What is Art Rock?

When Dave put together the Music Tree I imagine he had a tough time deciding which genres to include. As we’ve noticed, defining a music genre is a somewhat subjective enterprise; there are some commonly discussed genres over which you will meet relatively little opposition (Jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Punk etc.), and then there is a whole body of lesser-used labels to choose from. I get a little bewildered when confronted with the world of music genres (one of the reasons we began this Musical Adventure in the first place), but even I have noticed that pretty much every band I come across describes their music in new terms.

Of course, it is not possible to write out a list of genres and expect every piece of music you hear to fit in neatly. For this very reason many music commentators consider the concept of genres to be confining, although I would disagree with this. For Dave and I, being able to describe music in terms of genres allows us to understand it better, and gives us a framework for discovering new music. The trick, I suppose, is to use genres as an aid to describing music, rather than allowing them to constrain the creation of new music.

I bring this up in Art Rock week because from my initial research, Art Rock does not seem to be a commonly discussed genre. When describing music, countless genres are used to discuss various styles, from general labels to the very specific. So when constructing the Music Tree Dave had to choose the genres he considered to be the most significant. From what I can fathom, the term Art Rock is often used synonymously with Prog Rock, and is sometimes described as a sub-genre of it, so its inclusion in the Musical Adventure is intriguing.

If you had not previously heard of Art Rock either, I have collected a selection of tracks that have been described as Art Rock. From the (almost) chart topping, to the sentimental and the frankly bizarre, these songs show the flexibility of Art Rock, a less common but very accommodating genre.

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3 Responses to What is Art Rock?

  1. Dave says:

    Yes it was hard! It’s nice of you to empathise with me, Fran. Art Rock is an unusual one. I see it similar to experimental music, like John Cage, and an emphasis on the artistic qualities of the music. I think The Velvet Underground & Nico does this though it’s unusual instrumentation, dark lyrics and improvisational style guitar. It also fits with its links to Andy Warhol. I love Wuthering Heights as an example of art rock, joining it to literature very well.

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