Dissertation Index

Author: Cotner, John S.

Title: Archetypes of Progressive Rock, ca. 1966-1973

Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Begun: May 1995

Completed: December 1999


This dissertation offers a revised definition of 1960s and early 1970s progressive rock, highlighting select works by the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and King Crimson. I argue that the period in rock history from roughly 1966 to 1973 connotes a "progressive" point-of-compass because artists such as those mentioned above developed aesthetic norms demarcated by a high degree of perceptual sensitivity to issues of structure and process, composition and improvisation, content and expression. Ultimately, my objective is to evaluate the working mechanisms of particular pieces, which lead to aesthetic criteria for asserting a theory of progressive rock stylistic "archetypes."

The analytical methods appropriated and expanded in this study include (1) generative theories of Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983), (2) implication- realization models of Meyer (1973) and Narmour (1977, 1989), and (3) semiotic techniques of Ruwet (1987, 1966), Nattiez (1990), and Philip Tagg (1982); as well as musicological studies of popular music by David Brackett (1995), Richard Middleton (1990), and Allan Moore (1993), and critical ideas of Andrew Chester (1970).

The dissertation is comprised of four chapters flanked by an Introduction and Epilogue. The Introduction presents analytical hypotheses, and examines issues concerning rock music style analysis. Chapter One focuses on avante-garde works of the Beatles and Frank Zappa during the mid-'60s. Chapter Two examines Pink Floyd's large-scale instrumental works from 1967-'71. Chapter Three showcases "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" from Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix, and compares the studio version with live versions, as well as rural and urban blues antecedents. Chapter Four explores compositional formalisms in King Crimson's album entitled Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973). The Epilogue (1) reiterates the basic themes of the study, (2) suggests a set of stylistic archetypes based on the analytical data, and (3) theorizes a revised definition of progressive rock.

Keywords: progressive-, psychedelic- rock, popular music style analysis British-, American- Rock, syntactic-, processive- analysis of (p. rock)improvisation in - (p. rock)


Chapter Outline (subject to revision)

Prologue: A Revised Definition of Progressive Rock
Chapter I: Prototypes and Antitypes: The Beatles and Frank Zappa (1966-'68)
Chapter II: Large-scale Psychedelic Soundscapes: Pink Floyd (1967-'71)
Chapter III: Syntactic and Processive Strategies in the music of Jimi Hendrix (1967-'70)
Chapter IV: King Crimson's Compositional Formalisms: Larks' Tongues in Aspic
Epilogue: Archetypes of Progressive Rock, ca. 1966-1973


John S. Cotner
4321 Britta Drive #4
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 278-0787

Advisor: Dr. John W. Schaffer
Director, School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Humanities Building
Madison, WI 53706

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