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Revolutions: History of Progressive Rock

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    Revolutions: History of Progressive Rock

Revolutions: History of Progressive Rock by David Cavazos

Classical music had long been kicked out of the mainstream during the sixties with pop and rock n roll completing its mission of world domination. Still, musicians who loved modern music continued to fill colleges and musical institutions to learn classical styles. This dissonance in learning and what musicians were being exposed to would soon birth a new genre of music called prog rock influenced by both the classical and pop music greats.

Omar-Rodriguez Lopez
Guitarist Omar-Rodriguez Lopez of Mars Volta fame.

The first frustrated individuals to act were musicians from Britain who were listening to The Beatles at pubs around the country, but had been taught to love Beethoven and Bach in school and needed a new way to express their creativity. After experimenting with mixing the styles nobody developed a strong model to follow or at least one that could be widespread. The Beatles soon would release the Sgt. Pepper album though laying down the model needed to create the new experimental music.

New musicians began to surface following this model but found breaking into the mainstream overwhelming with the amount of monitoring and selectivity the BBC had over the air. New measures needed to be taken in order to gain exposure and send new music over the air that could get past the BBC veil. So radio towers were loaded onto large boats and independent broadcasters began to feed new music to eager listeners who had gotten tired of strict radio play.

This is where the egg of prog rock was hatched. With early bands like Procol Harum who used classical form to create “In Held Twas I” a 20 minute song broken up into 4 movements depicting the life of the universe becoming one of rock’s first epics.  Along with Yes a band that aimed to stay away from blues cliches and instead blended funk and rock together. Followed by the eventual crowning of King Crimson. King Crimson a band that took Yes’s ideology of staying away from mainstream cliches even farther and found a new sound that startled listeners everywhere. All members of King Crimson were accomplished and well learned musicians and embraced their musicality into the sound they created showing the world that rock musicians could play quietly for effect and perform rapid scale runs in unison instead of just a single member solo.

With a new aim a new audience began to grow. Rock bands were now making music for an audience that would sit down to listen instead of only dancing. Since that time prog rock is a genre that has aged well. Staying relevant through the mainstream with bands like Tool and the Mars Volta. It’s values of creative freedom to create music as short or long as you want and as simple or complicated you feel like making it are protected. Prog rock continues to inspire and entice people to not just hear the music but to sit and listen.

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