Sep 182008

Webern: The Godfather of Prock?

After a year and a half of research, analysis, and discussion, Rock Town Hall has arrived at what might be its most important Glossary entry to date, Proctomusicology and its related terms, Proctomusicologist and Prock. We have identified a unifying principle in modern music that cuts across genres. A simple, concise definition follows:

Proctomusicology: Music up its own ass about its musicological means of creating music, inching forward the aesthetic principles of whatever style/s is/are being mined.

See also: Proctomusicologist, Prock

The research and development that went into the validation of this term is detailed in the links below. It was a true team effort, with Townsman Saturnismine responsible for the exact phrasing of our definition. Meanwhile, the author of our Glossary entry Kentonite, Townsman Hrrundivbakshi, noted the difference between a Kentonite and a Proctomusicologist:

A Kentonite is obssessed with the technical componentry of music, and cares not whether the music is looking forward or backward; the Prock-ist is obsessed with the subject matter’s musicological componentry, and always defines it in terms of its antecedents.

Of course, there’s a Rock Venn Diagram thing going on here, as well. Some artists are both Prockists and Kentonites. Donald Fagen springs to mind. I’d add that — slicing even more finely — there are Prock bands (eg, XTC) that contain Kentonite members (eg, Dave Gregory), and so forth.

Read back through the term’s Working Definition period of development, in the following links, and I think you’ll agree that no group of music lovers was better equipped to define this term. For more reading on this subject see here, here, and where it all began, here.


  19 Responses to “Proctomusicology”

  1. Stereolab: Procks or Kentonites?

    Bear in mind that many of their early songs in particular are named after vintage electronic music devices.

  2. general slocum

    Stereolab, I would argue, is neither. Their meandering one-chord jams (which I greatly enjoy) are far too unfocused to please the Prockist. And they are clean in their way, without the glinting clean corners and edges that jazz the Kentonite Soul.

    I think something has been lost here in the understandable rush to enumerate and highlight the topic of things that are up the rectums (recta?) of some of rocks most annoying personages. To wit, the “procto” element refers to anal. As in anal retentive. When I was living in the Junior Mints House (the Hungry Brain) in the early eighties in Germantown, we had left a copy of Emmanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason on the back of the toilet. I swear to you bowel movements became all but impossible in our house, regardless of diet, for the time that that book was the read of choice in there. Anal retentiveness is about controlling output, and also, unpleasantly enough, about an undue fascination with the output itself. As such, I think Webern is the perfect father of the genre. One could make a case for Penguin Cafe being prockish. Against this ground, Stereolab is anal expulsive. Get that shit out, and don’t worry that the middle six minutes of one song are almost identical to a whole song from two albums ago! It all goes out to the curb.

    Fripp is an undeniable figurehead of Prock. I have maybe just saved hundreds and hundreds of therapy dollars in noting a great affinity with all of the artists mentioned!

    A related memory: in the seventies, the National Lampoon ran a gatefold picture titled “Objects Found In Truman Capote’s Rectum” that made me laugh out loud for a while.

  3. trolleyvox

    “Huey Lewis & the Butthole Surfers”

    That’s a tremendous band name, actually.

  4. Does the phrase “always defines it in terms of its antecedents” need some work? Isn’t the issue that it defines itself “in terms of how it differs from its anticedents” or “in terms of how it updates its antecedents”? I’d appreciate any clarification on this question.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Whether it differs from, builds from, or whatever, isn’t “in terms of…” still applicable? Why assume the Proctomusicologist handles his or her antecedents one way or another?

  6. So the Prockist is not by definition forward looking?

  7. Mr. Moderator

    Alexmagic, I say the ball’s now in your court to cook up the official RTH Glossary entry for Rhythm Beard. I’ve been studying some photos of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Over the last couple of years there has been some serious facial hair jockeying for position among Cave’s explorations of moustachery and two other members’ hardcore beardery. One guy’s been sporting a Beard Veil that makes The Band’s Richard Manuel’s boldest beard look like 3-day stubble. Before The Bad Seeds break up over the new dynamics their facial hair has spurred, please provide them with your guidepost. Thanks.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall, one can define oneself in terms of antecedents without meaning that one is solely concerned with antecedents. I think what Hrrundi was getting at is that the Prockist begins with the belief that whatever flows forward musically must flow out of the principles set by the past musicians who have worked in this strain of music. The Prockist is always forward looking so long as what’s come before his or her work can still be seen in the rearview mirror. The Prockist doesn’t suddenly hop off at an unexpected exit in hopes of finding a Wendy’s.

  9. sammymaudlin

    Speaking to mwall’s concern with antecedent clarification, Please comment on the following statements:

    Robert Fripp = Kentonite

    Apples in Stereo = Procks

    The Greenhornes = Procks

    If you have a problem with The Greenhornes being Procks then you need to clarify the relationship to antecedentry. Yes?

  10. Mr. Moderator

    The Greenhornes aren’t anything near Prock as far as what I’ve heard. Who said that? Get that Townsperson off the pipe!

  11. Regarding Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ rhythm beards: I’ll be seeing them at the Electric Factory in October. I’ll try to file a report of the beard interplay here.

  12. hrrundivbakshi

    Maudlin, you’re forgetting the anal retentive-ness of Prockism. That, the Greenhornes do not possess, as far as I know. You gotta be up your own ass *and* a backward-obsessive.

  13. sammymaudlin

    I dunnnnooooo. I agree that the Greenhornes are not Prock but by definition I think they are.

    Prock-ist is obsessed with the subject matter’s musicological componentry, and always defines it in terms of its antecedents.

    They are pretty slavish to a particular sound of yesteryear.


    In fact, the Greenhornes so perfectly nail the careening, rough side of 1960s pre-psychedelic rock & roll that they leave almost no room to consider the music in any other context. They even add gimmicky harpsichord to more than one tune, a trend that was dated as soon as the Yardbirds did it.

    What in the definition precludes The Greenhornes and other non-Prock bands that are defined by their obsession with antecedents?

    hrrundi blusters:

    You gotta be up your own ass

    Agreed. But does simply saying:

    the Prock-ist is obsessed… or Music up its own ass

    strong enough?

    I would argue that The Greenhornes are indeed obsessed with the antecedents. Perhaps even “up their ass” obsessed.

    So although I think the original definition is close if you add the differentiation I still feel that “up its own ass” needs further defining. Or do you argue that it is a “know it when you hear it” kinda deal to which I would respond:

  14. Mr. Moderator

    We need to find a way to automatically generate the Cop Out reply. Well played.

    That said, Sammy, no. All the work of a Prock musician is geared to inching forward the scientific principles of whatever style is being mined. The music itself may be an afterthought; what really matters is whether an area previous investigated has now been fully exploited and, hopefully, combined with other branches of research.

  15. sammymaudlin

    Agreed Mod. I just don’t think that is sufficiently reflected in the current working definitions.

    This is a vital part of the definition and is what, I think, mwall, was speaking to:

    inching forward the scientific principles of whatever style is being mined.

    If you don’t have this then you’re going to have to include The Blasters as a Prock band.

    ’nuff said.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    I see what you two are saying. Please see the modified entry, above. Thank you.

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    I feel satisfied with this definition. Well done, townspeople!

    (Oh, who am I kidding? “Townsmen.”)

  18. Could it be thought of as music with an excess of history?

  19. general slocum

    I think this whole forward/backward antecedents business is a red herring in the rectum of Prock. It seems to me that the anal-retentive completist control freak can find expression in almost any musical form. Pierre Boulez is very Prock, the Beach Boys’ bongwater-stained Prock credentials remained visible, no matter what pharmaceuticals they threw at them, and Zappa’s appeal comes from sabotaging his own Prock persona by putting non-prock players in the mix to “keep it real.” And Fripp, to my understanding, lacks the sensation-craving consistency of a Stan Kenton. Fripp’s frequent little crystalline, quiet sculptures and drawn out ambient drones of Frippertronica would be anathema to the Kentonite, though they maintain all the careful placement of leaving the Poetry Review and an R. Crumb comic at nonchalant angles on the coffee table when a woman is coming over so she can see the breadth of the Real You at a glance. That’s pure Prock.

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