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The Role of Virtuosity in Progressive Music

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Post Options Post Options   Quote dtguitarfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Role of Virtuosity in Progressive Music
    Posted: February 22 2013 at 05:21
Virtuosity is a big part of the genre, to me - I crave technically interesting music.  I am always listening for poly-rythms and compound time, and listening for fancy riffs and such.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 05:27
A good example of how prog rock can intentionally make things a bit more complicated is Yours Is No Disgrace.   Bruford plays a very busy pattern on the verse.  I like it, but an out and out rock drummer would have probably approached it differently, with fewer but heavier fills.    The complicated part of it is what gives prog rock its unique character, to some extent.   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote sleeper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 06:39
It's not essential, but it's an extremely useful tool in making the music moor interesting and can usually enhance the emotional impact of a piece.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ExittheLemming Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 06:40
I guess that certain musical ideas or territory require a high level of technique to be able to be realized successfully but when you get right down to it: would you choose an eloquent and articulate Howe over a simple and sincere Verlaine if it was the latter that moved you?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote twosteves Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 09:19
Virtuosity is important in the prog I enjoy the most and for me is the best prog---but of course, no matter how much technique you have, creativity and originality  is the key.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 09:26
Originally posted by ExittheLemming

I guess that certain musical ideas or territory require a high level of technique to be able to be realized successfully but when you get right down to it: would you choose an eloquent and articulate Howe over a simple and sincere Verlaine if it was the latter that moved you?


Exactly.

On a different note: virtuosity can also be holding back or keeping things slow and ethereal. It doesn't necessarily mean complex imo.
Anyway everything has it's place. I would mind having hear a piano fugue in the midst of I Talk to the Wind or a jazz chase done during Cirrus Minor....
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 09:35
^ Thas my whole point: instrumental virtuosity can get in the way of resonance.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 09:49
Sorry manEmbarrassed
I just read through Iain's post and acted on it...
Didn't read the whole thread.


Edited by Guldbamsen - February 22 2013 at 09:50
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 10:34
Virtuosity has only little to do with sheer speed or technical difficulty, that's the misunderstanding.
Technical proficiency is a requirement for true virtuosity, but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 10:38
Originally posted by Gerinski

Virtuosity has only little to do with sheer speed or technical difficulty, that's the misunderstanding.
Technical proficiency is a requirement for true virtuosity, but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.


Indeed, sir, well said.   It's one thing to dream up ways to play beautifully and all that and quite another to execute it.   How do you establish the contrast of light and shade?   Through dynamism and that also requires skill.   I think there's a confusion here in this thread between what the listener expects to hear and what is necessary for the artist to execute his vision. 


Edited by rogerthat - February 22 2013 at 10:38
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 11:57
Originally posted by Gerinski

Virtuosity has only little to do with sheer speed or technical difficulty, that's the misunderstanding.
Technical proficiency is a requirement for true virtuosity, but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.


In that case, I would say that virtuosity is absolutely vital to progressive music.

I think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on here because we're all defining "virtuosity" differently, and I admit that I often use it in different ways; to mean either pure technical ability or the more holistic view you're talking about.

Roger: I hear what you're saying, and I do agree that virtuosity (even if we're just talking technicality here) is very important to prog since it is, by it's own nature, a complex genre.  For some reason, I thought this was in General Music and replied accordingly Embarrassed.  I still think of technical ability as a tool and not an end in itself, like Steve said; I don't think it's somehow secondary to any other musical tools that a performer can use, nor do I think that technicality precludes emotion.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote RBlak054 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 12:22
I definitely think that being technically skilled is necessary for a lot of great music (perhaps even the majority of progressive rock), but I also think that there is a ton of great progressive music that doesn't require that much technical skill. One of my favourite bands, for example, is Camel, and while a lot of their material can be challenging (instrumental runs, solos, time signatures) I would hardly say that it requires a virtuoso to play. Most intermediate guitarists - who are certainly not virtuosos - would likely be able to fluently play the majority of Camel's repertoire without too much trouble (although very few would be able to emulate the emotion of Andrew Latimer). The real beauty of Camel's music, and the music of many other bands, is in the composition and musicianship.

Originally posted by Gerinski

Virtuosity has only little to do with sheer speed or technical difficulty, that's the misunderstanding.
Technical proficiency is a requirement for true virtuosity, but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.


I could be mistaken, but I was under the impression that virtuosity, by definition, refers predominately to the technical skill exhibited by a musician. If we're taking into account other elements, such as talent, inspiration, and emotion, as you suggest, I wholeheartedly agree that it is extremely important. But such a definition would then imply that virtuosity is extremely important in any genre, would it not?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote aldri7 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 12:23
One thing that in my mind could hurt your prog when it comes to virtuosity is if you specifically write tunes designed to showcase band members individual talents. I don't think that a song should be built around the idea that it must give your guitarist, etc some space to show off  ("The Underfall Yard" by Big Big Train suffers IMHO only when the guitar or keyboardist is soloing). I remember that Weather Report specifically frowned on this kind of thing, stating up front that their philosophy was to highlight group interaction rather than technical prowess. Wayne Shorter on sax always played sparse, understated solos. That was their approach. So virtuosity (technical prowess) is important for sure, but it should not get in the way of the message you are trying to convey to the audience. Sometimes that message calls for a certain approach to playing, one which discourages virtuosity. Mostly I'm thinking speed and dexterity here, while virtuosity is really more complex than that. So, but like all of the Weather Report musicians were very talented virtuosos who only toned town the speed and dexterity but otherwise showed great skill as instrumentalists. By contrast, one guy that sometimes would get hit with a negative label regarding his virtuosity was guitarist Al DiMeola. His tended to be based on speed only. Anyway, but great prog almost always  requires virtuosity on a level you can't find with typical bands, but by that I mean an understanding and appreciation of intricate motives, time signatures, harmonies, scales, emotional content etc. and an ability to play effortlessly through complex changes. And also, certain genres are really virtuosity dependent, like jazz fusion. Fusion AS A STYLE is almost totally dependent on virtuosity and it is one of the defining characteristics of the style. People listen to fusion to hear it. They are disappointed if they don't get it. Metal also usually seems to require great guitar soloing as though its fans expect it. But really, I do listen to fusion for the technical prowess of those playing it. Its not the only reason I listen to it, but its a big part.

On the other hand, other bands will often impress me the most when they take it slow and downplay the technical stuff. When they do that it shows me they are sophisticated (which is virtuosity in a more complex sense) enough in their approach to music to know when to tone it down. Because I also like drones and don't mind if you sit on one note for a long time if it suits the mood. Too much playing and complexity can be like too many cooks spoiling the meal. The true musician or virtuoso knows that silence is as important a part of music as sound. Just ask Wayne Shorter who really understood about silence in soloing.  If THATS virtuosity, all music requires it but especially prog since we are a more discerning bunch!  

I always loved the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but in concert, they had this reputation for being loud and out of control. Everyone would solo feverishly at the same time a lot.  They all had great chops. So maybe that is why Weather Report evolved the philosophy that they had - maybe it was their way of saying the other bands were letting virtuosity (dexterity in this case) rule the music. It should never rule the music and they were right. Maybe the word I'm looking for is "musicianship" as opposed to virtuosity, the latter of which implies more manual dexterity to me. Combine musicianship with virtuosity and you have the complete band. I can think of many instances where bands I liked in the past could have used a little more musicianship and a little less virtuosity. Some bands can be like an all-star basketball team - everyone is extremely talented as individuals, but the whole is not necessarily the sum of its parts.

aldri7




Edited by aldri7 - February 22 2013 at 12:42
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 13:14
Originally posted by Gerinski

... but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.
Give me an example of that when it comes to instrumental virtuosity.
Originally posted by rogerthat

I think there's a confusion here in this thread between what the listener expects to hear and what is necessary for the artist to execute his vision.
It may be so. As far as I can see, virtuosity is very important in entertainment, not in art. I presume a lot of responses here were founded on what is important to the listener (partly similar to what Rogerthat said), the entertainment or the art.

Edited by Dayvenkirq - February 22 2013 at 13:24
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 13:29
Originally posted by Ambient Hurricanes

Originally posted by Gerinski

Virtuosity has only little to do with sheer speed or technical difficulty, that's the misunderstanding.
Technical proficiency is a requirement for true virtuosity, but talent, inspiration and b<span style="line-height: 1.2;">eing able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.</span>
I think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on here because we're all defining "virtuosity" differently, and I admit that I often use it in different ways; to mean either pure technical ability or the more holistic view you're talking about.
Great Scot, this is heavy. There is not a universal definition for virtuosity?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote aldri7 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 13:47
Originally posted by Dayvenkirq

Originally posted by Gerinski

... but talent, inspiration and being able to play with moving emotion are as much (if not more) a part of true virtuosity as being able to play fast is.
Give me an example of that when it comes to instrumental virtuosity.

I was getting hung up on the definition too..

I guess there is a need for a term to describe technical skill apart from other aspects of playing because a lot of times musicians will show great speed and dexterity (something that is easy to measure) but not great musicianship. You could call it 'technical skill" I guess, or chops, but a lot of people use the term virtuosity. But virtuosity to me not only implies a kind of athleticism but also a mastering of all aspects of playing which would include playing with sensitivity.  And in the definition of "virtuosity", the word "style" as well as dexterity, etc is used, something that would support a broader interpretation.

"Musicianship" on the other hand seems to emphasize "artistic sensibility" over technique, and so someone like Thelonius Monk would get a label like that one as he was not very proficient technically. Remember that many musicians, for various reasons, are not physically capable of showing a lot of technical virtuosity. They may have very small hands, or maybe they didn't take up the instrument until relatively late in life. Without a lot of technical skill, I don't think you could say that these guys play with great virtuosity, because that term REQUIRES technical skill as well as other attributes. And so the label musicianship gets used instead.

To me a true virtuoso also shows great musicianship. But "virtuosity" is too often used just to describe a playing style which emphasizes technique. Al Dimeola might be described by some as having great virtuosity but not great musicianship. Miles Davis, on the other hand, was in the opposite camp. His playing didn't show great virtuosity but it did show great musicianship. I would call Miles a true virtuoso though despite not being technically as proficient as some other trumpet players. But that is open for debate. Can Miles be a "true virtuoso" if his playing was not always technically as  proficient as some others? I think he was proficient enough. its all kind of relative....

aldri7










Edited by aldri7 - February 22 2013 at 14:05
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 14:11
^ What?! There is no universal definition of musicianship?! Aren't the simple definitions of these words in Merriam-Webster enough for us? (Note of exception: I looked up "musicianship" on m-w.com and got nothing ... other than the implicit hint of "being a musician".)

Edited by Dayvenkirq - February 22 2013 at 14:12
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Tapfret Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 15:25
Originally posted by Dayvenkirq

Originally posted by Tapfret

^You've been around since 2006. I'm sure you have seen this discussion repeatedly and it always contains a throng that marginalizes musicians talent for the sake of the listeners subjective "feeling".  Its absurd to declare that being able to play four bars of 64th triplets in the middle of 3 key changes precludes the player from emotion.
Absurd? How did that come about?


Because it is. It would be like me telling someone that you did not really "feel" like getting groceries during your last trip to the grocery because you drove really fast in a really nice car. You are making implications about the player/composer's motivations based on your own preconceived notion of what defines emotion. The emotion or feeling derived from music listening is 100% subjective and only the performer/writer knows what his/her motivations are. Lots of people got emotional about the movie Titanic. Not me. Should I suggest that the writer/director/production crew did not impart any emotion into their work because they used too much technique and skill in the production? It must be so, I didn't "feel" it.

No that would be BLOODY ABSURD!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Tapfret Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 15:31
Originally posted by aldri7

One thing that in my mind could hurt your prog when it comes to virtuosity is if you specifically write tunes designed to showcase band members individual talents. I don't think that a song should be built around the idea that it must give your guitarist, etc some space to show off  ("The Underfall Yard" by Big Big Train suffers IMHO only when the guitar or keyboardist is soloing). I remember that Weather Report specifically frowned on this kind of thing, stating up front that their philosophy was to highlight group interaction rather than technical prowess. Wayne Shorter on sax always played sparse, understated solos. That was their approach. So virtuosity (technical prowess) is important for sure, but it should not get in the way of the message you are trying to convey to the audience. Sometimes that message calls for a certain approach to playing, one which discourages virtuosity. Mostly I'm thinking speed and dexterity here, while virtuosity is really more complex than that. So, but like all of the Weather Report musicians were very talented virtuosos who only toned town the speed and dexterity but otherwise showed great skill as instrumentalists. By contrast, one guy that sometimes would get hit with a negative label regarding his virtuosity was guitarist Al DiMeola. His tended to be based on speed only. Anyway, but great prog almost always  requires virtuosity on a level you can't find with typical bands, but by that I mean an understanding and appreciation of intricate motives, time signatures, harmonies, scales, emotional content etc. and an ability to play effortlessly through complex changes. And also, certain genres are really virtuosity dependent, like jazz fusion. Fusion AS A STYLE is almost totally dependent on virtuosity and it is one of the defining characteristics of the style. People listen to fusion to hear it. They are disappointed if they don't get it. Metal also usually seems to require great guitar soloing as though its fans expect it. But really, I do listen to fusion for the technical prowess of those playing it. Its not the only reason I listen to it, but its a big part.

On the other hand, other bands will often impress me the most when they take it slow and downplay the technical stuff. When they do that it shows me they are sophisticated (which is virtuosity in a more complex sense) enough in their approach to music to know when to tone it down. Because I also like drones and don't mind if you sit on one note for a long time if it suits the mood. Too much playing and complexity can be like too many cooks spoiling the meal. The true musician or virtuoso knows that silence is as important a part of music as sound. Just ask Wayne Shorter who really understood about silence in soloing.  If THATS virtuosity, all music requires it but especially prog since we are a more discerning bunch!  

I always loved the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but in concert, they had this reputation for being loud and out of control. Everyone would solo feverishly at the same time a lot.  They all had great chops. So maybe that is why Weather Report evolved the philosophy that they had - maybe it was their way of saying the other bands were letting virtuosity (dexterity in this case) rule the music. It should never rule the music and they were right. Maybe the word I'm looking for is "musicianship" as opposed to virtuosity, the latter of which implies more manual dexterity to me. Combine musicianship with virtuosity and you have the complete band. I can think of many instances where bands I liked in the past could have used a little more musicianship and a little less virtuosity. Some bands can be like an all-star basketball team - everyone is extremely talented as individuals, but the whole is not necessarily the sum of its parts.

aldri7




I got sympathetic carpal tunnel reading that. I gather the central theme here is "contrast is essential to progressive music", which I am 100% on-board with.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2013 at 15:37


"A person who excels in musical technique or execution."

"A consummate master of musical technique and artistry"

"A person who has a masterly or dazzling skill or technique in any field of activity"


All of these can mean "virtuoso."  They're pretty vague and open to interpretation, yes.  


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