Canterbury scene

Canterbury scene

The Canterbury scene (or Canterbury sound) is a term used to loosely describe the group of progressive rock, avant-garde and jazz musicians, many of whom were based around the city of Canterbury, Kent, England during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many prominent British avant-garde or fusion musicians began their career in Canterbury bands, such as Hugh Hopper, Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen, Mike Ratledge, Fred Frith, and Peter Blegvad. Allmusicguide | id=77:10981 | label=Canterbury Scene ] [Canterbury Scene definition. Available at] Over the years, with band membership changes and new bands evolving, the term has been used to describe a musical style or subgenre, rather than a regional group of musicians.


The Canterbury scene is largely defined by a set of musicians and bands with intertwined memberships. These are not tied by very strong musical similarities, but a certain whimsicalness, touches of psychedelia, rather abstruse lyrics, and a use of improvisation derived from jazz are common elements in their work. “The real essence of 'Canterbury Sound' is the tension between complicated harmonies, extended improvisations, and the sincere desire to write catchy pop songs.” “In the very best Canterbury music...the musically silly and the musically serious are juxtaposed in an amusing and endearing way.” [RareVinylNetwork. Article entitled “The Canterbury Scene.” Available at:]

There is variation within the scene, for example from pop/rock like early Soft Machine and much Caravan to avant-garde composed pieces as with early National Health to improvised jazz as with later Soft Machine or In Cahoots. Didier Malherbe (of Gong) has defined the scene as having "certain chord changes, in particular the use of minor second chords, certain harmonic combinations, and a great clarity in the aesthetics, and a way of improvising that is very different from what is done in jazz."What is Canterbury music? at Calyx, a website about the Canterbury scene. Available at:]

There is debate about the existence and definition of the scene. Dave Stewart has complained at the nomenclature as he and many other musicians identified with the Canterbury scene never had anything to do with Canterbury, the place. The former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, who lives in Whitstable, near Canterbury, has said: "I think it's a rather artificial label, a journalistic thing... I don't mind it, but people like [Robert Wyatt|Robert [Wyatt] , he in fact hates that idea, because he was born somewhere else and just happened to go to school here. In the time when the Wilde Flowers started we hardly ever worked in Canterbury. It wasn't until Robert and Daevid went to London to start Soft Machine that anything happened at all. They weren't really a Canterbury band [...] if it helps people understand or listen to more music then it is fine."


The scene had one main root in the Wilde Flowers, a band formed in 1964 which, at various times, was home to most of the founding musicians of both the Soft Machine and Caravan, bands which in turn provided the musicians of several later bands. The genesis of the Canterbury Sound may, in part, be traced back to 1960, when Australian beatnik Daevid Allen lodged at Robert Wyatt's parents' guest-house in Lydden, ten miles to the south of Canterbury. Allen brought with him an extensive collection of jazz records, a different lifestyle, and the jazz drummer George Niedorf who later taught Wyatt the drums. In 1963, Wyatt, Allen and Hugh Hopper formed the Daevid Allen Trio (in London) which metamorphosised into the Wilde Flowers when Allen left for France. Wyatt, Allen, Kevin Ayers (from the Wilde Flowers) and Mike Ratledge (who had played on occasion with the Daevid Allen Trio) formed Soft Machine in 1966.

Other key early bands were Delivery and Egg, whose members blended into the Canterbury scene in the early 1970s. For example, Phil Miller of Delivery went on to found Matching Mole and Hatfield and the North, the latter with Dave Stewart of Egg. Both were later in National Health, while Steve Hillage, who dropped out of a degree course at the University of Kent at Canterbury, had worked with the members of Egg in a previous band, Uriel, was later in Gong with Allen.

The Canterbury scene is known for having a set of musicians who often rotated into different Canterbury bands. Richard Sinclair, for example, was at different points of his career, in the Wilde Flowers, Camel, Caravan, Hatfield and the North and, briefly, Gilgamesh; he also worked with National Health. His cousin Dave Sinclair was in Caravan, Camel, Matching Mole and, briefly, Hatfield and the North. Robert Wyatt was a member of the Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Matching Mole, and also did work as a solo artist. Pip Pyle was in Delivery, Gong, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Heap and In Cahoots. Hugh Hopper was in Soft Machine, Isotope, Stomu Yamash'Ta's band, Soft Heap, In Cahoots and, with Pyle and Allen, Brainville, Hughscore, as well as doing numerous of his own group and solo projects and working with non-Canterbury bands such as Bone.

Other individuals peripheral to the scene but with connections include Mike Oldfield (who played in Kevin Ayers' band), Bill Bruford (briefly drummed in Gong and National Health and employed Dave Stewart in his late 1970s band, Bruford), Allan Holdsworth (who worked with Soft Machine, Gong in their jazz rock period, and the band, Bruford), and Andy Summers (who was briefly a member of Soft Machine, and also worked separately with Kevin Ayers). Similarities to the Canterbury sound are also present among Canadian progressive rock acts of the mid-70's, particularly Opus 5, Sloche and Harmonium.


;BandsFive bands were central to the Canterbury scene: [ [ Canterbury bands] at Calyx: The Canterbury Website]
*Soft Machine
*Hatfield and the North
*National HealthOther bands:
* Camel
* Caravan of Dreams
* Comus
* Delivery
* Egg
* Gilgamesh
* Henry Cow
* In Cahoots
* Isotope
* Khan
* Matching Mole
* Mashu
* Mirage
* The Polite Force
* Quiet Sun
* Soft Heap
* Short Wave
* The Wilde Flowers

;Record labels
*Burning Shed
*Cuneiform Records
*Recommended Records
*Virgin Records
**Caroline Records
*Columbia Records (Soft Machine)
*Harvest Records (an imprint of EMI)
*Vertigo Records
*Voiceprint Records;Musicians
* Daevid Allen (Soft Machine, Gong, Brainville)
* Kevin Ayers (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Gong)
* Mont Campbell (Uriel, Egg, Arzachel, National Health)
* Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow, Feminist Improvising Group, Mike Oldfield, National Health, Mike Westbrook Orchestra, News from Babel)
* Lol Coxhill (Delivery, Kevin Ayers & The Whole World)
* Chris Cutler (Ottawa Music Company, Henry Cow, Art Bears, News from Babel, Peter Blegvad Trio)
* Elton Dean (Keith Tippett Sextet, Soft Machine, Just Us, Centipede, Soft Heap/Soft Head, In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out)
* Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears)
* Alan Gowen (Gilgamesh, National Health, Soft Heap/Soft Head)
* John Greaves (Henry Cow, National Health, Soft Heap, Peter Blegvad Trio)
* Jimmy Hastings (Caravan, Caravan of Dreams, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Machine)
* Mark Hewins (Sinclair and the South, The Polite Force, Soft Heap, Gong, Mashu, Caravan of Dreams)
* Steve Hillage (Uriel, Arzachel, Khan, Kevin Ayers, Gong, System 7)
* Tim Hodgkinson (Henry Cow)
* Allan Holdsworth (Soft Machine, Gong, Bruford, UK)
* Hugh Hopper (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Isotope, Soft Heap/Soft Head, In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out)
* Karl Jenkins (Nucleus, Soft Machine, Adiemus)
* Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow, The Black Sheep)
* Phil Miller (Delivery, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, National Health, In Cahoots, Richard Sinclair Band, Hugh Hopper Band)
* Pierre Moerlen (Gong, Mike Oldfield Band, Gongzilla)
* François Ovide (John Greaves Group)
* Pip Pyle (Delivery, Gong, Hatfield and the North, National Health, Soft Heap, In Cahoots, Pip Pyle's Equip'Out, John Greaves Band, Hugh Hopper Band)
* Mike Ratledge (Soft Machine, Adiemus)
* Geoff Richardson (Spirogyra, Caravan)
* David Sinclair (Wilde Flowers, Caravan, Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, The Polite Force, Camel)
* Richard Sinclair (Wilde Flowers, Caravan, Delivery, Hatfield and the North, Sinclair and the South, Camel, In Cahoots, Caravan of Dreams)
* Gilli Smyth (Gong)
* Dave Stewart (Uriel, Egg, Arzachel, Ottawa Music Company, Khan, Hatfield and the North, Gong, National Health, Bruford, Rapid Eye Movement)
* Andy Ward (Camel, Marillion, Caravan of Dreams, Mirage)
* Robert Wyatt (Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, Matching Mole)


* [ Canterbury Scene] at Rare Vinyl Network
* [ Calyx: The Canterbury Website]
* [ Collapso - Canterbury Music Family Tree]
* [ Search results for "Canterbury Scene"] at All Music Guide

ee also

*Timeline of progressive rock

External links

* [ Calyx, "the authority on all things Canterbury"]
* [ Progressive Rock Forum - Melo's Prog Bazaar]
* [ The Canterbury Scene] at [ The Progressive Rock Bibliography]
* [ Facelift Magazine - the Canterbury scene and beyond]
* [ - The Interesting Alternative Show - Steve Davis's radio show]

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