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Progressive rock, also known as prog rock, prog-rock or simply prog, is a rock music subgenre which originated in the United Kingdom, with further developments in Germany, Italy and France, throughout the mid to late 1960s and 1970s. Developing from psychedelic rock, progressive rock originated, similarly to art rock, as a British attempt to give greater artistic weight and credibility to rock music. Progressive rock intended to break the boundaries of traditional rock music by bringing in a greater and more eclectic range of influences, including free-form and experimental compositional methods, as well as new technological innovations.

Progressive rock saw a high level of popularity throughout the 1970s, especially in the middle of the decade, with bands such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Supertramp, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Camel, Gentle Giant and Van der Graaf Generator. It started to fade in popularity by the latter part of the decade, with the rawer and more minimalistic punk rock growing in popularity, and also with the rise of genres such as disco, funk, hard rock/roots rock, and the gradual emergence of hip-hop. Nevertheless, progressive rock bands were able to achieve commercial success well into the 1980s. By the turn of the 21st century, it witnessed a revival, often known as new prog, and has, ever since, enjoyed a cult following. The genre has influenced several other styles, ranging from krautrock to neo-classical metal; it has also fused with several other forms of rock music to create subgenres, including progressive metal.

Characteristics

Progressive rock is not crisply delineated from other genres, but is more likely than other types of popular music to feature characteristics such as:

Form

Progressive rock songs either avoid common popular music song structures of verse-chorus form, or blur the formal distinctions by extending sections or inserting musical interludes, often with exaggerated dynamics to heighten contrast between sections. Classical forms are often inserted or substituted, sometimes yielding entire suites, building on the traditional medleys of earlier rock bands. Progressive rock songs also often have extended instrumental passages, marrying the classical solo tradition with the improvisational traditions of jazz and psychedelic rock. All of these tend to add length to progressive rock songs, which may last longer than twenty minutes.

Timbre

Early progressive rock groups expanded the timbral palette of the then-traditional rock instrumentation of guitar, keyboard, bass guitar, and drums by adding instruments more typical of jazz or folk music, such as flute, saxophone, timpani and violin, and more often than not used electronic keyboards, synthesizers, and electronic effects. Some instruments – most notably the Hammond organ, the Moog synthesizer and the Mellotron – have become closely associated with the genre.

Rhythm

Drawing on their classical, jazz, folk and experimental influences, progressive rock artists are more likely to explore complex time signatures such as 5/8 and 7/8.

Tempo, key and time signature changes are very common in progressive rock. Progressive rock generally tends to be freer in its rhythmic approach than other forms of rock music. The approach taken varies, depending on the band, but may range from regular beats to complex time signatures.

Melody and Harmony

In progressive rock, the blues inflections of mainstream rock are often discarded. Progressive bands drew inspiration from a wide range of genres, ranging from classical to jazz, and, in later works, world music.

The genre abandoned many of rock's traditional characteristics, including a standard verse-chorus structure, and often replaced the electric guitar with more layered and complex instrumentation to create longer compositions.

Melodies are more likely to be modal than based on the pentatonic scale, and are more likely to comprise longer, developing passages than short, catchy ones.

Concept Albums

Concept albums are albums that they are built around a theme or a story, and they are common to progressive rock.

Concept albums may have included the historical, fantastical, and metaphysical, and even, in the case of Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick (1972), for parodying concept albums.

Concept albums became popular after the releases of the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! (1966), the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (1966), The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Who's The Who Sell Out (1967) and The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed (1967).

Notable progressive rock concept albums include Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Tarkus (1971), Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979), Yes' Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973), Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) and Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick (1972).

Lyrical Themes

Progressive rock bands tends to avoid typical rock/pop subjects such as love, dancing, etc., rather inclining towards the kinds of themes found in classical literature, fantasy, science fiction, folklore, social commentary or all of these.

For example, Peter Gabriel of Genesis often wrote surreal stories to base his lyrics around, sometimes including theatrical elements with several characters, while Roger Waters of Pink Floyd combined social criticism with personal struggles with greed, madness and death.

One Side Epics

One side epics probably had their birth in early 1968; when psychedelic rock band the Doors were creating their album Waiting for the Sun. The Doors intended a one side epic called "The Celebration of the Lizard", but producer Paul Rothchild thought it wouldn't be as appealing to the masses.. Even though "the Celebration of the Lizard" would be received well, one of the earliest examples include the 17 minute epic "In Held 'Twas in I" by progressive rock band Procol Harum, released in September 1968. Another example is Ars Longa Vita Brevis by The Nice. But, the earliest and most famous one side epic, was released in 1969, when the Beatles included the 16 minute Abbey Road Medley on the Abbey Road album. Another example from 1969 is Rivmic Melodies by The Soft Machine. In 1970, it was very common between progressive rock bands to make one side epics.

Soon later bands like Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis began to use this technique for later compositions such as "Close to the Edge", "Tarkus", and "Supper's Ready". Some artists pushed the limit to the whole album, as Jethro Tull did with Thick as a Brick (1972) and A Passion Play (1973) or Mike Oldfield did with Tubular Bells (1973).

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