The Seaprog Manifesto

About the "P" word

We know 'prog' is a loaded term, with as many meanings and connotations as there are listeners. There was a time when being progressive was one of the highest callings a musician could aspire to; then there was a time when musical ambition was equated to pretense, which is (in this line of reasoning) a bad thing; then there was a long period of limbo where the only artists who mentioned 'prog' were those who essentially reiterated the sounds of the earliest period. We say that enough time has passed from the initial condemnation of 'prog' to start using the word in a less loaded way. There's a whole generation of listeners who grew up in the stripped-down era of the punk aesthetic, and they don't care what critics said thirty years ago. We say it's time to take back the label. Musicians should make the music that's in their hearts, to the best of their abilities; they should reach for more; they should be ambitious. Pretense is in the eye of the beholder (or the ear of the behearer).

Are we confusing people by using the word? Maybe, but honestly, anyone who's bothered by it probably wouldn't be interested in this music anyway. On the other hand, some listeners cling to the sounds of the 70s — that's Progressive to them, and they may be disconcerted to not find that kind of music on our schedule. Listen to the samples from the bands, watch the videos. If you like what you hear, then (to our minds) you like prog. Maybe you wouldn't call it 'prog' — fine, call it what you want, but judge based on listening, not labeling.

We've met very few musicians who embrace genre labels. For the most part, genres are the creations of salesmen and critics, not musicians. It's one of the standard clich├ęs of music that a journalist asks a musician what kind of music they play, and the musician says, "I don't think in terms of labels."

And even on the fan's side, genre labels are often less than helpful. How many people listen to one and only one kind of music? Most prog listeners have interests that aren't prog. Whether it's Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane, or Sergei Prokofiev, there is variety in the playlist. In that case, why should each artist stay within a single marketing category?

Not your parents' prog

It has been said that prog is what happened when psychedelic rock (which prized freedom of expression over adherence to tradition) met classically trained musicians. They loved the sounds and power of the new music, but had the tools to go beyond the simple basis of the music. From the beginning, there have been many ways to go about progressing beyond what came before: you can incorporate elements of European Classical music; you can bring in tools from jazz (which is itself varied and doing the same thing); you can borrow aspects of music from folk traditions, both Western and from India, Africa, and anyplace else; you can adopt ideas and techniques from avant-garde streams, be they electronic, minimalist, improvisational, or whatever.

Is there really nothing new in music? Nothing more to be said? No more progress to be made? We hope not. But originality, like most other aspects of music, is highly subjective. If you took vocal harmonies like those of Gentle Giant and backed them with a hip-hop beat, would that be original? Some might say no, others would say "of course!" The only sensible thing to do is set 'originality' aside as a marker, since it has no objective meaning.

What then constitutes 'prog'?

There's no simple answer to that. It's a multidimensional formula that includes such factors as:

  • Trying to do something new rather than follow formulas
  • Utilizing abilities fully, both in performance and composition
  • Falling outside other boundaries
  • Surprising sounds or combinations of sounds

Again, the point is that in our view, 'prog' is not a genre, but a subjective description for music.

There's more to life than prog

This long rambling screed is not meant to draw boundaries or provide exclusion criteria. It exists to explain the intentions of the Seaprog organizers. Like everyone else, we listen to music that doesn't fit the aesthetic of this festival. And we are definitely not saying that any other kinds of music are lacking in value.

There is no rule that says PROG = GOOD, NOT PROG = NOT GOOD.

Open your ears. Don't restrict yourself by what section of the store music is filed in. Don't be embarrassed by your taste in music. Your favorite band does not suck.

— The Central Committee
Jon Davis, Dennis Rea, John Reagan