As some of you may have been aware, during the completion of ‘Phases’ I was busy studying for my degree and decided to dedicate my final work and dissertation to a very prominent feature in progressive rock, the ten minute structure. It is something that has fascinated throughout my childhood and it is interesting to see how artists have utilised the opportunities of extended structure in a number of ways. During the course of my research, I was very fortunate to arrange an interview with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and I thought it may be of interest to you.
I shall be in touch with more Eden Shadow news soon.
1.)What are the opportunities in writing a song with an extended structure? Would you say that writing a song over 10 minutes allows certain things that a conventional form structure does not?
A song with an extended structure can work well. “Supper’s Ready” at more than twenty minutes in length is one of early Genesis’ most popular pieces of music. It works because it takes the listener on an exotic journey through many moods and places. At the end you feel you’ve gone full circle but ended up in a deeper and more enlivened place. It gives a feeling of catharsis. You can’t quite get that feeling with a short song, although if a piece morphs enough through different moods and modes, the song can deliver a sense of adventure and range of emotional experience in as little as eight minutes. It doesn’t have to be at least ten minutes to produce that effect. Also, if there are links between songs without an obvious break the same effect can be achieved. But for sure, you can’t achieve that particular sense of exploration within an isolated song of five minutes or less.
2.)The emergence of progressive rock has been said to be partly a result of the influence of classical music. Are there any elements or composers of classical music that has inspired you in both your solo work and with Genesis?
Yes, I have been influenced by several classical composers and pieces of music. We all liked Bach in Genesis and you can hear his influence for instance in both the acoustic piece I play, “Horizons” and and in the keyboard parts of “Firth of Fifth”. I’ve been influenced in my solo work by many classical composers, from the precision of Bach to the romance of Tchaikovsky, the power of Ravel’s “Bolero” and the atmosphere of Respighi’s “Pines of Rome”. I love classical guitar and I incorporate it into my rock music as well as my classical albums. I feel that classical music can inform and expand rock in many different ways.
3.)What would you regard to be the key things that have inspired you to structure songs that run beyond the ten-minute mark?
Most of my songs are less than ten minutes because I feel I can deliver the epic feel I search for in an eight minute song. But in those tracks that are more than ten minutes, such as “This Island Earth” on my last solo album “Beyond the Shrouded Horizon”, I wanted to give a feeling of expanse, a sense of an adventure through space and time around the universe and back, which needed the extra time for full effect. Likewise, the track “Shadow of the Hierophant” on my first solo album which is at least ten minutes needed the length to facilitate the contrast between the delicate song and the instrumental and also to enable the instrumental part to gradually build to powerful effect.
4.)In past interviews, you’ve mentioned that a lot of early Genesis material deals with rather obscure themes and includes ambiguous lyrics. How did you approach organising and writing music with such concepts in mind so that initial ideas could eventually turn into a complete song?
Sometimes we just followed our feelings as we began writing, not always knowing where the song was going to lead. Going of the beaten track of consciousness can be a good way to find new paths and become inspired with new musical and lyrical ideas.
5.) What would you advise for young musicians who aspire to write music of a conceptual nature and are considering achieving this by writing songs that run beyond a conventional structure?
Follow your heart, your inner inspiration and your influences, but don’t complicate anything just for the sake of it. There is a danger of making something impenetrable. The secret is to create a world of music which excites you and one that you believe in.
Thanks Ryan, I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. I wish you luck with your dissertation.