Historical Outline

Let us first consider the evolutionary history of "Progressive Rock". This is a form of music whose origins, historically, were made possible only by the social establishment of rock music.

The classic rock'n'roll, as a harder and faster-played version of the blues in its disarming simplicity and directness, was still strongly influenced by the emancipatory features of a youth revolution against encrusted social structures and prudery.

The hard and electrified playing style in popular music became the medium of identification of the "younger" generation, corresponding to their sense of life and a spirit of time that manifested itself in the liberation of outdated social constraints.

At the beginning of the sixties the rock ‘n roll musicians began to expand the rigid blues scheme as a compositional structure and began to insert characteristic elements from other musical directions. Here, above all, jazz, folk as well as the baroque and classical periods of the occidental musical tradition can be mentioned.

The compositions of rock music (as the genre was soon generalizing called along with all its sidelines), also those with clear classical influences like the later Beatles compositions, were rarely taken seriously by the listeners and critics of the so-called "serious music" . The main reason for this was the change in the sound compared to classical music.

The listeners of the early rock music on the other side knew classic originals only in rare cases and were mainly interested in the "dirty", electric rock sound, in order to stand out from their parents generation.

Through the newly acquired liberties and loyal fan-followers, the rock musicians could now dare harmonies and rhythmic structures which were unfamiliar to their listeners as long as the resulting mixture was identifiable as rock music by the electrified/distorted sound.

Since the rock listeners and the rock composers belonged to the same generation, it was possible that both sides could dare to move together into previously unknown territory. In a short time many typical elements of jazz, soul, traditional music of different continents, baroque and classical music, were inserted into the rock compositions, mostly for the sake of a certain aha-effect.

The rock sound gave these compositions an astonishing new quality and could even interest some rock listeners to take a closer look on the originals. On the other hand, there may have been only a few classical music listeners who became interested in elements of classical music within rock songs, which were usually very simplified and rudimentary.

And in fact, in most of these early stylistic fusions, little compositorial substance could be seen if one ignored the distorted sound.

Another restriction of the early rock songs was the playing time. In order to keep a song "payable on the radio", it could not significantly exceed the 3-minute limit, and at these times most money was earned with individual songs, not least because of the fact that the "single" was still the main medium by which popular music was sold.

It was not until the end of the sixties that the LP could establish itself as a medium for longer pieces and no longer served as a sampler album for short single hits.

Here, it was above all the very popular blues-rock and jazz-rock musicians like Hendrix, Cream or Collosseum, who needed longer pieces as a medium for their improvisations, thus paving the way for the musical genre, which later became "Progressive Rock" and in the meantime, on the occasion of its revival, was called "Prog."

After the liberation blow of the so-called 68 generation against all socially established a very favorable mood for musical innovations in the rock music developed from the end of the sixties to the middle of the seventies. It corresponded to the spirit of the time to leave beaten tracks and to move into unknown territory. Thus, advanced-oriented musicians had a tremendous backing in the growing fan community of rock music, which was eager to listen to sounds they had never heard before.

At the same time, there were more and more very good instrumentalists among the rock musicians. Technical skill on the instrument was a high criterion for quality, and among the fans it was sometimes a kind of competition. Everyone was convinced the fastest guitarist and the best drummer were the ones in his favorite band.

With the invention of the electric organ, the Mellotron and the first synthesizers, the keyboarders emerged from their secondary role and moved into the limelight. It was mainly piano players educated in classical music (who later failed at the conservatory and tried to find their luck in rock music) which were soon praised as "Keyboard Wizzards", as they made use of a previously unknown technical perfection for rock music.

Even if the keyboarders did not participate in the compositions, an emotional intensification and dramatization - especially of the harmonic aspects of the compositions - was achieved purely by the sound of the Hammond organs, Mellotrones and synthesizers. By adding the Mellotron sound, even simple songs, e.g. "Nights in White Satin" by Moody Blues were presented in such a bombastic way that the term "classic rock" was soon introduced to such music, even though the compositions had little in common with classical music.

Those keyboarders, who intensively participated in the composition process or determined it, had the main part in the development of progressive rock in its classic form, as it flourished in the early seventies. The classically trained keyboarders were able to introduce harmonious alterations, modulations and contrasts to the relatively simple songs of the guitarists and singers, so that the pieces became longer and that dense mesh of contrasting lines emerged, for which the musicians of their fans to raised to God-like creatures.

At this point a division of Progressive Rock listeners took place. On one side there were those who preferred ever more complicated compositions, as they grew with their idols and sought a new intellectual challenge and revelation with each new record. On the other side those who turned away from the now obscure complexity of the new music, and from then on propagated the "honest", "straight" rock, since only the latter could finally come directly from the heart in the simple, uncompromised form.

The Progressive Rock, with the overpowering enthusiasm for the gigantomania, was digging its own grave by developing into a progressive rococo at the end of the seventies, and was soon loosing its last remaining credibility among followers of other rock styles by completely excessive exaggerations at stage shows and live performances with whole orchestras.

Above all, Emerson, Lake and Palmer became the favorite hate object of all those who had never had anything in common with Progressive Rock, and among these, most (rock) music critics were and still are. The following punk wave brought the preliminary end for most established progressive rock acts, that only their remaining die-hard fans still wanted to hear.

It was not until the mid-1980s that a new generation of musicians rediscovered the progressive rock. Bands such as Marillion played a more modern version, the Neo-Prog, as the music of insiders was now called, but hardly any of these bands could achieve the originality and emotional depth of the best Yes or Genesis pieces, which were mostly used as a template. More recently, the heavy metal musicians, who have discovered the technical perfection of the instrument again as an ideal, have come into the Prog field from another starting point with bands such as Dream Theater or Symphony X. Bands like Magellan or Haken are again presenting compositions which are reaching up to the quality and originality of the best bands of the seventies and are really providing new impulses to Rock music (in contrast to Neo-Prog), as suggested by the term Progressive Rock.

After all, the production costs for CD's have fallen so far that a new niche market for Prog was established, where specialized record labels like Musea serve a small but international fan community. This development was enormously promoted by the communication and distribution via Internet. There are still a lot of Prog fans out there, but they are very broadly scattered worldwide. For them the Internet is an ideal forum for the exchange of thought and distribution of their music.