Layers of time in progressive rock songs.

Braae, Nick (2021) Layers of time in progressive rock songs. Progect 2021: Towards a Contemporary Understanding of Prog and Metal, University of Ottawa, 19-21, 26-28 May 2021. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or Summary

This paper details how musical time is articulated in progressive rock songs. While some analysts have considered notions of musical time in the classical repertoire, similar studies of popular songs are rare (Holm-Hudson 2002 notwithstanding). This paper offers an initial foray into this area, following the suggestion that ideas of temporality may assist in understanding the structural nature of progressive rock (Moore 2001). I argue specifically that one of the key traits of the broad style was the layering of contrasting temporalities within large-scale songs. Firstly, it is common to find ‘vertical’ musical surfaces—looping rhythmic and harmonic patterns, constant textures within sections and declamatory vocal lines evoke a sense of temporal stasis. Songs by Yes (‘Close to the Edge’, ‘Roundabout’) and Pink Floyd (‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’, ‘Great Gig in the Sky’) typify this feature. Secondly, at a sectional level, we experience temporal ruptures, like a rock version of Stockhausen’s ‘moment’ form, via sharp juxtapositions of thematic content, evident in King Crimson or Gentle Giant. Thirdly, these temporalities are often countered by a sense of large-scale linearity, made clear through grandiose textural gestures and recapitulation of initial material at the conclusions of songs. Songs by the same artists as well as Jethro Tull and Queen highlight this trend. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon neatly encapsulates all three layers concurrently, which is not surprising given the album’s status as the most visible manifestation of early 1970s progressive rock. Finally, I argue that these contrasting temporalities elucidate the varied, and perhaps contradictory, influences on the progressive rock movement—namely, psychedelia, the 1960s avant-garde, and 19th-century classical music (Macan 1997). The concept of musical time may thus be useful not only as an analytical tool, but for understanding in the aesthetic dimension of this body of popular music.

Item Type:Item presented at a conference, workshop or other event which was not published in the proceedings
Keywords that describe the item:Progressive Rock; Music; Culture; Analysis
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions:Schools > School of Media Arts
ID Code:7762
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Deposited On:14 Jul 2021 01:34
Last Modified:14 Jul 2021 01:34

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