What is Pink Floyd all about?
Debates raised by the Pink Floyd Sound
If we intend to judge any group fairly, and estimate their impact on music, we must be objective in looking at the questions they force us to answer.

    Should an album reflect a band's style, or their ideas?  Many bands develop a certain "sound", and seem more concerned with producing that sound in every song they record than with producing excellent music.  You have probably heard a new song on the radio and immediately known who was doing it, because their style is so distinctive, it's easy to recognize.  Though Pink Floyd has those definable characteristics {CPFS}, they frequently alter their music to better communicate the idea they are trying to get across.  You'll be hard pressed to find another group that uses as many different styles.  Some people might consider this a weakness, since it forces the group's followers to go along with the band's concept,  but it is the only way to advance the quality of music.

    Is there a significant difference between sound and music?  The members of Pink Floyd have always had the ability to sense the musical quality in almost any sound.  What you or I might judge to be noise or simple conversation had, for the band, the potential to be worked into a musical context. {CPFS}  They recorded thousands of sounds, and made many others with their instruments, that add depth and complexity to their music.  It might be criticized as distracting, but again adds an element of development to the music that most groups totally ignore.

    Should technical proficiency or lyrical flow be the standard for measuring a band's quality?  This question is like trying to argue about who your favorite guitarist is, and may be best explained that way.  Technical work is often about how many notes you can play in a given time period.  Jeff Beck is very technical, and Jimmy Page can be.  The difference is that Beck often gets so busy playing that you lose track of any melody there should have been.  Page gets lost once in awhile, but he also helped Led Zep create some amazing melodies within their songs.  Eric Clapton is more lyrical, putting more effort into the flow of the tune most of the time, so that the playing is obviously following a musical "path" that we can follow. David Gilmour has the technical ability, but is probably the most lyrical player out there.  His playing is much more focused on the flow and feel of the music than showing off his skill.  It can be criticized when the music moves so slowly that it almost puts you to sleep, but the simplicity and subtlety of it all can also be amazing.

    Are the words or the music more critical in determining a band's quality?  Some artists are renowned for their poetic imagery, and others are famous for their great melodies.  (Which is Brittney Spears?)  Either style can be taken to extremes, as the lyrics can become so obtuse that we don't know what the band's communicating, or the melody can become so simplistic that it amounts to a ditty.  In an era when most bands don't really seem to have anything important to say, it seems odd to look back on Pink Floyd and realize that most songs try to get some important point across.  In an era when melodies are primarily written to get people's feet tapping, it may seem odd to listen to Pink Floyd, whose music requires an active listener of a very different sort.  The best Floyd work always has an effective balance between the words and the music.  Maybe all groups should try that (but maybe it would take too much work).

    How much experimentation should a band do?  It's probably a moot point these days, since so much of the music is synthesized, but Pink Floyd and other bands of their era were working in an entirely different medium.  Guys were learning how to bounce items off their guitar strings, hit their drums with various objects, and even what the capacity of keyboard synthesizers were.  The Floyd were famous for trying all sorts of experiments live {CPFS}, then talking with their audience afterward to see how the effects worked out.  Now, it can all be computerized and tweaked 400 times until the "artist" is satisfied with it, but what about the audience?  Does the music of Pink Floyd sometimes get so experimental that it loses its way?  Probably.  Is that better than having no experimentation at all?  I think definitely.

    What does the term melodic truly mean?  In the oldest times, melody was the line of notes by which we could identify the tune of a piece.  As music became more complex, the melody was given "disguises" to keep the listener interested and active.  Rock music usually is pretty straightforward, either putting the melody in a lead instrument, or the lead vocal.  Pink Floyd makes melody a bit more complex again, often using combinations of vocals, instruments, and ambient sounds to achieve a very different sort of melody than we might usually hear.  Can that be confusing?  Yes.  Still, it is also quite intriguing.

    How do changes in personnel effect a band's vision?  Pink Floyd is an archetypal example of a group that has experienced a major change (or two) in membership, while maintaining the essence of its musical vision.  Early on, the band was more mainstream psychedelic in musical form, but became unique in their heyday.  Eventually, they became more mainstream again.  When Syd Barrett dropped out, the band's direction changed from his to Roger's.  When Roger dropped out, the vision became Dave's.  Considering the personality cult surrounding Syd, it's amazing that the group could keep going after he left, but it became, in fact, better.  As long as Roger kept the band pretty evenly balanced between an emphasis on music and an emphasis on lyrics, their career worked out pretty well.  They actually suffered more slippage in quality as he became the dominating personality than they did during the other major changes.  Dave's vision brought the band back more to the mainstream, and without the uniqueness, there was little point in continuing.
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