Pink Floyd, construction workers and the philosopher’ stone.

A lot of noise has been made in the last few days for the release of the new Pink Floyd’s album, The Endless River. As usual in these cases, there are contrasting reviews. Some find the work enjoyable, even inspiring; while others think that Pink Floyd would have been better of, it they had avoided releasing the album. Personally, I stand with the first reviewers, but the point of the post is not that. Rather, I’d like to exploit this remarkable event for reflecting upon the role of Pink Floyd in music history.

the endless river

Cover of the new album by Pink Floyd: The Endless River.

I’ve spent most of my life analysing the work of great Western composers of the past. When you read their scores or listen carefully to their music, you can experience pure beauty made sound. The ebb and flow of musical tension builds sonic spaces, the listener can navigate,  losing track of time, and of her consciousness. Classical music is balanced complexity. On the other hand, when listening to rock/pop music, I just can’t feel the same powerful experience. This music is too simplistic, too predictable and utterly repetitive. I soon get bored of the music by Rolling Stones, and listening to the Beatles for more than 10 minutes is almost like torture!

However, when Pink Floyd comes in the thing is completely different. Listening to Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, or Atom Heart Mother, is such an uplifting experience for me, that I can compare it only to the thrilling feeling of hearing music by my favourite classical composers. What are the musical elements that cause my involuntary reaction to their music? Melody is an important aspect, but not essential. Harmony neither. Rhythm and metres are quite standard, apart from the unconventional time signature ⅞ used for Money. What really makes Pink Floyd unique, is the capacity to build monumental musical structures, with mountains and valleys of tension, wisely distributed over time. Just like classical music, Pink Floyd’s music is balanced complexity.


The famous cover of the Dark Side of The Moon.

For this reason, I personally think that Pink Floyd should be put at the same level of the best Western composer of the past. Like Beethoven or Bach, Pink Floyd have always known very well that the art of composing is actually the craft of building. Like skilled construction workers, who erect a house brick after brick; Pink Floyd create sonic cathedrals, designing and implementing complex musical blueprints. Their work, which span a period of 50 years, can be considered itself as a single highly-articulated musical structure, which evolved and thickened over time. From the initial experimental years of the late 60s, until the last instrumental studio album, the common thread has always been the obsessive research of musical perfection.

But just like the philosopher’ stone doesn’t exist, so musical perfection doesn’t as well. The Endless River, an echo of a distant musical tide, will be Pink Floyd’s final attempt to discover the philosopher’ stone.  However, they perhaps have already been able to find the philosopher’ stone after all, since when we’ll be long gone, their music will continue to shine as a crazy diamond forever and ever.