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Premiere: February 26, 2009, Montréal / Nouvelles Musiques 2009: Hauts-Voltages, Salle Pierre-Mercure — Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montréal (Québec)

King Crimson, Yes, and Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) are so-called “progessive” rock groups that emerged on the British music scene in the late 1960s. Inspired by classical, jazz and even some world musics, these groups sought to create free works that challenged the traditional formal confines of rock. They often showed little hesitation to create quasi “orchestral” suites that lasted over 20 minutes. A circle of influence that targeted young musicians with wide ranging taste, this “family” engaged in a continual exchange of ideas and readily worked on each other’s albums.

  1. Tarkus, Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) (1971) During the 1970s this trio sold over 30 million albums and gave concerts in stadiums all over the world. Describing a history of “inverse evolution” Tarkus (1971) was the group’s second album strongly inspired by classical composers of the early 20th century. Here generalized rhythmic virtuosity remains a constant element in the inspirational world of pianist Keith Emerson, who penned the suite performed this evening. Tarkus begins with Eruption, an obsessive 5/4 motive that doubtlessly recalls the celebrated Take Five written by saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1959 for the Dave Brubeck quartet’s album Time Out. Rare in 1950s jazz, the work’s 5/4 rhythm testifies to the influence of Bartok on the rhythmic ideas held by musicians who were careful to underline classic and contemporary culture within their own realm of jazz and rock.

  2. Close to the Edge, Yes (1972) At the beginning of the 1970s, this group was a leader in progressive rock. Less interested in rhythmic innovation than Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes revealed itself more concerned with the idea of “large forms” that were less often deployed in the world of rock. The album Close to the Edge (1972) includes three songs, including the eponymous title piece which lasts for 18 minutes and is constructed like a four-movement symphony. The arrangement for three-voice choir, electronics and instrumental ensemble is devoted to the two final parts of the suite: I Get Up, I Get Down and Seasons Of Man composed by singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe.

  3. In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson (1969) Released in 1969, In the Court of the Crimson King was the debut album for the British group King Crimson, founded by Robert Fripp. This album is generally considered a spearhead work for progressive rock. The first title, 21st Century Schizoid Man became a hymn, uniting in an original manner heavy metal, quasi-free jazz, and a rhythmic language that continually evolves. The short arrangement performed this evening as an encore centers around a famous middle riff in the pièce that has captivated several generations of rockers with its complex setting and ultra rapid tempo, all combined with the necessity for extreme rhythmic precision amongst the entire group as it performs in unison.