How did Progressive Rock’s incorporation of classical traditions and countercultural values help to forge a unique Rock genre in the late 1960s?
Progressive Rock, or simply “Prog,” emerged in Britain during the late 1960s from a specific set of musical, social and technological trends. Early Prog Rock drew on many sources, combining elements of Rock and Roll, Psychedelic Rock, Jazz, Folk, and Classical music. What set Prog apart was its grounding in Western symphonic tradition and its reliance on instrumental virtuosity, which had previously been considered the province of Classical and Jazz players and other “legitimate” musicians. There was nothing light or trivial about early Prog, which demanded to be taken seriously as an art form worthy of the same respect accorded to Classical music and Jazz.
Reflecting the influence of Western Classical music, Prog albums — and sometimes even songs, such as Yes’s “Starship Trooper” (1971) — were divided into sections or movements (I. “Life Seeker”; II. “Disillusion”; III. “Würm”). A single Prog track might last 12 or 15 minutes – a far cry from the three-minute song that had long been the Pop music industry standard. Yet at the same time that it mined Classical influences, Prog drew on the 1960s counterculture and its rejection of mainstream values and explorations of alternative conceptions of identity and time.
Progressive Rock was made possible by several important technological and artistic developments. The introduction of the 33 1/3 rpm “Long Play” (LP) record in 1948 allowed for up to 30 minutes of music on each side, considerably more than the 3-5 minutes a 78 rpm disc could hold. The change enabled classical musicians to record an entire symphony on a single record. As the 60s progressed, advancements were made that culminated in growing use of multitrack recording as well as a less complex editing process. Beginning with the Beatles’ watershed 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, many Rock bands began to conceive of albums as extended, conceptual, interconnected works rather than collections of disconnected songs.
At the same time, the rise of free-form FM radio in the United States and related programming styles in the United Kingdom allowed disc jockeys broad latitude to explore and play longer-form Rock music. In turn, advances in instrument technology, such as the invention of the Moog synthesizer, allowed for increased musical experimentation. Both would figure into the rise of Prog Rock.
Upon completion of this lesson, students will:
- Know (knowledge):
- The historical origins of Progressive Rock
- The basic elements of Progressive Rock, including the incorporation of musical forms derived from Western Classical music, an emphasis on instrumental virtuosity, and incorporation of countercultural themes that challenged conventional notions of time and space
- The technological changes that gave rise to Progressive Rock, including the possibilities of the 33 1/3 “Long Playing” (LP) album, the invention of the Moog synthesizer, and the rising popularity of FM radio
- The specific contributions of such Progressive Rock artists as Yes and Genesis
- Be able to (skills):
- Connect music to the historical context from which it emerged
- Common Core: Students will read primary and secondary source articles across a range of reading levels and analyze videos, photographs and music to gather information and evidence (CCSS Reading 2; CCSS Reading 10; CCSS Speaking and Listening 2)
- Common Core: Students will take a position on the merits of Progressive Rock after first evaluating the reviews and arguments presented in the nonfiction texts. (CCSS Reading 8; CCSS Writing 1; CCSS Writing 8)
Common Core State Standards
College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text
- Reading 2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
- Reading 8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
- Reading 10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects
- Writing 1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- Writing 8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12
- Speaking and Listening 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- Theme 2: Time Continuity, and Change
- Theme 5: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
- Theme 8: Science, Technology, and Society
National Standards for Music Education
Core Music Standard: Responding
- Analyze: Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
- Interpret: Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’ and/or performers’ expressive intent.
- Evaluate: Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.
Core Music Standard: Connecting
- Connecting 11: Relate musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.