Tuesday, October 11, 2011

an open letter of apology to my prog loving friend

I am a prog convert. There... I said it. I love prog and am now not afraid to admit it.

Unfortunately this admission comes twenty years too late for my prog loving friend Robert who turned me on to Tangerine Dream and movie soundtracks but failed to get me interested in prog... apart from "tarkus" by Emerson Lake & Palmer.

Robert was into Yes, King Crimson and ELP... amongst a number of bands that I labelled "prog" and duly ignored.

For, you see, twenty years ago "prog" or "progressive rock" wasn't hip to me. Hip was the post-punk of Fugazi. Hip was the hop of Public Enemy. Hip was the guitar anthems of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Hip wasn't prog... at least in my world.

In those days I believed the media... a media fuelled by the notion that prog was bad and punk was good... that musicianship and keyboard solos weren't as interesting as three chords and a heavy dose of nihilism, appropriated samples and a militant stance, or a baggy drugged-up funk.

I believed a media who thought "progress" was looking forward to the next new thing... the next new hybrid sound or "place". I remember when Seattle became "the place" for music.

I wasn't alone. I had friends who subscribe to these thoughts too. I wasn't alone like my friend Robert who singleminded liked what he liked... and didn't care.

I doubt I will ever stop looking forward to the next new thing... but my tastes have broadened and I will happily look backwards for the next new thing as well... albeit this "new" should be correctly entitled "new-to-me".

I do this because I've changed.

Twenty years ago I was, at best, youthfully naive and, at worst, youthfully arrogant.

Now... after twenty years of growing and evolving and, dare I say, progressing... I've come to realise that there is only two types of music: good and bad... and this isn't even fixed. Just as there a many emotions... there are many expressions that match these moods.

Take "in the court of the crimson king" by King Crimson. Twenty years ago I hated it... now it fascinates me.

It fascinates me because of it's inventive variety... the soundscapes varying from full-on avant garde rock to abstract ambience with some flute thrown in for good measure.

Maybe it's the "Radiohead effect" where music is seen as not just an instantaneous joy but also a journey... something fluid rather than static? I don't know but I do know I love Radiohead for their inventiveness.

Or maybe it's just that I've grown up and as I have evolved I've become more open and liberal... taking chances... seeking to listen and understand... being prepared to be changed and seeking to sometimes avoid stuff that "always works" in favour of taking risks and putting myself "out there"? I don't know but I like the me of now in that regard.

Maybe I just don't have anything to prove anymore... that I don't need to be "seen" to like something and am accordingly free to like whatever it is that I like? I like to think I am defined by my freedom to choose my own path rather than the labels I place on me (or allow to be placed on me)... I just wish others were as gracious.

Or maybe it's the fact I see the world from more of a post-modern perspective... where there is more than one "right way"... that there isn't just one style of music but many?

To be honest, I don't know for sure... but what I do know for sure is that I should have done this twenty years ago. Prog should have been a welcome addition to my listening experience... but it wasn't. I won't let that happen again.

I guess that's what they call experience... and hindsight.

Sorry Robert!


1 comment:

Cousin Silas said...

Thomas, welcome to the world of traditonal prog! I think you actually nailed it on the head with your statement that music is either good or bad. It still remains a personal choice as to what is good and bad, for instance, I'm not overly keen on Radiohead (as you know) but love Crimson. I never really got what Nirvana were all about either. I must admit that whilst, like you (and probably countless other folks) with age, our tastes do broaden. I listen (and enjoy) stuff now that I wouldn't have even dared contemplate (or admit to)years ago. Hell, I even liked Jessie J's Price Tag (as a pop song, you understand, it had nothing to do with the video).
Punk was a fantastic breath of fresh air, but unlike many of the critics and musicians at the time, I didn't drop my prog roots and ring the leper bell. Indeed, you can hear the influence of Beefheart, Can and countless other inspired bands in a lot of punk, even if it's only the attitude.

Many musical worlds await your discovery, such as jazz, classical, and even the genres within 'popular' music especially prog. Sure, it did become misaligned and somewhat overblown, sadly much of it was caused by the fact that prog had run its course. Like you also say, though, looking back and discovering these 'new' albums is a fascinating and rewarding journey (I'm still trawling through many a lost album found on the internet). Tread carefully, my friend, but by gum, enjoy the views!


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