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John J. Sheinbaum

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226593241

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226593418.001.0001

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Authentic: Progressive Rock and the Inversion of Musical Values

Authentic: Progressive Rock and the Inversion of Musical Values

(p.120) 4 Authentic: Progressive Rock and the Inversion of Musical Values
Good Music

John J. Sheinbaum

University of Chicago Press

Progressive rock music of the 1970s is characterized by long songs with many different sections, extended concepts spanning entire albums, musical complexities, and heavy doses of technology and recording studio manipulation. Pervasive tropes surrounding “prog” link these groups’ music and public personae to the classical music tradition. Mixtures of rock’s values with values derived from classical music—normally virtual opposites of one another—resulted in a checkered reception history. Then, in the following decade the groups’ songs instead appeared to trade musical intricacies for the hallmarks of MTV-era pop. Both cases represent ostensible value problems because they signaled violations of authenticity, perhaps rock musicians’ most prized asset. But by tracing the delicate interplay between commercially successful songs such as Yes’s “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and the surrounding reception in these two distinct periods of prog’s history, the dialectical tensions between opposing musical values instead can be viewed as sources of creative expression. And by interrogating underlying narratives of periodization, as applied both to prog’s place within rock history and to prog bands’ 1980s releases within the history of prog itself, the notion of rock authenticity can be called into question.

Keywords:   authenticity, classical music, musical values, Owner of a Lonely Heart, periodization, progressive rock, reception history, rock history, Roundabout, Yes

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