Progressive music. How to describe something that's so indescribably diverse?

Also called progressive rock or prog. Since it encompasses so many different styles, it is hard to describe what it sounds like, but every style seems to have in common that the music is very complex, working with different layers of sound.

The artists most well known for making progressive music became popular around the end of the 60's and the beginning of the 70's. At the end of the 70's, critics started slamming progressive music for being too complex and too pretentious. In the 90's it again became socially acceptable to mention Yes, King Crimson and Gentle Giant, and there was an influx of new progressive bands such as Dream Theater. A lot of the 70's progressive bands were re-released on CD in remastered versions.

Unfortunately, the die-hard progressive fans of the 70's progressive music have mostly refused to accept the newer styles of progressive music -- an attitude which defeats the ideals behind progressive music entirely. For example, they dismiss Radiohead's experimental rock as "another one of those punk bands" (yes, I heard that on!) and other newer styles such as the genre which has come to be known as postrock, headed by Godspeed You Black Emperor!, are largely ignored by the existing progressive fans.

Here are links to progressive sub-genres along with example bands. These classifications, along with the choice of which bands are exemplary for a certain genre, are subjective by nature, so this is just my opinion. This list is an adapted version of that on

And finally a quote I lifted from the FAQ:

"Progressive rock was what happened in the early 70's when certain brilliant instrumentalists got fed up with playing three-and-a-half minute long songs about teenage love. Unfortunately, this led them to start playing ten-and-a-half minute long songs about nothing in particular."

-- Geoff Nicholson, `Big Noises: Rock Guitar in the 1990s', Quadrant Books, 1991.

Devon Hart: Good point. I certainly didn't mean that the ones I listed were the only good ones. Casting a quick glance over my CD shelf, I add the following, and if anybody feels that others just have to be listed, /msg me and I'll make a metanode or something.

Arena, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Ayreon, Cairo, Camel, Fish, Ice Age, Jethro Tull, The Alan Parsons Project, Phish, Saga, John Wesley, Transatlantic, ...

There are other bands of note that were not included in the above list, but deserve recognition for their very strong progressive influence in the music scene. I add these:

Rush - namely the album 2112, but any album is sufficient, and is definitely the very definition of progressive rock music. Songs like Tom Sawyer are a prime example of the sound Rush strove for.

Radiohead - at last, good prog rock hits my time! As a twenty year old, Rush was a little before my time, even though I can still remember hearing songs like Closer To The Heart. But Radiohead's earlier albums weren't too much into the prog rock feel, more of an alternative bent on the early nineties rock out there. But with the albums after that (think the recently released Kid A and OK Computer) Radiohead greatly diversifies. Even Geddy Lee (lead singer and bass in Rush) loves those albums, and says that Radiohead carries on in the finest prog rock tradition.

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