Progressive rock was among the most successful genres of the 1970s, yet only recently has it partly regained the respect it once had. Indeed, for almost three decades, the prog genre has often been disparaged and condemned as a bombastic and excessive version of psychedelia, thus obliviating its importance and cultural value. Many rebirths of prog can be traced back to the 1980s and the 1990s, but none were able to restore the genre’s lost respect or success. The ‘traditional’ historiography of rock points to the emergence of punk as the moment at which prog was killed, but a deeper analysis can demonstrate how progressive music did not die at all, if we are willing to leave behind the reductive and stereotypical idea of prog as a merely British and “symphonic” phenomenon. Indeed, if we look outside the UK, it is easy to see that prog was far from over. The attempt to explain why a certain historiographical view has been widely accepted can provide insights into the ongoing struggle to define progressive rock as a genre. Indeed, such an analysis can explain why new post-progressive artists (e.g. Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp) were not recognised inside the prog canon, and why new albums by classic artists have been reinterpreted as flops, thus influencing aesthetic judgement for decades with a peculiar inversion of values. This study will mainly focus on the role of critics and of the Anglo-symphonic stereotype, seeking to give an alternative account of the death (and rebirth) of prog from a contemporary and postmodern perspective (capable of interpreting the two main breeds of contemporary prog in light of Baudrillard’s concept of simulacrum), and to give some of the forgotten histories the relevance they deserve.

A Mellotron-shaped grave : deconstructing the death of progressive rock = Une tombe en forme de Mellotron : déconstruire la mort du rock progressif / M. Merlini. - In: TRANSPOSITION. - ISSN 2110-6134. - 10:(2022), pp. 1-23. [10.4000/transposition.7101]

A Mellotron-shaped grave : deconstructing the death of progressive rock = Une tombe en forme de Mellotron : déconstruire la mort du rock progressif

M. Merlini
2022

Abstract

Progressive rock was among the most successful genres of the 1970s, yet only recently has it partly regained the respect it once had. Indeed, for almost three decades, the prog genre has often been disparaged and condemned as a bombastic and excessive version of psychedelia, thus obliviating its importance and cultural value. Many rebirths of prog can be traced back to the 1980s and the 1990s, but none were able to restore the genre’s lost respect or success. The ‘traditional’ historiography of rock points to the emergence of punk as the moment at which prog was killed, but a deeper analysis can demonstrate how progressive music did not die at all, if we are willing to leave behind the reductive and stereotypical idea of prog as a merely British and “symphonic” phenomenon. Indeed, if we look outside the UK, it is easy to see that prog was far from over. The attempt to explain why a certain historiographical view has been widely accepted can provide insights into the ongoing struggle to define progressive rock as a genre. Indeed, such an analysis can explain why new post-progressive artists (e.g. Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp) were not recognised inside the prog canon, and why new albums by classic artists have been reinterpreted as flops, thus influencing aesthetic judgement for decades with a peculiar inversion of values. This study will mainly focus on the role of critics and of the Anglo-symphonic stereotype, seeking to give an alternative account of the death (and rebirth) of prog from a contemporary and postmodern perspective (capable of interpreting the two main breeds of contemporary prog in light of Baudrillard’s concept of simulacrum), and to give some of the forgotten histories the relevance they deserve.
Si dans les années 1970 le rock progressif comptait parmi les genres les plus populaires, ce n’est que récemment qu’il a en partie retrouvé le respect dont il bénéficiait autrefois. Pendant près de trois décennies, le « prog » a en effet souvent été méprisé, attaqué comme une version grandiloquente et excessive du psychédélisme, ces critiques conduisant à relativiser radicalement son rôle et sa valeur culturelle. Certes, de nombreuses renaissances du prog ont eu lieu dans les années 1980 et 1990, mais aucune n’est parvenue à regagner le respect ou le succès perdus. Par ailleurs, l’historiographie « traditionnelle » du rock considère l’émergence du punk comme le moment même où le prog a été tué. Cependant, une analyse plus approfondie peut démontrer que la musique progressive n’est pas morte, à condition d’abandonner l’idée réductrice et stéréotypée du prog en tant que phénomène purement britannique et «symphonique ». En dehors du Royaume-Uni, la partie était en effet loin d’être terminée. Comprendre pourquoi un certain point de vue historiographique a été si largement accepté permet de poser de nouvelles hypothèses interprétatives concernant la lutte actuelle pour définir le rock progressif en tant que genre. Cette analyse peut expliquer pourquoi les nouveaux artistes post-progressifs (comme Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel ou Robert Fripp) n’ont pas été reconnus à l’intérieur du canon du prog, et pourquoi les nouveaux albums des artistes classiques ont été réinterprétés comme des flops, influençant ainsi le jugement esthétique pendant des décennies via une étrange inversion des valeurs. Notre interrogation se concentre principalement sur le stéréotype anglo-symphonique et le rôle des critiques, en proposant un récit alternatif de la mort (et de la renaissance) du prog dans une perspective contemporaine et postmoderne (capable d’interpréter les deux principales branches du prog contemporain à la lumière du concept de simulacre de Baudrillard), et de donner à certaines histoires oubliées la pertinence qu’elles méritent.
progressive rock; deconstruction; punk; music critique; music historiography; rock progressif; mort et renaissance d’un genre musical; déconstruction; simulacre
Settore L-ART/07 - Musicologia e Storia della Musica
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