Reading Music

September 26, 2020  •  8 Comments

River of GrassRiver of GrassHollenbeck Canyon, San Diego, CA River of Grass
Hollenbeck Canyon, San Diego, CA

Ultimately, all music acts on its audience through the same physics of sound, shaking the air and arousing curious sensations. 
-Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise

Earlier, in August probably, with my birthday approaching in September, I was asked if there was anything in particular I'd like.  I asked for a Joni Mitchell biography.  I planned on spending a good bit of the remainder of 2020 reading about music and musicians, musicians as artists not celebrities. 
Before Joni arrived I picked up a book on the 70s' era of progressive rock, prog-rock.  Having lived thru the 70s I was oddly unfamiliar with the term.  By that time I was in high school and well aware of the comings and goings of rock and roll and after seeing the blurbs on the book I recognized the bands referenced but still the term prog-rock was unfamiliar. To me it was all just, Rock.

The book, torn from an ELP lyric, The Show That Never Ends, accounts the time when music went from 3-minute love songs (boy meets girl, love lost, love gained, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, etc.) to 10-20 minutes orchestrated soundscapes. This was the era of Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP), Genesis, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and the ones who kicked it all off, King Crimson.  Crimson's album, The Court of the Crimson King, was not on your typical AM radio station playlist.  This was FM music played by college and underground stations with the freedom to cut loose 15 minute tracks with music unheard of 'til then. Prog-Rock groups used strings, mellotrons, massive synthesizers, timpani, long guitar riffs and equally long drum solos. It was new, it was played in large arenas with expensive light shows.  It wasn't dance music which is what may have helped kill it. 

Prog-Rock didn't last long. By the 80s it was on its way off the charts and into "Classic Rock" categories.  Punk and Disco took center stage.  Prog pops up on stations occasionally but it's rare to ever hear a cut from The Court of the Crimson King.  My 8-track copy (Google 8-Track if you're unfamiliar) is long gone but I do have the CD so I can still visit the King's court now and then. 

Joni's bio arrived and now sits on-deck in my to-be-read list.  I just finished a bio of Beethoven that I'll comment on in my next post.  

Stay well. 


Just love this image! It is kinda of odd when I hear prog-rock referred to classic rock. It is strange the way the definitions change as time passes, seemingly defined by the way radio refers to it. Who made them the authority?! Haha. Classic Rock to me still means CCR and the like.
Todd Henson(non-registered)
Some of my favorite bands over the years have been labelled progressive rock, or more often progressive metal. I suppose they were a generation or two after those you mention, groups like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Savatage, Queensrÿche, and a few others. They have more of a niche sound and following, not a top 40 radio kind of sound, but they seem to do well enough. Some of them did lose a bit of their progressive nature and took on more traditional song making, which then increased their popularity, but I still enjoy listening to their earlier sounds, while also appreciating the more popular ones. It's fascinating sometimes to see how music is much like fashion and art, going through waves, with one sound popular for a time, then seemingly disappearing just to resurface perhaps in a slightly different form years later.

And I do fondly remember listening to 8-track tapes as a kid while driving around with my folks. I remember one or two tapes left too long on the dash, melting and warping out of shape. :-) My favorite song out of those tapes was Bad Bad Leroy Brown.
Monte Stevens(non-registered)
Listening to the The Court of the Crimson King now. Brings back memories. Wish I had the stereo setup I had back then.
I never really got into any of the bands or musicians you mention. In the 70's I listened more to the Easybeats, the Stones, the Kinks, the Who and various less know garage rock bands. That was until Punk came along in the mid 70's and then I was all in to that genre. Even ended up being in a Punk band myself as a drummer. As for the biographies of musicians, I have to say that I have not read many. With bios I tend to stick to visual artists and travellers.
Exceptional photo by the way Joe. An excellent find and perfectly executed.
Alexander S. Kunz(non-registered)
Peak prog-rock was well before my time as a music enthusiast. My earliest (and pretty much only) exposure was with Rush, and they were past their prog-rock phase with the long compositions that you describe, by then.

Love the photograph, and I look forward to further blog posts about this particular reading project. :)
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