|Other names||Progressive rock|
|Cultural origins||1960s, United States and United Kingdom|
Art rock is a subgenre of rock music that generally reflects a challenging or avant-garde approach to rock, or which makes use of modernist, experimental, or unconventional elements. Art rock aspires to elevate rock from entertainment to an artistic statement,opting for a more experimental and conceptual outlook on music. Influences may be drawn from genres such as experimental rock, avant-garde music, classical music, and jazz.
Its music was created with the intention of listening and contemplation rather than for dancing,and is often distinguished by the use of electronic effects and easy listening textures far removed from the propulsive rhythms of early rock. The term may sometimes be used interchangeably with "progressive rock", though the latter is instead characterized in particular by its employment of classically trained instrumental technique and symphonic textures.
The genre's greatest level of popularity was in the early 1970s through British artists. The music, as well as the theatrical nature of performances associated with the genre, was able to appeal to artistically inclined adolescents and younger adults, especially due to its virtuosity and musical/lyrical complexity.Art rock is most associated with a certain period of rock music, beginning in 1966–67 and ending with the arrival of punk in the mid 1970s. After, the genre would be infused within later popular music genres of the 1970s–90s.
Critic John Rockwell says that art rock is one of rock's most wide-ranging and eclectic genres with its overt sense of creative detachment, classical music pretensions, and experimental, avant-garde proclivities.In the rock music of the 1970s, the "art" descriptor was generally understood to mean "aggressively avant-garde" or "pretentiously progressive". "Art rock" is often used synonymously with progressive rock. Historically, the term has been used to describe at least two related, but distinct, types of rock music. The first is progressive rock, while the second usage refers to groups who rejected psychedelia and the hippie counterculture in favor of a modernist, avant-garde approach defined by the Velvet Underground. Essayist Ellen Willis compared these two types:
From the early sixties … there was a counter-tradition in rock and roll that had much more in common with high art—in particular avant-garde art—than the ballyhooed art-rock synthesis [progressive rock]; it involved more or less consciously using the basic formal canons of rock and roll as material (much as pop artists used mass art in general) and refining, elaborating, playing off that material to produce … rockand-roll art. While art rock was implicitly based on the claim that rock and roll was or could be as worthy as more established art forms, rock-and-roll art came out of an obsessive commitment to the language of rock and roll and an equally obsessive disdain for those who rejected that language or wanted it watered down, made easier … the new wave has inherited the counter-tradition.
Art rock emphasizes Romantic and autonomous traditions, in distinction to the aesthetic of the everyday and the disposable embodied by art pop.Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman's American Popular Music defines art rock as a "form of rock music that blended elements of rock and European classical music", citing the English rock bands King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Pink Floyd as examples. Common characteristics include album-oriented music divided into compositions rather than songs, with usually complicated and long instrumental sections, symphonic orchestration. Its music was traditionally used within the context of concept records, and its lyrical themes tended to be "imaginative" and politically oriented.
Differences have been identified between art rock and progressive rock, with art rock emphasizing avant-garde or experimental influences and "novel sonic structure", while progressive rock has been characterized as putting a greater emphasis on classically trained instrumental technique, literary content, and symphonic features.Compared to progressive rock, art rock is "more challenging, noisy and unconventional" and "less classically influenced", with more of an emphasis on avant-garde music. Similarities are that they both describe a mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility, and became the instrumental analog to concept albums and rock operas, which were typically more vocal oriented.
Art rock can also refer to either classically driven rock, or to a progressive rock-folk fusion.Bruce Eder's essay The Early History of Art-Rock/Prog Rock states that "'progressive rock,' also sometimes known as 'art rock,' or 'classical rock'" is music in which the "bands [are] playing suites, not songs; borrowing riffs from Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner instead of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley; and using language closer to William Blake or T. S. Eliot than to Carl Perkins or Willie Dixon."
In the late sixties and early seventies, rock both co-opted and challenged the prevailing view of musical art, often at the same time. This is evident in a diverse body of music that includes the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper ; Frank Zappa's Freak Out ... the Who's rock opera Tommy ; Pink Floyd's technologically advanced concept album Dark Side of the Moon ; and Miles Davis's jazz/rock fusion.
The boundaries between art and pop music became increasingly blurred throughout the second half of the 20th century.The first usage of the term "art rock", according to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, was in 1968. As pop music's dominant format transitioned from singles to albums, many rock bands created works that aspired to make grand artistic statements, where art rock would flourish. As it progressed in the late 1960s – in tandem with the development of progressive rock – art rock acquired notoriety alongside experimental rock.
The earliest figure of art rock has been assumed to be record producer and songwriter Phil Spector, who became known as an auteur for his Wall of Sound productions that aspired to a "classical grandiosity".According to biographer Richard Williams: "[Spector] created a new concept: the producer as overall director of the creative process, from beginning to end. He took control of everything, he picked the artists, wrote or chose the material, supervised the arrangements, told the singers how to phrase, masterminded all phases of the recording process with the most painful attention to detail, and released the result on his own label." Williams also says that Spector transformed rock music as a performing art into an art that could only exist in the recording studio, which "paved the way for art rock".
The Beach Boys' leader Brian Wilson is also cited as one of the first examples of the auteur music producer.Like Spector, Wilson was known as a reclusive studio obsessive who laboriously produced fantastical soundscapes through his mastery of recording technology. Biographer Peter Ames Carlin wrote that Wilson was the forerunner of "a new kind of art-rock that would combine the transcendent possibilities of art with the mainstream accessibility of pop music". Drawing from the influence of Wilson's work and the work of the Beatles' producer George Martin, music producers after the mid 1960s began to view the recording studio as a musical instrument used to aid the process of composition. Critic Stephen Holden says that mid-1960s recordings by the Beatles, Spector and Wilson are often identified as marking the start of art pop, which preceded the "bombastic, classically inflected" art rock that started in the late 1960s.
Many of the top British groups during the 1960s – including members of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, 10cc, the Move, the Yardbirds and Pink Floyd – came to music via art school.This institution differed from its US counterpart in terms of having a less industry-applicable syllabus and in its focus on furthering eccentric talent. By the mid-1960s, several of these acts espoused an approach based on art and originality, where previously they had been absorbed solely in authentic interpretation of US-derived musical styles, such as rock 'n' roll and R&B.
According to journalist Richard Goldstein, many popular musicians from California (like Wilson) desired to be acknowledged as artists, and struggled with this aspiration. Goldstein explains that the line between violating musical conventions and making "truly popular music" caused those who didn't have "strong enough egos" (in contrast to Bob Dylan and the Beatles) to be "doomed to a respectful rejection, and a few albums with disappointing sales usually meant silence. ... They yearned for fame, as only needy people can, but they also wanted to make art, and when both of those impulses couldn’t be achieved they recoiled in a ball of frantic confusion."
Author Matthew Bannister traces "the more self-conscious, camp aesthetic of art rock" to pop artist Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, who emulated Warhol's art/pop synthesis.Accordingly: "Warhol took Spector's combination of the disembodiment, 'distance' and refinement of high culture with the 'immediacy' of mass cultural forms like rock and roll several stages further ... But Warhol’s aesthetic was more thoroughly worked out than Spector's, which represented a transitional phase between old-fashioned auteurism and the thoroughly postmodern, detached tenets of pop art. ... Warhol's approach reverberates throughout art rock, most obviously in his stance of distance and disengagement." In 1969, the Doors also explored art rock genre on their fourth album, The Soft Parade .
The December 1965 release of the Beatles' Rubber Soul signified a watershed for the pop album,transforming it in scope from a collection of singles with lesser-quality tracks to a distinct art form, filled with high-quality original compositions. The album garnered recognition for the Beatles as artists from the American mainstream press, anticipating rock music's cultural legitimization as an art form. Writing in 1968, Gene Sculatti of Jazz & Pop recognized Rubber Soul as "the definitive 'rock as art' album" and "the necessary prototype" that major artists such as the Rolling Stones (with Aftermath ) and the Beach Boys had felt compelled to follow.
The period when rock music became most closely aligned with art began in 1966 and continued until the mid 1970s.Academic Michael Johnson associates "the first documented moments of ascension in rock music" to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Released in May 1966, Pet Sounds came from Wilson's desire to make a "complete statement", as he believed the Beatles had previously done with Rubber Soul. In 1978, biographer David Leaf wrote that the album heralded art rock, while according to The New York Observer , "Pet Sounds proved that a pop group could make an album-length piece comparable with the greatest long-form works of Bernstein, Copland, Ives, and Rodgers and Hammerstein." Pet Sounds is also noted as the first rock concept album. In 1971, Cue magazine described the Beach Boys as having been "among the vanguard" with regard to art rock, among many other aspects relating to the counterculture, over the period up to late 1967.
Jacqueline Edmondson's 2013 encyclopedia Music in American Life states that, although it was preceded by earlier examples, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention's debut album Freak Out! (June 1966) came to be seen as "the first successful incorporation of art music in a pop context". With Los Angeles as his base since the early 1960s, Zappa was able to work in an environment where student radicalism was closely aligned with an active avant-garde scene, a setting that placed the city ahead of other countercultural centres at the time and would continue to inform his music.Writer and pianist Michael Campbell comments that the album "contains a long noncategorical list of Zappa's influences, from classical avant-garde composers to obscure folk musicians".
The Beatles' Revolver (August 1966) furthered the album-as-art perspectiveand continued pop music's evolution. Led by the art-rock single "Eleanor Rigby", it expanded the genre's scope in terms of the range of musical styles, which included Indian, avant-garde and classical, and the lyrical content of the album, and also in its departure from previous notions of melody and structure in pop songwriting. According to Rolling Stone , "Revolver signaled that in popular music, anything – any theme, any musical idea – could now be realized." As with Rubber Soul, the album inspired many of the progressive rock artists of the 1970s, and each of its songs has been recognised as anticipating a new subgenre or style.
Clash Music names the Velvet Underground's debut March 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico "the original art-rock record".Bannister writes of the Velvet Underground: "no other band exerted the same grip on the minds of 1970s/1980s art/alternative rock artists, writers and audiences." Their influence would recur from the 1970s onwards to various worldwide indie scenes, and in 2006, The Velvet Underground & Nico was inducted into the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, who commented: "For decades [it] has cast a huge shadow over nearly every sub-variety of avant-garde rock, from 70s art-rock to no-wave, new-wave, and punk." However, when the Velvet Underground first appeared in the mid 1960s, they faced rejection and were commonly dismissed as a "fag" band. In 1982, musician Brian Eno famously stated that while The Velvet Underground & Nico initially sold just 30,000 copies, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."
The Beatles' Paul McCartney deemed Pet Sounds "the record of the time", and in June 1967, the band responded with their own album: Sgt. Pepper's,which was also influenced by Freak Out! AllMusic states that the first wave of art rock musicians were inspired by Sgt. Pepper's and believed that for rock music to grow artistically, they should incorporate elements of European and classical music to the genre. Many British groups flowered in the album's wake; those who are listed in Music in American Life include the Moody Blues, the Strawbs, Genesis, and "most notably", Pink Floyd. The band's Roger Waters later stated that both Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds "completely changed everything about records" for him.
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Art rock's greatest level of popularity was in the early 1970s through British artists like King Crimson and Queen.
Enthusiasm for art rock explorations waned in the mid 1970s.From then to the 1990s, art rock was infused within various popular music genres. Encyclopædia Britannica states that its genre's tendencies were continued by some British and American hard rock and pop rock artists, and that Brian Eno's late 1970s and early 1980s collaborations with David Bowie and Talking Heads are exemplary of "the successful infusion of art rock tendencies into other popular music genres". Bowie and Eno collaborated on a series of consecutive albums called the "Berlin Trilogy", characterized as an "art rock trifecta" by Consequence of Sound , who noted that at the time of their release, "The experimental records weren’t connecting with audiences on the scale Bowie was used to. ... New Wave had exploded, and a generation of Bowie descendants had taken the stage."
In the 1980s, a new generation of English art rockers took the place of 1970s bands such as Roxy Music,Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Journalist Roy Trakin explains: "Of course, these stalwarts can still fill Madison Square Garden and sell a great many records, as they always have, but their days of adventurous risk-taking and musical innovation are long gone – replaced by the smug satisfaction of commercial success."
A concept album is an album whose tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually. This is typically achieved through a single central narrative or theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, or lyrical. Sometimes the term is applied to albums considered to be of "uniform excellence" rather than an LP with an explicit musical or lyrical motif. There is no consensus among music critics as to the specific criteria for what a "concept album" is.
Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelia, is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred on perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.
Progressive music is music that attempts to expand existing stylistic boundaries associated with specific genres of music. The word comes from the basic concept of "progress", which refers to development and growth by accumulation, and is often deployed in the context of distinct genres, with progressive rock being the most notable example. Music that is deemed "progressive" usually synthesizes influences from various cultural domains, such as European art music, Celtic folk, West Indian, or African. It is rooted in the idea of a cultural alternative and may also be associated with auteur-stars and concept albums, considered traditional structures of the music industry.
Progressive rock is a broad genre of rock music that developed in the United Kingdom and United States throughout the mid- to late 1960s, peaking in the early 1970s. Initially termed "progressive pop", the style was an outgrowth of psychedelic bands who abandoned standard pop traditions in favour of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz, folk, or classical music. Additional elements contributed to its "progressive" label: lyrics were more poetic, technology was harnessed for new sounds, music approached the condition of "art", and the studio, rather than the stage, became the focus of musical activity, which often involved creating music for listening rather than dancing.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released on 26 May 1967, it spent 27 weeks at number one on the Record Retailer chart in the United Kingdom and 15 weeks at number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It was lauded by critics for its innovations in songwriting, production and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high art, and for reflecting the interests of contemporary youth and the counterculture. Its release was a defining moment in 1960s pop culture, heralding the Summer of Love, while the album's reception achieved full cultural legitimisation for pop music and recognition for the medium as a genuine art form.
Pet Sounds is the 11th studio album by the American rock band the Beach Boys, released May 16, 1966 on Capitol Records. It was initially met with a lukewarm critical and commercial response in the U.S., peaking at number 10 on Billboard's Top LPs chart. In the UK, the album was lauded by critics and reached number 2 on the Top 40 Albums Chart, remaining in the top ten for six months. Promoted there as "the most progressive pop album ever", Pet Sounds garnered recognition for its ambitious production, sophisticated music, and emotional lyric content. It is considered to be among the most influential albums in music history.
"Carnival of Light" is an unreleased avant-garde recording by the English rock band the Beatles. It was commissioned for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, an event held at the Roundhouse in London on 28 January and 4 February 1967. Recorded during a session for "Penny Lane", "Carnival of Light" is nearly 14 minutes long and contains distorted, echo-laden sounds of percussion, keyboards, guitar and vocals. Its creation was initiated by Paul McCartney's interest in the London avant-garde scene and through his connection with the design firm, Binder, Edwards & Vaughan
Baroque pop is a fusion genre that combines rock music with particular elements of classical music. It emerged in the mid 1960s as artists pursued a majestic, orchestral sound and is identifiable for its appropriation of Baroque compositional styles and dramatic or melancholic gestures. Harpsichords figure prominently, while oboes, French horns, and string quartets are also common.
Chamber pop is a style of rock music characterized by an emphasis on melody and texture, the intricate use of strings, horns, piano, and vocal harmonies, and other components drawn from the orchestral and lounge pop of the 1960s. Artists such as Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson were formative acts during the genre's original wave in the 1960s.
Psychedelic pop is pop music that contains musical characteristics associated with psychedelic music. Elements include "trippy" effects such as fuzz guitars, tape manipulation, sitars, backwards recording, and Beach Boys-style harmonies blended with pop, resulting in melodic songs with tight song structures. The style lasted into the early 1970s.
Post-punk is a broad genre of rock music that emerged in the late 1970s as musicians departed from the raw simplicity and traditionalism of punk rock, instead adopting a variety of avant-garde sensibilities and non-rock influences. Inspired by punk's energy and DIY ethic but determined to break from rock cliches, artists experimented with styles like funk, electronic music, jazz, and dance music; the production techniques of dub and disco; and ideas from art and politics, including critical theory, modernist art, cinema and literature. These communities produced independent record labels, visual art, multimedia performances and fanzines.
This is a timeline of artists, albums, and events in progressive rock and its subgenres. This article contains the timeline for the period 1960–1969.
Art pop is a loosely defined style of pop music influenced by pop art's integration of high and low culture, and which emphasizes the manipulation of signs, style, and gesture over personal expression. Art pop artists may be inspired by postmodern approaches or art theories as well as other forms of art, such as fashion, fine art, cinema, and avant-garde literature. They may deviate from traditional pop audiences and rock music conventions, instead exploring ideas such as pop's status as commercial art, notions of artifice and the self, and questions of historical authenticity.
Experimental rock, also called avant-rock, is a subgenre of rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique or which experiments with the basic elements of the genre. Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with some of the genre's distinguishing characteristics being improvisational performances, avant-garde influences, odd instrumentation, opaque lyrics, unorthodox structures and rhythms, and an underlying rejection of commercial aspirations.
Experimental pop is pop music that cannot be categorized within traditional musical boundaries or which attempts to push elements of existing popular forms into new areas. It may incorporate experimental techniques such as musique concrète, aleatoric music, or eclecticism into pop contexts. Often, the compositional process involves the use of electronic production effects to manipulate sounds and arrangements, and the composer may draw the listener's attention specifically with both timbre and tonality, though not always simultaneously.
Progressive pop is pop music that attempts to break with the genre's standard formula, or an offshoot of the progressive rock genre that was commonly heard on AM radio in the 1970s and 1980s. It was originally termed for the early progressive rock of the 1960s. Some stylistic features of progressive pop include hooks and earworms, unorthodox or colorful instrumentation, changes in key and rhythm, experiments with larger forms, and unexpected, disruptive, or ironic treatments of past conventions.
Avant-pop is popular music that is experimental, new, and distinct from previous styles while retaining an immediate accessibility for the listener. The term implies a combination of avant-garde sensibilities with existing elements from popular music in the service of novel or idiosyncratic artistic visions.
Proto-prog is the earliest work associated with the first wave of progressive rock music, known then as "progressive pop". Such musicians were influenced by modern classical and other genres usually outside of traditional rock influences. They often employed longer and more complicated compositions, interconnected songs as medley, and studio composition. Some of the artists that were essential to the development of progressive rock, rather than just anticipating the movement, include the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Doors, the Pretty Things, the Zombies, the Byrds, the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd).
In music production, the recording studio is often treated as a musical instrument when it plays a significant role in the composition of music. Sometimes called "playing the studio", the approach is typically embodied by artists or producers who favor the creative use of studio technology in completing musical recordings, as opposed to simply capturing live performances in studio. Techniques include the incorporation of non-musical sounds, overdubbing, tape edits, sound synthesis, audio signal processing, and combining segmented performances (takes) into a unified whole.
Critic's Choice: Top 200 Albums is a musical reference book compiled by American-British journalist and broadcaster Paul Gambaccini. It was first published in the United Kingdom by Omnibus Press in January 1978, and then by Quick Fox in the US. The book comprises an annotated and illustrated list of the best albums in popular music, as selected from top-ten lists provided by its 47 contributors. As a multi-contributor work seeking to critique rock and pop albums, Critic's Choice preceded The Rolling Stone Record Guide and the Greil Marcus-edited Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, both published in 1979. It was followed by several other books that classified the best pop recordings.