea ... Ironically, and quite paradoxically, 'progressive rock', the classic era of the late 1960s through the mid- and late 1970s, introduces not only the explosive and exploratory sounds of technology ... but traditional music forms (classical and European folk) and (often) a pastiche compositional style and artificial constructs (concept albums) which suggests postmodernism." "Progressive rock" is almost synonymous with "art rock"; the latter is more likely to have experimental or avant-garde influences.
Proto-prog (short for proto-progressive) is the advanced music that slightly predates the progressive rock era (before the year 1969). Progressive rock evolved from psychedelic/acid rock music, specifically a strain of classical/symphonic rock led by the Nice, Procol Harum, and the Moody Blues.[nb 3] The music was developed immediately following a brief period in the mid 1960s where creative authenticity among musical artists and consumer marketing coincided with each other. Before the progressive pop of the late 1960s, performers were typically unable to decide on the artistic content of their music. Assisted by the mid 1960s economic boom, record labels began investing in artists, giving them freedom to experiment, and offering them limited control over their content and marketing.[nb 4] The growing student market serviced record labels with the word "progressive", being adopted as a marketing term to differentiate their product from "commercial" pop. Critic Simon Reynolds writes that beginning in 1967, a divide would exist between "progressive" pop and "mass/chart" pop, a separation which was "also, broadly, one between boys and girls, middle-class and working-class."[nb 5] By 1970, a journalist at Melody Maker highlighted progressive pop as the "most fascinating and recent development" in popular music, writing that the music is "meant for a wide audience but which is intended to have more permanent value than the six weeks in the charts and the 'forget it' music of older pop forms."
Macan writes that King Crimson's album "displays every element of the mature progressive rock genre ... [and] exerted a powerful extramusical influence on later progressive rock bands".
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
Cleveland's Troy Smith believes that the Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds "established the group as forefathers of progressive pop". Both Pet Sounds and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), with their lyrical unity, extended structure, complexity, eclecticism, experimentalism, and influences derived from classical music forms, are largely viewed as beginnings in the progressive rock genre.[nb 6] Critics assumed King Crimson's album In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) to be the logical extension and development of late 1960s proto-progressive rock exemplified by the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles. According to Edward Macan, the album may be the most influential to progressive rock for crystallizing the music of earlier "proto-progressive bands ... into a distinctive, immediately recognizable style". He distinguishes 1970s "classic" prog from late 1960s proto-prog by the conscious rejection of psychedelic rock elements, which proto-progressive bands continued to support.
Reactions to prog
"Post-progressive" is a term invented to distinguish a type of rock music from the persistent "progressive rock" style associated with the 1970s. In the mid to late 1970s, progressive music by the likes of Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer was denigrated for its assumed pretentiousness. According to musicologist John Covach: "By the early 1980s, progressive rock was thought to be all but dead as a style, an idea reinforced by the fact that some of the principal progressive groups has developed a more commercial sound. ... What went out of the music of these now ex-progressive groups ... was any significant evocation of art music." In the opinion of King Crimson's Robert Fripp, "progressive" music was an attitude, not a style. He believed that genuinely "progressive" music pushes stylistic and conceptual boundaries outwards through the appropriation of procedures from classical music or jazz, and that once "progressive rock" ceased to cover new ground – becoming a set of conventions to be repeated and imitated – the genre's premise had ceased to be "progressive".
A direct reaction to prog came in the form of the punk movement, which rejected classical traditions, virtuosity, and textural complexity. However, while punk rock appeared to be a negation of progressive rock, both musics derived from the idea of a cultural alternative. Groups such as the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Ramones adopted a "back-to-basics" stance, embracing the roots of rock music with direct sentiments, simple chord structures, and uncluttered arrangements. Post-punk, which author Doyle Green characterizes "as a kind of 'progressive punk'", was played by bands like Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Public Image Ltd, and Joy Division. It differs from punk rock in that it balanced punk's energy and skepticism with a re-engagement with an art school consciousness, Dadaist experimentalism, and atmospheric, ambient soundscapes. It also drew generously from world music, especially African and Asian traditions. From the same period, new wave music was more sophisticated in production terms than some contemporaneous progressive music, but was largely perceived as simplistic, and thus had little overt appeal to art music or art-music practice. Musicologist Bill Martin writes: "the [Talking] Heads created a kind of new-wave music that was the perfect synthesis of punk urgency and attitude and progressive-rock sophistication and creativity. A good deal of the more interesting rock since that time is clearly 'post-Talking Heads' music, but this means that it is post-progressive rock as well."
AllMusic defines "progressive electronic" as a subgenre of new age music which "thrives in more unfamiliar territory. The styles that emerge are often dictated by the technology itself. Rather than sampling or synthesizing acoustic sounds to electronically replicate them, these composers tend to mutate the original timbres, sometimes to an unrecognizable state. True artists in the genre also create their own sounds." Reynolds posits that "the truly progressive edge in electronic music involves doing things that can't be physically achieved by human beings manipulating instruments in real-time."
In house music, a desire to define precise stylistic strands and taste markets saw the interposition of prefixes like "progressive", "tribal", and "intelligent". According to DJ/producer Carl Craig, the term "progressive" was used in Detroit in the early 1980s in reference to Italian disco. The music was dubbed "progressive" because it drew upon the influence of Giorgio Moroder's Euro disco rather than the disco inspired by the symphonic Philadelphia sound. In this context, Reynolds criticizes terms like "progressive" and "intelligent", arguing that "when an underground scene starts talking this talk, it's usually a sign that it's gearing up the media game as a prequel to buying intro traditional music industry structure of auteur-stars, concept albums, and long-term careers. Above all, it's a sign of impending musical debility, creeping self-importance, and the hemorrhaging away of fun."
In the mid 1990s, progressive electronica artists were spearheaded by the Lowercase movement, a reductive approach towards new digital technologies. By 1993, progressive house and trance music had emerged in dance clubs. "Progressive house" was an English style of house distinguished by long tracks, big riffs, mild dub inflections, and multitiered percussion. According to Reynolds, the "'progressive' seemed to signify not just its anti-cheese, nongirly credentials, but its severing of house's roots from gay black disco." Reynolds also identifies links between progressive rock and other electronic music genres, and that "many post-rave genres bear an uncanny resemblance to progressive rock: conceptualism, auteur-geniuses, producers making music to impress other producers, [and] showboating virtuosity reborn as the 'science' of programming finesse."
- According to the academic Tim Wall, the most significant example of the struggle between Tin Pan Alley, African American, vernacular and art discourses was in jazz. As early as the 1930s, artists attempted to cultivate ideas of "symphonic jazz", taking it away from its perceived vernacular and black American roots. These developments succeeded in the respect that many people today no longer consider certain forms of jazz as popular music.
- Allan Moore writes: "It should be clear by now that, although this history appears to offer a roughly chronological succession of styles, there is no single, linear history to that thing we call popular song. ... Sometimes it appears that there are only peripheries. Sometimes, audiences gravitate towards a centre. The most prominent period when this happened was in the early to mid 1960s when it seems that almost everyone, irrespective of age, class or cultural background, listened to the Beatles. But by 1970 this monolothic position had again broken down. Both the Edgar Broughton Band's 'Apache dropout' and Edison Lighthouse's 'Love grows' were released in 1970 with strong Midlands/London connections, and both were audible on the same radio stations, but were operating according to very different aesthetics.
- Author Doyle Greene believes that the "proto-prog" label can stretch to "the later Beatles and Frank Zappa", Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, and United States of America. Edward Macan says that psychedelic bands like the Nice, the Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd represent a proto-progressive style and the first wave of English progressive rock.
- This situation fell in disuse after the late 1970s and would not reemerge until the rise of Internet stars.
- The New Pop movement of the 1980s was an attempt to bridge this divide.
- Describing Pet Sounds as "unprecedented" for the way its "notes moved and vibrated across the record", music critic Joel Freimark says that "many may struggle to see the direct link between the bright, bouncy tones of Pet Sounds and bands like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and countless prog-rock bands."
- "Progressive Jazz". AllMusic.
- Willis 2014, p. 219.
- Macan 1997, p. 206.
- Macan 2005, p. 250.
- Holm-Hudson 2013, p. 85.
- Holm-Hudson 2013, pp. 85–87.
- Guern 2016, p. 33.
- Moore 2016, p. 202.
- Reynolds 2013, pp. 6–7, 16.
- Ake, Garrett & Goldmark 2012, p. 131.
- Wall 2013, pp. 42–43.
- Butler 2002, pp. 103–105.
- Gillespie 2009, p. 337.
- "Progressive Big Band". AllMusic.
- Moore 2004, p. 22.
- Moore 2016, p. 201.
- Moore 2016, pp. 199–200.
- Haworth & Smith 1975, p. 126.
- Moore 2016, pp. 201–202.
- Willis 2014, pp. 204, 219.
- Romano 2010, p. 24.
- "Prog-Rock". AllMusic.
- Edmondson 2013, p. 890.
- Macan 2005, p. xxiii.
- Sositko, Jason (May 8, 2015). "What Are the Best Proto-Prog Rock Albums of All-Time?". Spacial Anomaly.
- Greene 2016, p. 182.
- Holm-Hudson 2013, p. 84.
- Willis 2014, p. 217.
- Reynolds 2006, p. 398.
- Jacobshagen, Leniger & Henn 2007, p. 141.
- Macan 1997, p. 23.
- Smith, Troy L. (May 24, 2016). "50 greatest album-opening songs". cleveland.com.
- Macan 1997, p. 15,20.
- Freimark, Joel (January 26, 2016). "Brian Wilson tours to celebrate 50th anniversary of 'Pet Sounds'". Death and Taxes Mag.
- Macan 2005, p. 75.
- Hegarty & Halliwell 2011, p. 224.
- Rojek 2011, p. 28.
- Covach 1997, p. 5.
- Greene 2014, p. 173.
- Martin 1998, p. 251.
- "Progressive Electronic". AllMusic.
- Reynolds 2013, p. 50.
- Reynolds 2013, pp. 7, 16.
- Reynolds 2013, pp. 6–7.
- Potter & Gann 2016, p. 178.
- Reynolds 2013, p. 184.
- Reynolds 2013, p. 376.
- Reynolds 2013, p. 386.
- Ake, David Andrew; Garrett, Charles Hiroshi; Goldmark, Daniel (2012). Jazz/not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-27103-6.
- Butler, David (2002). Jazz Noir: Listening to Music from Phantom Lady to The Last Seduction. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-97301-8.
- Covach, John (1997). "Progressive Rock, 'Close to the Edge,' and the Boundaries of Style" (PDF). In John Covach; Graeme M. Boone. Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Edmondson, Jacqueline, ed. (2013). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories that Shaped our Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39348-8.
- Gillespie, Dizzy (2009). To Be, Or Not-- to Bop. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-6547-1.
- Greene, Doyle (2014). The Rock Cover Song: Culture, History, Politics. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1507-3.
- Greene, Doyle (2016). Rock, Counterculture and the Avant-Garde, 1966–1970: How the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground Defined an Era. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2403-7.
- Guern, Philippe Le (2016). Stereo: Comparative Perspectives on the Sociological Study of Popular Music in France and Britain. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-05001-8.
- Haworth, John Trevor; Smith, Michael A. (1975). Work and Leisure: An Interdisciplinary Study in Theory, Education and Planning. Lepus Books.
- Hegarty, Paul; Halliwell, Martin (2011), Beyond and Before: Progressive Rock Since the 1960s, New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-8264-2332-0
- Holm-Hudson, Kevin, ed. (2013). Progressive Rock Reconsidered. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-71022-4.
- Jacobshagen, Arnold; Leniger, Markus; Henn, Benedikt (2007). Rebellische Musik: gesellschaftlicher Protest und kultureller Wandel um 1968. Verlag Dohr. ISBN 978-3-936655-48-3.
- Macan, Edward (1997). Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509887-7.
- Macan, Edward (2005). Endless Enigma: A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Open Court. ISBN 978-0-8126-9596-0.
- Martin, Bill (1998), Listening to the Future: The Time of Progressive Rock, Chicago: Open Court, ISBN 0-8126-9368-X
- Moore, Allan (2004). Jethro Tull's Aqualung. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4411-1315-3.
- Moore, Allan F. (2016). Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-05265-4.
- Potter, Keith; Gann, Kyle (2016). The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-04255-6.
- Reynolds, Simon (2006), "New Pop and its Aftermath", On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-134-93951-0
- Reynolds, Simon (2013). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-78316-6.
- Rojek, Chris (2011). Pop Music, Pop Culture. Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-4263-5.
- Romano, Will (2010). Mountains Come Out of the Sky: The Illustrated History of Prog Rock. Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-87930-991-6.
- Wall, Tim (2013). Studying Popular Music Culture. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1-4462-9101-6.
- Willis, Paul E. (2014). Profane Culture. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-6514-7.
- Gendron, Bernard (2002). Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-28735-5.
- Official Charts Company (September 4, 2015). "Progressive music you didn't know you loved". Official Charts Company.
- Romano, Will (2014). Prog Rock FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Rock's Most Progressive Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-61713-620-7.
- Smith, Bradley (1997). The Billboard Guide to Progressive Music. Billboard Books. ISBN 978-0-8230-7665-9.