Chris Anderton (Solent University, UK)


In this presentation I will argue that while progressive rock may be regarded and discussed as a genre, meta-genre, style or network of styles (as often seen in academic and journalistic work and in fan discussion), we might also examine the development of progressive rock at a more granular level by adopting and adapting the notion of musical idiolect. In so doing, we may gain an understanding of how progressive rock has developed over time, and how individual musicians and bands have come to originate, define, exemplify and change the network of styles or genres that have been identified in academic, journalistic and fan writing. An idiolect is defined by Richard Middleton as the styles or practices associated with a particular composer and performer, with idiolect placed in a subordinate position to style. Moore argues against this approach in relation to popular music (including progressive rock), as individual musicians or groups may cross stylistic boundaries while retaining a distinctive idiolect. Extending on this premise, I argue that the idiolects associated with particular musicians, and the collective idiolects of certain groups, may act as exemplars to influence other musicians. Firstly, musicians may creatively combine elements of different idiolects and styles in order to develop their own (thus helping to ‘progress’ the music). Secondly, musicians may, through copying or adapting elements drawn from specific idiolects or styles begin to forge what may later be identified as recognisable and distinct (sub-)styles or genres.