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Symphonic in the 00's, an advantage or a handicap?

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Gerinski View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Symphonic in the 00's, an advantage or a handicap?
    Posted: December 02 2012 at 04:16

When writing my recent review of Moon Safariís Blomljud I reflected that comparing a modern band who makes a certain style which descends directly from music already done in the 70ís (symphonic in this case but the argument would apply to other sub-genres as well) is necessarily unfair.

 

The 70ís pioneers will always have the advantage of being considered as original and innovative, they created the genre after all. Modern symphonic can of course retain a certain level of originality but unless it goes very far from traditional symphonic (which probably some people would no longer consider symphonic) it will necessarily be derivative to certain extent and will sound familiar in the structures, the sounds used or whatever. It would seem that modern bands doing symphonic will always be in disadvantage even if they make music intrinsically as good as your favourite 70's stuff. Itís doubtful if any modern symphonic band can ever achieve the same timeless status as Yes, Genesis or ELP.

 

On the other hand, modern bands have 40 years of music to get inspiration from, plus all the new technology, and this might be considered as an advantage for making their music compared to the pioneers who had to come up with their music from pure inspiration, with very little existing music to base themselves on and limited technology.

 

For a band trying to make symphonic in the 00ís / 10ís, is it an advantage or an unavoidable curse?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote apps79 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 04:51
Nice topic man!

my opinion is that you get what you pay...when you rely heavily on analog instruments it is unavoidable not to be compared with the monster of the 70's, that created the sound in the first place, so that is a handicap...Additionally even modern technology is not enough to save you, Moon Safari in particular sound a lot like The Flower Kings who sound a bit like Yes...That's double-unoriginal and they won't ever escape from a just decent status unless they come up with a really masterful album...but again I think the guys play that kind of music intentionally, they just love to play this style (and they play it good).

On the other hand there have been bands that pushed their influences a little further with the help of their talent and modern technology.Echolyn are also influenced by Gentle Giant and Yes but it is impossible to mistaken them with any other band, they are easily recognizable from the very first note...and they have a lot more chances to be regarded as a classic act in the future.

So I think it actually depends on whether a band wants to refresh a style or just stick with the classic way, because simply that's the way it likes it.


Edited by psarros - December 02 2012 at 09:34
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 12:29
With the advances in effects devices it should be a great time for symphonic Prog to make genuine advances in timbre. There are, I'm sure, numerous stylistic ways of stretching symphonic Prog. I've always counted Peter Gabriel's Family and the Fishing Net as a symphonic Prog work, but it has the added influences from "world music" that give it a very unique character. People tend not to even notice it's very Genesis-like arrangements.

But yes, there is a disadvantage. If a modern Symphonic Prog group's (perhaps numerous) experimentations are too subtle then they are in danger having their originality questioned.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 12:42
Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

I've always counted Peter Gabriel's Family and the Fishing Net as a symphonic Prog work, but it has the added influences from "world music" that give it a very unique character. People tend not to even notice it's very Genesis-like arrangements.
Agree, PG found a new dimension to symphonic (although it could be argued that he turned towards eclectic), but that was also a long time ago now... In any case it prooves that it should still be possible to find original new paths within symphonic.

Edited by Gerinski - December 02 2012 at 12:46
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 12:45
Originally posted by psarros psarros wrote:

Nice topic man!

my opinion is that you get what you pay...when you rely heavily on analog instruments it is unavoidable not to be compared with the monster of the 70's, that created the sound in the first place, so that is a handicap...Additionally even modern technology is not enough to save you, Moon Safari in particular sound a lot like The Flower Kings who sound a bit like Yes...That's double-unoriginal and they won't ever escape from a just decent status unless they come up with a really masterful album...but again I think the guys play that kind of music intentionally, they just love to play this style (and they play it good).

On the other hand there have been bands that pushed their influences a little further with the help of their talent and modern technology.Echolyn are also influenced by Gentle Giant and Yes but it is impossible to mistaken them with any other band, they are easily recognizable from the very first note...and they have a lot more chances to be regarded as a classic act in the future.

So I think it actually depends on whether a band wants to refresh a style or just stick with the classic way, because simply that's the way it likes it.
Fair enough, I guess that if you choose to follow an already existing style that is the price you have to pay, you can build upon it but you will never be regarded as an innovator.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Progosopher Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 12:45
It is a disadvantage if the band is trying to emulate the past by using the same equipment and compositional techniques of the past.  When that is the case, the best that can be achieved is an elaborate tribute to a sound from many years ago as well as the bands which had produced those sounds.  However, if a band can expand on the qualities of symphonic rock, using the past as an inspiration, then they have the potential to create something new.  The influences may always be there, but the music will be original.  To be honest, not many artists can pull this off, and that is actually a different disadvantage - a greater challenge.  As is often the case, the answer lies not in sweeping generalities, but in the hands of those who create the music.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gallifrey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 13:03
I personally think symphonic prog is a thing of the past and bands should move on. But then again, it has its place, because many fans just want to hear new versions of an old style without much 'progression'.

I think it's evident in the top album lists of recent years that many of the top albums haven't been symphonic. Even the most recent one, Echolyn's newest, is still a decent move forward.

There was a thread a few months ago about Steve Wilson commenting (a few years ago, still), about how bands should stop trying to emulate bands from the past, and move forward with their music. I agree with him, although it could be argued that some of his music is hardly moving forward.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ytse_Jam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 13:51
There are many ways you can compare two records or bands. In terms of originality, 70s prog wins every time, of course, but if you talk about music ideas, it's different. There are a lot of awesome 00s bands and a lot of average 70s bands, so in terms of music ideas and composition the two eras are comparable, IMO.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 15:17
Originally posted by Gallifrey Gallifrey wrote:

I personally think symphonic prog is a thing of the past and bands should move on. But then again, it has its place, because many fans just want to hear new versions of an old style without much 'progression'.
I think it's evident in the top album lists of recent years that many of the top albums haven't been symphonic. Even the most recent one, Echolyn's newest, is still a decent move forward.
There was a thread a few months ago about Steve Wilson commenting (a few years ago, still), about how bands should stop trying to emulate bands from the past, and move forward with their music. I agree with him, although it could be argued that some of his music is hardly moving forward.

See now, I don't really see why symphonic Prog is a thing of the past any more than, say, Prog Metal. Nothing new about Prog metal. What Prog genre is actually new to the 00s or 10s, and do we just scoff at anything else that isn't? Take any of the cited genres on PA and there will be something innovative a creative person can do with it. Will they though? That's another question.

What should one make of old artists doing new albums? Steve Hackett still does symphonic Prog. Jade Warrior still does Symphonic Prog. Both of them do it with great integrity. Why should no one else be able to?

Just getting in to Echolyn, by the way. I do like them.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 15:27
Originally posted by Progosopher Progosopher wrote:

It is a disadvantage if the band is trying to emulate the past by using the same equipment and compositional techniques of the past.† When that is the case, the best that can be achieved is an elaborate tribute to a sound from many years ago as well as the bands which had produced those sounds.† However, if a band can expand on the qualities of symphonic rock, using the past as an inspiration, then they have the potential to create something new.† The influences may always be there, but the music will be original.† To be honest, not many artists can pull this off, and that is actually a different disadvantage - a greater challenge. †As is often the case, the answer lies not in sweeping generalities, but in the hands of those who create the music.

I like your progosophy.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gallifrey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 15:32
Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

Originally posted by Gallifrey Gallifrey wrote:

I personally think symphonic prog is a thing of the past and bands should move on. But then again, it has its place, because many fans just want to hear new versions of an old style without much 'progression'.
I think it's evident in the top album lists of recent years that many of the top albums haven't been symphonic. Even the most recent one, Echolyn's newest, is still a decent move forward.
There was a thread a few months ago about Steve Wilson commenting (a few years ago, still), about how bands should stop trying to emulate bands from the past, and move forward with their music. I agree with him, although it could be argued that some of his music is hardly moving forward.

See now, I don't really see why symphonic Prog is a thing of the past any more than, say, Prog Metal. Nothing new about Prog metal. What Prog genre is actually new to the 00s or 10s, and do we just scoff at anything else that isn't? Take any of the cited genres on PA and there will be something innovative a creative person can do with it. Will they though? That's another question.

What should one make of old artists doing new albums? Steve Hackett still does symphonic Prog. Jade Warrior still does Symphonic Prog. Both of them do it with great integrity. Why should no one else be able to?

Just getting in to Echolyn, by the way. I do like them.

Prog metal in the Dream Theater style is DEFINITELY a think of the past, but in terms of upcoming, the one I think is the most relevant isn't even listed in PA, but most bands are in crossover

Coheed and Cambria, Circa Survive, The Dear Hunter, Children Of Nova, Muse before they went electro, even The Mars Volta. They are all creating a new style not done before ~2003.

I, personally, have never liked any form of symphonic, so I can't really comment on it, but I do think it is a thing of the past. But like any past movement, there are always bands doing it currently, which I suppose the old fans will like.

But I think this new new new wave of prog (called "New Prog" in most forums, except here), is much more exciting than boring old symphonic.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 16:11
It's hard to answer the question because the disadvantage you mention deals with a band's perception in the eyes of their audience, while the advantages deal with the ability to make quality music.  As far as audience perception goes, I think you have to say modern symph bands are both at an advantage and a disadvantage, because, while there are many prog fans who disdain modern symph because they view it as derivative, at the same time there are many fans who want to hear music inspired by Yes, Genesis, ELP, etc.

Insofar as actual musical quality goes, I can't see the symphonic prog style as an advantage or a disadvantage.  It's totally dependent on the skills of the performers.  Sure, the modern symph bands have Yes and Genesis and ELP to draw from but the old bands already had Hendrix and the Beatles and Mozart and Miles Davis.  The early symph bands, for the most part, weren't actively trying to create a new style.  They were just making the kind of music they wanted to make, influenced by the artists they listened to, which is the same thing the new symph bands are doing.  Their music just isn't as innovative typically because they draw most of their influences from a single genre, instead of multiple genres like the early prog bands did.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Quirky Turkey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 16:12
Originally posted by Gallifrey Gallifrey wrote:

I personally think symphonic prog is a thing of the past and bands should move on. But then again, it has its place, because many fans just want to hear new versions of an old style without much 'progression'.

I think it's evident in the top album lists of recent years that many of the top albums haven't been symphonic. Even the most recent one, Echolyn's newest, is still a decent move forward.

There was a thread a few months ago about Steve Wilson commenting (a few years ago, still), about how bands should stop trying to emulate bands from the past, and move forward with their music. I agree with him, although it could be argued that some of his music is hardly moving forward.


No I think Steven's music somewhat moves forward. While retaining many past techniques and sounds, he incorporates enough of his own style and modern production values, so it's not like another Flower Kings or Glass Hammer.

I personally love it when I hear the good old 70s instruments in modern music, but pure symphonic prog in this modern age doesn't do that much for me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 16:15
@Gallifrey:
This is all well and good. I don't begrudge you your tastes, appreciate the band recommendations, and agree with you about Dream Theater. I myself have always listened to other things over the years, such as Zappa or Henry Kaiser, who are definitely not Symphonic Prog.   The problem I'm having is that the direction of the discussion in it's outward appearance is focused on genre as if that's the only kind of innovation that can be made. I don't know if it's intended that way. If someone ushers in a new genre, they deserve kudos (perhaps), but I'm also I interested in new timbres, new approaches to phrasing, new playing techniques, new scales, new arrangements, new approaches to rhythm, new math, new... Whether this is done in one genre or another (Symphonic Prog included) is something to be openminded about, I think.

Edited by HackettFan - December 02 2012 at 16:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Polymorphia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 21:38
Symphonic prog has a pretty specific criteria. It pretty hard to write music organically, experiment with new ideas, and manage to ski ball it into the symph-prog hole. On the other hand, I don't fault an artist with sounding like another, if that's the music they truly want to be making. I just won't buy their albums.Wink
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 02 2012 at 23:34
Originally posted by Polymorphia Polymorphia wrote:

Symphonic prog has a pretty specific criteria. It pretty hard to write music organically, experiment with new ideas, and manage to ski ball it into the symph-prog hole. On the other hand, I don't fault an artist with sounding like another, if that's the music they truly want to be making. I just won't buy their albums.Wink

Seriously? I can't say I see any specific criteria. They all had classical influences for sure, although I'm not sure what one would say about Nektar in this regard. The commonality doesn't go far beyond that. They all had other influences too. Van der Graaf Generator seems more rooted in jazz to me. Even on the classical side ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and Genesis all gravitated to different historical periods of classical music. Some material one might not actually even call symphonic. There are plenty of blues things, folky things, and just plain weird free-form things, like Genesis' the Waiting Room. Genesis is well known to have written a large portion of their material together "organically" through jam sessions.

Someone else commented on symphonic Prog being synth heavy, but this is of course only true about the later portion of the period in which synths were actually developed and they were able to procure them. Jade Warrior, for instance, didn't even use keyboards of any sort. They got their big sound with sax, droning distortion and flute. Jade Warrior also had a strong blues influence and were the first band to experiment with "world music" (way before Gabriel), demonstrating how expansive symphonic Prog could be. Hackett's post-Genesis work incorporates all sorts of different musical styles. While I'm sorry to be so contrary, the very idea of symphonic Prog as residing within some sort of pigeon hole is like a strange alternate reality, from my perception of things.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progbethyname Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2012 at 00:05
First of all Symphonic Prog is not a thing of the past. It's only been tweaked and re-honed into the hands of a new artist. In other words, it's just evolution of the genre itself.

As far as technology is concerned that is an advantage because it offers new variety of sound when it comes to the recording and writing process of music, which can ultimately make the artist sound quite different but still adhere to the standards of the genre itself, which doesn't make much room for being original and unique as a new up and coming artist.

Above all, I think it is frusterating sometimes for bands to truly make their mark for originality and innovation with in the symphonic prog genre. For instance, let's look at a band like IQ. They are a band that is labeled to be Neo prog, which is a term that is incredibly hated by a lot of musicians in the symphonic prog genre including the great Martin Orford. Personally, I don't blame Orford because Neo prog implies lack of orginality for a genre itself. It implies new prog only deriving from the symphonic prog movement started by Genesis. To be more clear, it's like calling IQ the new Genesis.
To me, that is unfair and not true because I feel IQ sound absolutely nothing like genesis. Now in the 90's we have symphony X accused of being dream theater hacks. Don't agree with that either.
I think overall it's a very tough situation to completely sound orginal and fresh today because everyone is always gonna say well that band sounds like this other band and so forth.
It's a bit complicated because it's tough to go beyond the basics of what the genre is itself.


Threshold still have all the goods that makes them one of the best classic rock/Prog metal bands in the world. 2014's For The Journey is worth a serious listen.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2012 at 08:57
Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

...
It would seem that modern bands doing symphonic will always be in disadvantage even if they make music intrinsically as good as your favourite 70's stuff. Itís doubtful if any modern symphonic band can ever achieve the same timeless status as Yes, Genesis or ELP.

...
 
Likewise, there is only one Elvis ... or one Beatles ... and I like to say ... GET OVER IT!
 
I think that at times, we grossly misrepresent the music in a different sphere of our social milieu  ... that in which you can see the history of music alongside of it, and the many other things also taking place during that time in the arts, and everything else.
 
Yes, Genesis or ELP's greatest achievement were NOT, their symphonic this or that ... it was that they were quite original, and extended the limits of rock and pop music, beyond the conventional populist and simplistic music that radio played for you.
 
As I get older, I am starting to believe more and more, that without the FM radio explosion in the late 60's and early 70's in America, that a lot of this might not have been noticed, like the majority of popular music ... it comes and goes and no one gives a damn about Michelangelo!
 
I think that the massive sales that FM radio brought along, which were NOT the same sales as the pop/topten radio had, were a big problem ... as were the longer cuts, and the Beatles, "won" the battle, when Hey Jude became a massively huge hit ... that the AM radio stations in America could not cut down to 3 minutes ... which one station in Chicago did, and they got trashed and lost several advertisers in one day!  This was FUEL for FM stations ... we can play the whole thing ... and THEY DID for 6 to 7 years in America, and then around 75 or 76 when Ertegun became "the" distribution complex in America, and their groups started buying off ALL the FM stations they could find ... when they were mostly independent then. And the times agree with the "golden days" of progressive music ... and I believe the amount of sales that the FM radio generated in America ... a lot of the smaller bands in London ... or NY ... would have been ignored ... I mean ... 12k sales ... or 11k on an album here or there ... is not a whole lot ... and they would have been buried and ignored!
 
This historical perspective, is the kind of thing that sometimes turns history on its edge ... it's not "coincidence" ... it's not "top of the pops" ... there is something else that helps it all stay alive and come alive ... and -- usually -- in all artistic scenes, those are the type of events that BRING forth a lot of work ... that ends up remembered.
 
Top ten comes and goes ... and you are lucky to name one or two for 5 years in a row, and when you get 50, you will remember a song or two, have a smile, and move on ... you don't remember even the names of the bands anymore in some cases.
 
Progressive is here ... NOT because of top ten ... it was in spite of it ... now, doesn't it figure that folks would go ... that's interesting!


Edited by moshkito - December 03 2012 at 09:07
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2012 at 09:21
Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

Originally posted by Progosopher Progosopher wrote:

It is a disadvantage if the band is trying to emulate the past by using the same equipment and compositional techniques of the past.  When that is the case, the best that can be achieved is an elaborate tribute to a sound from many years ago as well as the bands which had produced those sounds.  However, if a band can expand on the qualities of symphonic rock, using the past as an inspiration, then they have the potential to create something new.  The influences may always be there, but the music will be original.  To be honest, not many artists can pull this off, and that is actually a different disadvantage - a greater challenge.  As is often the case, the answer lies not in sweeping generalities, but in the hands of those who create the music.

I like your progosophy.
 
Ohhhh ... wait a minute ... so it's a disadvantage to know music, to know Mozart, to know Beethoven ... to know Stravinsky, to know Elvis, to know Beatles .... it's possible, of course, but not likely since you are blasted with music from day one of your life ... but there are eastern modes and african modes that are different, and I wonder if we're not giving the cultural time and place the credit that it deserves.
 
That's is strange thinking in my book ... it all comes into play, and the fact that you used strings might remind you of this or that ... but YOUR connection to something/someone else, MIGHT NOT be anywhere near the composer's or the band's design and idea and concept.
 
"Expanding" those abilities ... is ... for the most part, relative to the instrument and the time and place ... 100 years ago, the discordant tones in jazz and rock would not be acceptable ... and many composers had a hard time of it ... and it was not until the mid century that this changed big time ...
 
And yes ... the answer lies in the hands of the creators ... but I don't know many musicians that say ... I'm going to write a progressive music piece! ... in fact, NONE!


Edited by moshkito - December 03 2012 at 09:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2012 at 09:23
Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

Originally posted by Polymorphia Polymorphia wrote:

Symphonic prog has a pretty specific criteria. It pretty hard to write music organically, experiment with new ideas, and manage to ski ball it into the symph-prog hole. On the other hand, I don't fault an artist with sounding like another, if that's the music they truly want to be making. I just won't buy their albums.Wink

Seriously? I can't say I see any specific criteria. They all had classical influences for sure, although I'm not sure what one would say about Nektar in this regard. The commonality doesn't go far beyond that. They all had other influences too. Van der Graaf Generator seems more rooted in jazz to me. Even on the classical side ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and Genesis all gravitated to different historical periods of classical music. Some material one might not actually even call symphonic. There are plenty of blues things, folky things, and just plain weird free-form things, like Genesis' the Waiting Room. Genesis is well known to have written a large portion of their material together "organically" through jam sessions.

Someone else commented on symphonic Prog being synth heavy, but this is of course only true about the later portion of the period in which synths were actually developed and they were able to procure them. Jade Warrior, for instance, didn't even use keyboards of any sort. They got their big sound with sax, droning distortion and flute. Jade Warrior also had a strong blues influence and were the first band to experiment with "world music" (way before Gabriel), demonstrating how expansive symphonic Prog could be. Hackett's post-Genesis work incorporates all sorts of different musical styles. While I'm sorry to be so contrary, the very idea of symphonic Prog as residing within some sort of pigeon hole is like a strange alternate reality, from my perception of things.



Actually, of the bands you mentioned in the first para only ELP and Genesis are classified as symph prog here.   If I am not mistaken, Nektar is psychedelic prog here.   As a prog fan from back in the day (I presume), you are classifying all the classic prog rock bands as symph prog but that's not how the term is used in PA.   So Polymorphia has a good point, it is a fairly specific style with defined boundaries.   And given the emergence of neo prog, Genesis-like bands get slotted there and not symph prog, which basically leaves bands that sounds like Yes?


Edited by rogerthat - December 03 2012 at 09:39
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