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Deep Purple Rock Meets Classic

While rock and roll may owe a considerable debt to the blues, many of the bands in the genre looked to diverse sources that were outside the traditional blues field for inspiration. Some of them were attracted by the swinging, half-tempo feel of reggae music, while others combined country and rock to form rockabilly. There were also bands which drew inspiration from their surrounding environment, letting the waves of the ocean help them create the surf sub-genre, or the swampy bayous and cotton fields generate the southern rock that would briefly enjoy widespread popularity.

Surprisingly, the formal trappings of classical music would also provide fodder for many rock and rock musicians looking to stretch their musical wings. One such band was Deep Purple. In Deep Purple rock meets classic structures that would not seem out of place in a Bach concerto. This was largely due to the inclinations of musical geniuses Ritchie Blackmore on guitar and Jon Lord on organ. Both were deeply impressed with the music of many German classical composers, whom they felt had an amazing understanding of structure and arrangement. The precision with which each of these musicians played their solos and lead parts is reflective of the disciplined musical minds they both possessed.

For Deep Purple rock meets classic structures was a formula that would serve them well throughout the 60’s and 70’s. Although the one album in which they actually performed with a full symphony orchestra was not a huge commercial success, it set the template for future rock bands to attempt to re-arrange their songs for the inclusion of an orchestral element. Deep Purple is also notable for being able to claim a classical influence without falling into the prog rock genre. Prog, or progressive rock was a sub-genre of classic rock which concentrated on breaking the traditional verse-chorus-verse arrangements found in popular music. Instead, prog rock bands substituted lengthy, meandering soundscapes which were definitely not radio friendly but served as a way for the musicians to explore their technical abilities on their respective instruments. Bands like Rush and Yes became famous for the extended instrumental passages in their songs, with Yes focusing on the limits of the guitar and Rush relying on the imagery and talent of their virtuoso drummer Neil Peart. Throughout the 70’s, progressive rock began to adopt even more of the classical form when groups chose to release albums structured after symphonic movements, rather than traditional songs.

 

 

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