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Progressive rock, also known as prog rock or prog, is a rock music subgenre that originated in the United Kingdom with further developments in Germany, Italy, and France, throughout the mid-to-late 1960s and 1970s. It developed from psychedelic rock, and originated, similarly to art rock, as an attempt to give greater artistic weight and credibility to rock music. Bands abandoned the short pop single in favor of instrumentation and compositional techniques more frequently associated with jazz or classical music in an effort to give rock music the same level of musical sophistication and critical respect.

Progressive rock abandons the danceable beat that defines earlier rock styles and is more likely to experiment with compositional structure, instrumentation, harmony and rhythm, and lyrical content. It may demand more effort on the part of the listener than other types of music. Musicians in progressive rock typically display a high degree of instrumental skill. Musical forms are blurred through the use of extended sections and of musical interludes that bridge separate sections together, which results in classical-style suites. Early progressive rock groups expanded the timbral palette of the then-traditional rock instrumentation by adding instruments more typical of folk music, jazz or music in the classical tradition. A number of bands, especially at the genre's onset, recorded albums in which they performed together with a full orchestra. Progressive rock artists are more likely to explore complex time signatures such as 5/8 and 7/8. Tempo, key and time signature changes are common within progressive rock compositions.

Songs were replaced by musical suites that often stretched to 20 or 40 minutes in length and contained symphonic influences, extended musical themes, philosophical, mystical and/or surreal lyrics and complex orchestrations. The genre was not without criticism, however, as some reviewers found the concepts "pretentious" and the sounds "pompous" and "overblown".

Progressive rock saw a high level of popularity throughout the 1970s, especially in the middle of the decade. Bands such as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) were the genre's most influential groups and were among the most popular acts of the era, although there were many other, often highly influential, bands who experienced a lesser degree of commercial success. The genre faded in popularity during the second half of the decade. Conventional wisdom holds that the rise of punk rock caused this, although in reality a number of factors contributed to this decline. Progressive rock bands achieved commercial success well into the 1980s, albeit with changed lineups and more compact song structures.

The genre grew out of the 1960s space rock of Pink Floyd and the classical rock experiments of bands such as The Moody Blues, Procol Harum and The Nice. Most of the prominent bands from the genre's 1970s heyday fall into the "symphonic prog" category, in which classical orchestrations and compositional techniques are melded with rock music. Other subgenres exist, including the more accessible neo-progressive rock of the 1980s, the jazz-influenced Canterbury sound of the 1960s and 1970s, and the more political and experimental Rock in Opposition movement of the late 1970s and onward. Progressive rock has influenced genres such as krautrock and post-punk, and it has fused with other forms of rock music to create such sub-genres as neo-classical metal and progressive metal. A revival, often known as new prog, occurred at the turn of the 21st century and has since enjoyed a cult following.

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Further readingEdit

  • Lucky, Jerry. The Progressive Rock Files. Burlington, Ontario: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc (1998), 304 pages, ISBN 1-896522-10-6 (paperback). Gives an overview of progressive rock's history as well as histories of the major and underground bands in the genre.
  • Lucky, Jerry. The Progressive Rock Handbook. Burlington, Ontario: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc. (2008), 352 pages, ISBN 978-1-894959-76-6 (paperback). Reviews hundreds of progressive rock bands and lists their recordings. Also provides an updated overview, similar to The Progressive Rock Files.
  • Snider, Charles. The Strawberry Bricks Guide To Progressive Rock. Chicago, Ill.: Lulu Publishing (2008) 364 pages, ISBN 978-0-615-17566-9 (paperback). A veritable record guide to progressive rock, with band histories, musical synopses and critical commentary, all presented in the historical context of a timeline.
  • Stump, Paul. The Music's All That Matters: A History of Progressive Rock. London: Quartet Books Limited (1997), 384 pages, ISBN 0-7043-8036-6 (paperback). Smart telling of the history of progressive rock focusing on English bands with some discussion of American and European groups. Takes you from the beginning to the early 1990s.
  • Weingarten, Marc. Yes Is The Answer: (And Other Prog-Rock Tales). Barnacle Book/Rare Bird Books (2013), 280 pages, ISBN 9780985490201. Defense of the genre.

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