While I most typically talk about garage rock around here, I’ve made no secret of my affection for progressive rock as well. Over the years, I’ve seen Yes, Rush, Marillion (with Fish and with Hogarth), ELP (with Palmer and with Powell), Jethro Tull, Zappa, and Dream Theater on multiple occasions, and Crimson and several other bands of that ilk at least once. Two of my dearest friends (and the guys with whom I made my public percussion debut) are in a remarkably good band for fans of counting past four. I’m still likely to listen to a progrock Pandora feed when I grade.
Now, something that I’ve noticed on occasion over the years is an openness to conservatism among a number of folks on the prog scene, from my aforementioned buddies to Neil Peart’s fondness for Ayn Rand. Likewise, strong Christian influences can be found in the work of groups like Spock’s Beard and Kansas (I mean, come on — “Dust in The Wind” may as well offer a lyrics credit to Ecclesiasticus). Meanwhile, a number of conservative folks of my acquaintance seem rather fond of progressive rock’s complexity and willingness to explore complex ideas; I’ve occasionally wondered if that’s a sort of New Critical aesthetic being applied to rock and roll.
So where all this is going is a recent lecture that Prof. Bradley Birzer of Hillsdale College delivered in Louisville. The topic of his monograph? “Themes of Dignity and Humanity in Progressive Rock.” His talk is reproduced in its entirety at his blog. It’s about an hour long, but if you’re into this kind of thing, you’re already accustomed to listening to stuff that’s really long, so just think of it as a spoken-word concept album. Check it out.