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Seeking a more elegant definition for Prog

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    Posted: November 01 2010 at 20:24
Many attempts have been made to define Progressive Rock, most of which end up becoming rather long and "wordy". Often, the less complicated a functional definition can be, the better.  So I'm striving for at least some measure of restraint and elegance here. 
 
Progressive Rock:  Music springing from or incorporating elements from the rock idiom in which the writer or performer seeks to expand beyond the genre's traditional musical limitations and constraints.
 
Is there a critical element missing from this definition?  If so, how can we introduce it to the definition while still keeping it as elegant as possible?  (Ex:  I currenlty don't think the specific manner in which someone attempts to make their music progressive is critical to the definition.  Do you think I'm incorrect in this assertion?)
 
Conversely, perhaps there is something you consider superflous in the definition.
 
The trick to such and elegant definition is - of course - determining what constitutes the "rock music idiom".  But that makes perfect sense to me since we are - after all - defining Progressive Rock.
 
So, for bonus points, I'll go ahead and make an attempt at quantifying the "rock music idiom" - which will probably expand the scope of this post way too far and wide - but hey - it's too late to turn back now...
 
Rock music:  A popular form of music usually written in a 4/4 time signature with a very strong backbeat on the 2nd and 4th beats.  It is performed by small groups, most often using electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass guitar, drums, and sometimes keyboard instruments.  Rock songs usually feature vocals, and a simple verse/chorus/bridge structure. 


Edited by progpositivity - November 01 2010 at 20:57
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 01 2010 at 20:30
Would struggle to cover progressive electronic in its scope, I think. The jazzier side of Canterbury, maybe.  Otherwise, this is the most desirable way to define prog but it would be too inclusive for this or most other prog databases or even for the requirements of prog listeners per se because it is a bit difficult now to correct the fallacious notion that odd time signatures has anything to do with it and your definition doesn't mention it anywhere. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progpositivity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 01 2010 at 20:41
Rogerthat:  Good questions/observations!  I'll try to look at them "one at a time".
 
Re:  Prog Electronica
 
Their connection to the rock idiom may seem tenuous but I would suggest that electronic artists like Vangelis, Larry Fast and Tangerine Dream really did think of themselves as having some level of connection to the rock music scene.  They used electronics to expand beyond the genre's traditional musical limitations and constraints.  So I personally would say that this definition includes them. 
 
Could it be that this definition of prog allows room for legitimate debate as to whether prog electronica belongs as a subgenre of prog - without actually taking a firm stance?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progpositivity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 01 2010 at 20:56
Rogerthat, Admittedly, this is a very inclusive definition for prog. 
 
Are you thinking that it is a liability that this definition allows songs to be considered "prog" even though they don't have an odd time signature?  I've been thinking that this is actually a benefit in that it includes most of Pink Floyd's discography (which is in 4/4) as well as the classic Genesis songs that are in 4/4. 
 
Or are you saying that this definition - by not mentioning odd time signatures - might challenge the manner in which some peoples have grown accustomed to thinking about prog?
 
Although odd time signatures are one very common manner in which a writer or performer may seek to expand beyond rock's traditional musical limitations and constraints, it is not the only way this can be done.  I would say odd time signatures are a common characteristic of prog but not a requirement in order to be defined as prog.
 
Are you thinking this definition might exclude the jazzier side of Canterbury?  I wasn't 100% sure whether that is what you were saying or not...
 
Thanks for your posts.  They are interesting discussion points - all of them! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TheOppenheimer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 01 2010 at 21:12
Most of the beautiful things in life need no explanation: love, reason, belief, family, music (prog).
Maybe, the best definition is no absolute definition, but letting each of us define what prog means to us.

We live in a relative world, and the important things, that trascend our beings, are subjective, or not definable at all.

Maybe, the best definition comes from just feeling (or listening to) prog.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 01 2010 at 21:12
Originally posted by progpositivity progpositivity wrote:

Or are you saying that this definition - by not mentioning odd time signatures - might challenge the manner in which some peoples have grown accustomed to thinking about prog?


Yep.  You are right, if that's what you implied, that odd time signatures arise out of the writer breaking the shackles of traditional rock cliches. But lot of people no longer seem to grasp this especially because in some modern prog, odd time signatures do seem to have been used for the sake of it and without any support from the development of the composition.
 
Originally posted by progpositivity progpositivity wrote:

Are you thinking this definition might exclude the jazzier side of Canterbury?  I wasn't 100% sure whether that is what you were saying or not...


Potentially. Can't readily think of any Canterbury band which didn't have some rock in their music at any point but this could be an issue.  More pertinently, an issue in the JR/F section. 

Yes, your definition could provoke debate on whether progressive electronic is indeed part of progressive rock, while undoubtedly being progressive MUSIC.  But the past trends on this website seem to suggest an inclination to maintain things as they are and not court controversy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote paganinio Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2010 at 06:20
prog rock = a sophisticated, intelligent form of rock music

Hmm, that's pretty good for starters.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Manuel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2010 at 08:28
Personally, I like your definition, but I know very well it will not satisfy everyone, since it seems each individual has his/her own reason as to why they like prog rock, and certainly one sole definition can not possibly include them all. That said, it's important to mention that prog rock is only one form of progressive music, which also includes jazz, electronic music, blues, etc, and since all these tend to influence each other, makes defining them much more complicated.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote thehallway Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2010 at 11:11
Originally posted by paganinio paganinio wrote:

prog rock = a sophisticated, intelligent form of rock music

Hmm, that's pretty good for starters.
 
Intelligent, maybe. All music requires intelligence to create, and certainly prog requires more than some other genres; no intelligence is needed to listen to it of course. But your phrasing implies that other rock music is not intelligent, surely a generalisation.
 
Sophisticated, why? Even if, in some cases, the musicians in question are "sophisticated" people, I'm not sure that the music can be decribed in this way.....


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Sleepwalker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2010 at 11:18
Originally posted by paganinio paganinio wrote:

prog rock = a sophisticated, intelligent form of rock music

Hmm, that's pretty good for starters.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Padraic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2010 at 13:12
Here's a clue:  if your definition is of the form:  "like other music, except better", it's wrong.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 02 2010 at 15:46
Originally posted by progpositivity progpositivity wrote:

Many attempts have been made to define Progressive Rock, most of which end up becoming rather long and "wordy". Often, the less complicated a functional definition can be, the better.  So I'm striving for at least some measure of restraint and elegance here.  ...
 
Get WalterDigsTunes .... I'm sure his definition will have a finger on it -- and close the discussion!
 
(Heheheh)
 
Quote Progressive Rock:  Music springing from or incorporating elements from the rock idiom in which the writer or performer seeks to expand beyond the genre's traditional musical limitations and constraints.
 
That's actually pretty good in my book ... but it is not "wide" enough.
 
"Music springing from, or incorporating other elements in music from rock, to classical to traditional musics, and in the process the writer/performer creates a new music and expand the abilities of an instrument, or challenge the precepts of music design and composition."
 
Quote ... Rock music:  A popular form of music usually written in a 4/4 time signature with a very strong backbeat on the 2nd and 4th beats. 
 
Not sure this is a good definition at all ... probably the most important definition of "rock music" that you did not mention is ... it is "electric" ... there was a lot of music before that had the same time and the various backbeats but it was not called "rock music" because it was not loud and shook your ears like a rock can!
 
If I may suggest, you want to "expand" your view of the music, instead of cutting it down ... your definition of "rock music" makes it look like Chuck Berry should be God and everyone else stinx. But my main concern is that we're treating "rock music" as inferior to other forms of music by saying that it is sophomoric, highschoolish and stupid and can not do anything else with the music at all ... and you know darn well that's not true at all ...!
 
Quote ...  Rock songs usually feature vocals, and a simple verse/chorus/bridge structure. 
 
I would stage this instead to something like, and make a point of highlighting the popular side of things ... popular rock music tends to be centered around songs that can be played on radio or various television outlets for music. In general, "progressive" music is more attuned to the work itself, and is less centered on the radio/television aspects and demands, or the "fame" in order to get the new music, defined and created.
 
There are, still, many styles of "progressive music" that still follow very old concepts and ideas in music, like the sonata format, the symphonic definitions, the chamber music definitions, that have been a part of music  history for hundreds of years. In general, most "progressive" music, nowadays (2010) is not original and is only trying to emulate some musical ideas and concepts that were used 40 years ago in rock music history.
 
The ability for today's bands to create something totally original and have it raise the conscience of the public like the original "progressive" styles did, is a part of "art history" and not just music and rock history. Most of the "progressive"  music in those days were a part of the art's scenes and were also a comment on the socio-political concerns at the time. And this part, you are not giving the musicians credit for, and by doing that, your definition will be hollow and will not emcompass the very soul and reason of why a lot of music exists.
 
Good luck with the descriptions ... but hoping that you do not take this incorrectly, your description is not a well versed and intelligent one in regards to people, their time and place.


Edited by moshkito - November 02 2010 at 15:49
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote friso Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 03 2010 at 12:56
rock = graffity
prog = the Nightwatch
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 03 2010 at 16:03
Hi,
 
Progpositivity ... the main difference between a lot of bands today and those that started out what we have come to know as "progressive", is that many of the musicians today -- do NOT -- have as much to fight for as we did in those days.
 
Granted, a lot of that may have to do with the fact that television hit its stride in color around 1965 and became full fledged horror movie on every evening in color by 1968 and that made VietNam and the IRA things quite big and important ... and horrific ... and a lot of the arts in those days used that social-political upheaval for their subjects ...
 
In the end, if you break Epitath, and The Endless Enigma to just notes and chords and some other "prog" definition that was not used at the time at all, you have taken the very soul of the music out. The nice touches and highlilghts that KC's drummer used, get all wasted, since they can not be defined musically as much as they can be defined as an "accent" to the point being made with a lyric or an instrument.
 
The fairy tale thing, did not start in England, although Genesis became one of the really big names doing it. Fairy tales have a huge history in Europe, that is not new to England, and a lot of these had their socio-political comments as well, and in many ways much stronger ...
 
So, all in all, the music we love and are wanting to discuss is a major part of the time and place ... whereas today, you can use Dream Theater as an example ... trying to make itself important with nice lyrics and good phrasing ... however, in the end it is a bit hollow when compared to the original (lyrically wise) ... but when it comes to the compositional side, is where they are strong, other than the fact that in the end, they are using the same typical rock music concepts, but with 10 minutes instead of 5. To me that is not really that progressive and better fits "neo" since it is not true progressive ... kinda like ... fake progressive.
 
That's not to say, that there are no bands out there that can do their own thing, and make it matter. But your point of concern, usually, is not some flight lyric, or poem, that supposedly means one thing or another, that makes it progressive because it is better written, or bigger (in ego as well) as most popular music.
 
What we called "progressive" was, above all ... massively original music that challenged the status quo in all music levels and concepts. And to define it away from that, is sad, and it lowers the level and the ability of the musicians at hand, that did as good, if not better work, than most music history in the past 400 years ... and I'm not sure that you can see that, when you are simply sticking to some of the minor elements in popular music.
 
The 20th century's greatest gift to music is the one that "classical music" doesn't like ... it's called ELECTRICITY. And that gave us something that no one saw, foresaw, or expected ... when the only history of music for the past 200 years had been the orchestra getting bigger, not even any new instruments. So you must see, how important this is, and why so much of the classic music culture thinks that the electric music is the popular version and not the good music.  The folks you and I love, took that to task, and showed that most of the "classic music" composers of the time were lazy, and not educated enough to even understand their place in music, and only work with variations upon the notes and chords and were calling it "music" ... and here came the kiddies and they blew it all up ... they really did ... and in the process they showed more musicianship that almost 95% of all the classical folks going around doing concerts in any college campus.
 
There was more to the electric music ... even though the likes of Stravinsky broke the boundaries of what instrumentation and instruments did, and folks like Orff broke the metal in the vocals possible, in the end, what all that did, was show the "musicos" that a lot more was happening in music that the "classic" nature of things was refusing to accept. Already there were blues/jazz groups doing a lot of good work, that was being ignored ... and you know it ... it happened ... rock music came right behind it ... actually it might be even possible to say that it was already happening with rock music ... it's hard to imagine that no one was playing the guitar a little wilder than the jazz/blues folks ... we just don't have their names ...
 
IF you see the whole thing as a part of music history, instead of trying to carve out a separate node for this music, I think you will find a lot more satisfying answers and connections ... that make this music quite valuable to your time and mine.
 
Again, as mentioned above ... it's your choice. An "empty" definition, is not going to last, and tomorrow someone will have another definition, because yours was not strong enough. BUT, a nicely studied and defined history of music showing where this fits on the sequence of things ... would help, a lot more, to ensure that "progressive" music is defined once and for all ... even the "music'os" would not be able to reject the massive -- and intelligent -- study and work put together ... and that kind of work, is the only one that will be remembered ... as you can tell by the music itself. Everything else, including the color of your t-shirt or jeans ... is not important!
 
Hope this helps ... just trying to help your work. This stuff is important, but we do not need yet another rock'less definition, and I mean one that is meaningless.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tamijo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2010 at 09:19
I allways wonder, why............
 
Why do you want this definition.
Do you want to exclude something from the music you listen too.
Do you want a debate about the music currently allowed on PA
Do you actualy belive that artists making music think this way, about what they do.
 
 
 
Prog is whatevey you want it to be. So dont diss other peoples prog, and they wont diss yours
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progpositivity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2010 at 19:40
Hi tamijo.  To answer the question "why"...
 
I certainly don't want to debate about what music is currently allowed on PA. 
 
I just think this is a different angle on a subject that has been discussed a lot.  Most attempts to define prog get very lengthy. 
 
The goal here is to be minimalist, to not include anything in the definition that is not required in order to create a useful, informative and accurate depiction of the concept. 
 
Of course, useful, informative, accurate, and required are all going to be subjectively evaluated so we will never get unanimity in that respect.
 
Progressive Rock:  Music springing from or incorporating elements from the rock idiom in which the writer or performer seeks to expand beyond the genre's traditional musical limitations and constraints.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2010 at 19:49
Originally posted by tamijo tamijo wrote:

I allways wonder, why............
 
Why do you want this definition.
 
... 
 
In the end, I don't think we need a definition.
 
What we need is a better understanding of the history that brought us here.
 
You can take all the music history courses in the world, and appreciation of whatever music for the past 1000 years ... and in the end, not much of it will make much sense to you in the historical graphs, until you learn some more about the time and the place and the music that was then.
 
Too many of these "articles" about music, and I don't mean to hurt anyone, only to CHALLENGE them to do even better, is simply not good enough work, and is not researched. It is information and ideas taken from a fan website or two, that lacks historical perspective and a concise understanding of anything about the music, except the fact that "they like it".
 
We are in the internet age ... learning about these things, TODAY, is easy, and it is all over the place. What is scary is people continually posting and trying to re-invent the wheel yet again, and this is not necessary. What is necessary is expand the use and the ability of that wheel ... and that is what many of those people are not doing, and I am challenging them ...
 
No one will make school/academic history and appreciation in music because of fans. The music has to have something behind it ... and the it is not just a simple beat, or design ... it's a totality that exists that made sense and is a true photograph of that time and place ... because all the rest of any music that is considered "progressive" is just rock'n'roll and nothing else but. Not to mention a fame game!
 
You decide ... but in the end, if all history is nothing but some idealistic concept ... in the end, no one is gonna care ... and that is what you want? Ideas come and go and all of us think of Michelangelo!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progpositivity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2010 at 20:08

Rogerthat, You make some interesting points.  But I think the one about time signatures relates more to qualitative judgments of particular pieces of progressive rock music rather than whether the music should even be allowed to qualify for inclusion within the genre.  I’m seeking a definition which allows room for inspired prog and routine prog, innovative prog and imitative prog.  Otherwise, our very definition of “progressive rock” becomes a judgment of how good music is.

 

I’m suggesting that - independent of the motivation, inspiration and intentionality on the part of the composer or artist – to whatever extent the mere presence of an odd time signature within a rock song is  sufficient to expand the song’s scope beyond rock music’s traditional restraints and constraints, to that extent the song qualifies as a “progressive rock” song.

 

You have certainly helped in this minimalist quest, for we have now removed the artist from the equation! 

 

Independent of the artist… a piece of music either springs from or incorporates the rock idiom or it does not.  The music either expands beyond the traditional expectations/limitations of “rock” or it does not.  Concerns about how noble, mercenary, visionary or derivative the composer or artist may or may not be are peripheral!  (Important perhaps – but peripheral to whether a song should be allowed to qualify as “progressive rock”.)

 

Progressive Rock:  Music springing from or incorporating elements from the rock idiom while expanding beyond the genre's traditional musical limitations and constraints.

 

By this definition, a rock song in 7/8 almost always will qualify as a “prog song”.  We could then proceed to discuss whether we think the song is effective in its use of the odd time signature or not, whether the song was inspired or visionary or not.  In other words, a song can be a crappy and derivative progressive rock song, but still be a “progressive rock” song nonetheless.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SaltyJon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2010 at 20:21
Progressive Rock:  music that sometimes sounds different than other music, but not always. Thumbs Up
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progpositivity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2010 at 20:23
Rogerthat,
 
If there was a Canturbury song which didn't spring from or incorporate any elements at all from the rock idiom... and that song was completely jazz, then according to this definition it would not be "progressive rock".  I cannot think of any example.  Some Canterbury became so jazzy that it inhabited the same sonic space as jazz-rock fusion IMO. 
 
Like you said, this becomes very pertinent in the realm of Jazz-rock fusion.  That is why our definition allows for music to incorporate elements from the rock idiom.  In the case of jazz rock fusion, it is jazz incorporating elements from rock. 
 
If there is a Jazz Rock Fusion band out there somewhere which doesn't really incorporate any elements from the rock idiom, according to this definition, they would not qualify as progressive rock.  (I question whether they would qualify as Jazz Rock Fusion either but that's beyond the scope of this thread I suppose)
 
I believe progressive electronic is part of progressive rock according to my definition.  That is becuase I was there to see Larry Fast, Tangerine Dream, and Vangelis filed right next to the other popular "rock" records prog and non-prog:  Everyone from Yes and Genesis to Jackson Brown, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Journey, Styx, Toto, Grand Funk...  They were generally accorded similar respect (or derision) as the symphonic proggers like Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, et al.
 
But to whatever extent someone wants to argue that the music did not at all incorporate any elements of nor spring from the rock idiom in any way, they could use this definition to argue that electronic prog is not progressive rock. 
 
I currently don't have a problem with this definition allowing that discussion to take place.  But I fall on the side of "yes, electronic prog does incorporate some elements of the rock idiom". 
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