Discipline: The Phenomenology of Prog (Part 1)

Socrates: “But what you call ‘self-indulgence’, is it not rather a kind of discipline?”

Phaedrus: “What do you mean, Socrates?”

Socrates: “Do people not say of prog songs that they are very long?”

Phaedrus: “Yes.”

Socrates: “Well, is it harder for a musician to play a short song or a long song?”

Phaedrus: “That depends on how difficult the song is, I think.”

Socrates: “Are not prog songs usually more difficult and complex? At least that is what people also say about them.”

Pheasdrus: “Yes, there are the changing time signatures that we mentioned earlier.”

Socrates: “Well then, do not long songs with things like changes in time signatures require a higher level of skill to play?”

Phaedrus: “It certainly seems so.”

Socrates: “Well then, that is what I mean about prog being a kind of discipline. Perhaps no musician could play such songs without having achieved the opposite of self-indulgence; namely, a kind of discipline.”

Phaedrus: “Yes, I imagine it is some form of envy or resentment that leads people to call prog ‘self-indulgent’.”

Socrates: “Perhaps in some cases it could become self-indulgent, but only when the discipline goes awry. Because what seems to be the essence of prog is that it is in fact a kind of discipline.”

Phaedrus: “But exactly what kind of a discipline, Socrates? For it seems that if it were simply a skill like the skill of playing instruments or singing well, then how would the essence of prog be any different from any other type of music where songs are played well?”

Socrates: “By the dog, Phaedrus! I believe you have hit upon the main difficulty in our quest. If prog is a kind of discipline, how then is its essence different from other types of skill or art?”

Phaedrus: “Which returns us to your earlier question…”

Socrates: “Indeed! If we can solve the question of what kind of discipline prog is, then do you think we could answer the question that began our discussion earlier on: namely, ‘Can prog be taught?'”

Phaedrus: “I do, Socrates.”