Posts Tagged ‘Ed Macan’

Progcrit boneheads

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

It doesn’t seem particularly appropriate for me to identify myself anymore as a “prog fan” in the sense of a fan with a single genre focus — that stopped being true four or five years ago. Yet I still perk up whenever I see prog mentioned in non-prog media, and such was the case when, in reading the new issue of Signal to Noise, I ran across a very provocative review by Mark S. Tucker of Ed Macan’s new book, The Endless Enigma: A Musical Biography of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. This is a fun review that includes things like this:

[Macan's] Rocking the Classics offered much-needed relief from silly magazinic “What is prog?” maunderings and it alone may explain why authors like Jerry Lucky and sites like Gnosis have remained completely irrelevant… as a platform from which to consider aesthetic questions, Endless Enigma is hardly being touched by progcrit boneheads… The book is a high-water mark in progrock literature, and I’m afriad we’ll see little of its like in the future.

It’s an article about prog in a non-prog publication, so there has to be some dissing going on. But Tucker isn’t poking a stick at prog fans per se, the way most non-prog media does, so much as he is doing so at prog critics. “Progcrit boneheads” is a pretty great phrase that I wish I could use as a Ground & Sky subtitle; but alas, I think Tucker might actually like this website, or at least applaud our general refusal to treat with the whole “what is prog” nonsense. Other than that one thing, actually, it’s not really clear why he considers prog critics to be “boneheads” and “completely irrelevant,” but tossing around such perjoratives sure does make his article more fun to read.

Of course, the rub is that Tucker is actually a pretty “true” prog fan, whatever that means, having written for such publications as, uh, Exposé and Progression (what makes these magazines more “relevant” than sites like Gnosis is unclear to me). In this article he namedrops Porcupine Tree, Univers Zero, and Henry Cow, and in reviews elsewhere in this issue of Signal to Noise alone he mentions Tasvallan Presidentti and 5uu’s. This makes his critique of prog critics, such as it is, much more interesting than it would be if it had come from a total outsider. In any case, he spends a lot of column-inches lauding Macan’s analytical style mostly through trashing progcrit boneheads (and Chris Cutler and Dave Kerman for their “weirdly perjorative” takes on prog as a genre), and pulls off a near-miracle in getting me actually interested in reading this book. Considering that I hate ELP with a passion and basically regard them as concretizing everything I don’t like about prog, that’s quite an achievement.

Scattered thoughts

Sunday, December 10th, 2000

Reading Bill Martin’s Listening to the Future after finishing Macan’s Rocking the Classics, I get the feeling that Martin writes uncomfortably like a prog-rock fanboy, whereas Macan seems more levelheaded. Martin just seems far too defensive about the genre as a whole, and adds in a lot of unnecessary parentheticals about how much prog has been persecuted (as well as even less necessary parentheticals about various political issues).

That one-note guitar solo at the end of Low’s “Over the Ocean” never fails to amaze me. It’s utterly perfect, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and yet it’s just the same fucking note over and over again. How does that work? Even Fripp’s (in)famous “one-note” solo in “Starless” modulates continuously, so it’s not the same pitch over and over again (and besides, it’s the furthest thing from “beautiful”, though it’s undeniably effective). It boggles my mind how this one-note solo can be so perfectly done, evoking such an emotional response every time I hear it.

Jussi Karkkainen told me that the next Höyry-kone album will probably come out next year, though the band has not found a label for it yet (”certainly not APM”, he says - is this because of APM’s very slow rate of releasing music, or because of conflicts with Ulf Danielsson or others at the label?).

Holy shit: I’m listening now to Hundred Sights of Koenji at massive volume (now this is a bombastic album). At some point in “Ozone Fall”, a new male voice joins the chorus of demented singers and screams out of the left channel. I jumped, thinking someone was yelling at me from the commons room, which is to the left of my computer. Sheesh.

Minimalism and psychedelia

Tuesday, December 5th, 2000

I’m rereading all my progressive rock books for my music project. This, from Ed Macan’s Rocking the Classics, strikes me as a strange thing to say: “…the greatest achievement of the minimalists was to create structural approaches that successfully capture psychedelia’s acid-induced sense of timelessness.” The annotation doesn’t really help either:

The West Coast minimalists—particularly Riley and LaMonte Young—came out of the same general cultural scene as did the Grateful Dead and other Bay Area psychedelic bands, although the composers were a few years older than the band members.

All things considered, the original statement still seems to me to imply that psychedelic rock was somehow a standard for, and therefore a higher art than, minimalism. Probably that isn’t what Macan meant, but that’s what I get from it. This would kind of go along with Macan’s obsession with the effect of drugs on, well, everything (my only real complaint with the book, probably - although I can’t say that he’s downright wrong, I do think he overemphasizes it to some extent).