On the History of Rock Music

by Yvetta Kajanová (Author)
©2014 Monographs 161 Pages


On the History of Rock Music follows the development of rock music from its origins up to the present time. It focuses on the relationship between the sound, improvisations and rhythms in particular styles, and gives specific attention to the development of rhythm. The beat-offbeat principle, polyrhythms and polymetrics are fundamental to rock rhythm patterns, which serve as archetypes for specific rhythms. An archetype is a prototype, a model, or an innate experience of a species. Using more than 250 score examples, the author identifies the characteristic rhythmic patterns in rock styles, ranging from rock and roll, hard rock and punk rock to alternative rock, indie rock and grind core.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyrights
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • The Rhythm of Rock
  • Rock and Roll
  • Hard Rock – the First Era 1960 – 1967
  • Experimental Rock
  • Hard Rock – the Second Era 1967 – 1979
  • Art Rock
  • Electronic Rock
  • Punk Rock
  • New Wave
  • Heavy Metal
  • Hard Core
  • Speed Metal and Thrash Metal
  • Death Metal, Black Metal and Grind Core
  • The 1980s Synthesis and Polystylistic Rock Music
  • Conclusion
  • Summary
  • Discography
  • Bibliography
  • Notes from the author

← 6 | 7 → Introduction

Thorough research and analyses on the theory and history of rock music have not been published until recently. The reason for this stems from the relatively short history of rock music as a genre, which does not allow an adequate analytical perspective on the historical and artistic values of rock. Furthermore, the existing methodologies used in other areas of musicology cannot be directly applied to rock music, since rock has its own specific characteristics that differentiate it from other genres of music. The issue is further complicated because much previous research has coupled its analysis with non-musical disciplines such as sociology and other social sciences, business management, economics and aesthetics. With those aspects being perhaps the most commonly researched, rock encyclopaedias and dictionaries have mainly focused on the most successful bands and their songs, financial earnings, the songs’ highest rating in British and American charts and how many weeks they stayed there. Aesthetic and sociological works on rock music have tried to illuminate the importance of rock personalities, and their appeal to the listener, by examining both the musical subcultures and the social milieu of the listener. For example, Dieter Baacke, one of the first rock theoreticians, in Beat – die sprachlose Opposition1 identifies “criminals, and counter-cultural and rebellious group movements” as being associated with 1960s beat music. They organised protests without a clear purpose. Amongst the “criminals”, Baacke saw groups of “politically radical” students who based their ideas on theory and organized collective protests. The “beatniks” included bands, along with hippies, drop-outs and other social non-conformists; some consciously adopting aesthetic values which had previously been the preserve of the middle and upper classes. There were also the instances of the beat as a medium of expression that was not tied to a specific social class; and we certainly acknowledge that the beat movement is classless.

Using Baacke’s analysis of rock’s social environment, we can make some conclusions about late 1960s rock music:

Richard Meltzer, in his book The Aesthetics of Rock2, investigates the semantic meanings in rock compositions though, at the same time, he is aware of the extent to which their lyrics reflect the banality and triviality of the world. The lyrics of rock songs are influenced by the social and environmental conditions in which people live including sexuality, “ritualised chaos”, “games on convention”, religion and technology.

Meltzer confronts the aesthetics of rock with a comparison of symbolic meanings across other forms of art including fine art (Marcel Duchamp), literature and film. Meltzer was one of the first rock theoreticians as well as a critic. He studied philosophy at Yale University, was a proponent of performance art and a student of Allan Kaprow3. He later wrote lyrics for the heavy metal band Blue Öyster Cult.

As punk or heavy metal4 are superficially manifested as juvenile delinquency, the subsequent studies seek a deeper insight into rock’s subcultures and try to ← 8 | 9 → discover their essence. Dieter Baacke’s original characterisation of rock subcultures has not changed. What have changed are the symbols of the subcultures and their related social issues, ideas and solutions.

One of the most comprehensive books on rock history is Rock of Ages, The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll5 by Ed Ward, Geoffrey Stokes and Ken Tucker, who deal with the differing aesthetic, philosophical, managerial and economic aspects of rock. The authors look at the development of the different styles of rock music and focus on all the above aspects. The problematic issue is, however, the inability of theoreticians to agree on basic musical principles that would give a definition to hard rock, art rock, progressive rock, industrial rock, alternative rock or indie rock. Consequently, there is still a myriad of definitions applied to the different styles of rock. For example, it has not yet been resolved whether Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP) and Genesis belong to art rock, progressive rock or classical rock. Which groups these terms actually refer to is also contentious. Sometimes, these categories include King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, David Bowie and Queen (some books classify the band King Crimson as experimental rock, others define Tangerine Dream as electronic or industrial rock, David Bowie as glam rock and Queen as pop rock).6 In Central Europe especially, the term art rock is more common, whilst western cultures prefer the term “progressive rock”.

Arnold Shaw in his books Von den Anfangen des Blues zu den Hits aus Memphis und Philadelphia7 and Rock’n’ Roll, Die Stars, die Musik und die Mythen der 50er Jahre8 uses recognised historical methods in rock music research and, at the same time, he accepts non-musical analyses of rock. A similar approach has been comprehensively used in the study of medieval, renaissance and classical music, and the application of such methods to rock music has also been made by the Czech musicologist Aleš Opekar.9

In rock music literature there is an absence of studies that explain its musical theory or analyse compositions and various parameters of music, such as ← 9 | 10 → harmony, melody and rock musical structures. So far, historians have not provided a systematic and comprehensive view of the development of rock music, not only in terms of the American and British scenes, but also in the emergent European artists (Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Apocalyptica, Him, or Ramstein) and the Australian rock scene (AC/DC, INXS). All these groups have a significant place in global rock music history. Analyses of the rock music of the former post-communist bloc and its contribution to the history of rock are likewise to be made (Czech groups: Plastic People, ETC, Blue Effect, Olympic, Pražský výber/Prague Selection; Slovak rock personalities: Marián Varga and Collegium Musicum, Prúdy, Fermáta; Hungarian groups: Locomotiv GT and Gábor Presser, Illés, Panta Rei, Omega, Hobo Blues Band; Polish bands: Maanam, KSU and Turbo; East German bands: Puhdys, Panta Rhei10, Electra, Kreis; and also the role of Russian underground performers including Boris Grebenschikov11).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (September)
Neueinspielung Rhythmus Musikgeschichte Musikstil
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 161 pp., 4 tables, 229 graphs

Biographical notes

Yvetta Kajanová (Author)

Yvetta Kajanová is a Professor of Musicology at Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia). She is the author of eight monographs on aesthetics and sociology of music, jazz, rock, pop music and gospel music.


Title: On the History of Rock Music
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
164 pages