[Smt-talk] prog rock symphonies

Brian Robison brian.c.robison at gmail.com
Fri Nov 27 15:14:09 PST 2009

Michael, methinks you've answered your own question, but then retreated from
the answer. So some genres are divided by a common moniker. So what?

Or, more briefly yet: Why adopt a position that would restrict intellectual


Brian Robison
Lecturer, Dept. of Music
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Ave
Boston MA 02115

brian.c.robison at gmail.com

On Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 12:01 AM, MICHAEL MORSE <mwmorse at bell.net> wrote:

>  Dear Collected & Collective Wisdom,
>   My esteemed colleague Greg Karl's list of 'prog rock' symphonies has at
> length inspired a streak of scepticism, or contrarianism, or perhaps
> fogeyism. I guess I've hesitated to indulge it because I remember how
> monumentally pissed off I got when I heard conservatory dunderheads who
> think Handel is exciting speak disparagingly of Duke Ellington's downright
> amazing suites of the 50s and 60s. I took their condescension to be
> anti-musical racism. But in retrospect, I wonder if there mightn't be a
> legitimate question there after all. How does *The Queen's Suite* or the *Far
> East Suite* relate to the history of the genre? It's pretty easy to see
> Berg's ingenious deployment of suite in the first scene of *Wozzeck*historically. Come to that, it would be not too difficult to account for
> Berg's use of jazz (or, more likely, "jazz") in *Lulu *in the contextual
> history of that genre generally.
>   Such accounts can start with some simple, or seemingly simple, questions
> about antecedents and exmplars. What did berg listen to, what scores did he
> read? What kinds of analogies and parallels can you draw between his scene
> and the suites of Telemann, Bach, and others? And the same works for the
> jazz (or "jazz") of *Lulu*, I think. Does it work for the Far East Suite,
> though? Just for starters, like every note he ever wrote or played,
> Ellington's music here is eminently danceable. But: what dance types does it
> fit? I do get it, I think. His use of the title "suite" doesn't refer to a
> medley of defined dance(-rhythm) types, but a broadly connected series of
> movements. Sure. But the history issue nags, much as I adore those trenedous
> creations of his.
>   And so it nags for all of Greg's examples. What do we gain, or achieve,
> or clarify by calling any of these works "symphony"? If we ignore, or try
> to, the blind alley question of "rock['s] pretensions to symphonic
> dimensions," and similar generic battles over mere aesthetic status, what
> does it add to the historiography of the genre 'symphony" or, if you prefer,
> the designation "symphonic," to call these works by these titles? At the
> most glum, I worry that maybe all we're dealing with here is a deep rooted
> set of syncretic presumptions that may well, at the end of the day, have
> little concrete to with with the music in question, and even less with
> music's historiography..
> MW Morse
> Peterborough
> > Here are a few:
> > Zappa – Greggery Peccary (Studio Tan)
> > Van der Graaf Generator – A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (Pawn Hearts)
> > Yes – Close to the Edge (eponymous album)
> > Gates of Delirium (Relayer)
> > King Crimson – Lizard (Lizard)
> > Larks’ Tongues in Aspic pts. 1 & 2 (eponymous album)
> > Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick
> > Henry Cow – Living in the Heart of the Beast (In Praise of Learning)
> > Soft Machine – Virtually (Fourth) their albums tended just to have
> > numbers
> > Hazard Profile (Bundles)
> > Slightly All the Time (Third)
> > Facelift (Third)
> > Genesis - Supper’s Ready (Foxtrot)
> > The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (eponymous album)
> > ELP - Tarkus
> >
> > Gregory Karl
> > New York, NY
> > curugroth at veriaon.net
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Brian Robison

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