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Baroque pop
Stylistic origins Pop, rock, surf rock, baroque music, classical music,
Cultural origins Mid 1960s, United Kingdom and United States
Typical instruments Guitar - Bass - Drums - Horns - Stringed instruments - Harpsichord
Mainstream popularity 1960s and 2000s
Derivative forms Art rock, Psychedelic pop, Progressive rock

Baroque pop, baroque rock or English baroque, often used interchangeably with chamber pop/rock, is a style of music originated in the mid-1960s that brought elements of classical music into the writing and recording of rock 'n' roll songs.[1] Practitioners of the style utilized instrumentation not traditional to rock such as harpsichord, oboe, cello and french horn. Baroque pop's highest popularity occurred before the introduction of the synthesizer or sampler, so real instruments are heard on the recordings, usually played by session musicians. Baroque pop may be distinguished from progressive rock which uses classical instrumentation by its generally simpler song structures closer to standard pop song writing, and also by its more mainstream lyrical content as opposed to the generally conceptual lyrics associated with later progressive music. Baroque pop is similar to sunshine pop in subject matter, but with a more melodramatic and darker edge.



The term "baroque rock" has been used since about 1966 to describe harder edged and less commercial music with similar influences.[2] "English baroque" is also used to describe British pop and rock music that made use of this style of instrumentation.[3] "Chamber pop" or "chamber rock" are usually used to refer specifically to music that utilises the string instruments of chamber music and so can be seen as a sub-set of baroque pop and rock.[1]

In classical music the term "Baroque" is used to describe the art music of Europe approximately between the years 1600 and 1760, with some of its most prominent composers including J. S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.[4] Much of the instrumentation of baroque pop is more akin to that of the Classical period, chronologically defined as the period of European music from 1730 to 1820 (after Baroque music and before Romantic music) and stylistically defined by balanced phrases, clarity and beauty, using instrumentation similar to modern orchestras.[5] When applied to popular music the term has been used without much regard to these boundaries to describe the use of musical forms and instrumentation from a wider range of eras.


The exact origins of baroque pop are difficult to determine with certainty. In the early 1960s Burt Bacharach had experimented with unusual instrumentation, like the use of flugelhorn on songs including "Walk On By" (1963),[6] and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production had made use of diverse and unusual instrumentation, including many associated with classical music.[7] In 1963 Brian Wilson probably responded to this by using string arrangements on songs on the Beach Boys' Surfer Girl album.[8]

The British group The Zombies, with their single "She's Not There", released in 1964, are often cited as an early example of the sub-genre, but, although the song had many of the harmonic qualities of later baroque pop, it did not use classical instrumentation.[3] It did inspire New York musician Michael Brown to form The Left Banke, whose 1966 single "Walk Away Renée" used harpsichord and a string quartet and is usually considered the first recognisable baroque pop single.[3] In 1965 The Beatles benefited from the classical music skills of George Martin, who used a string quartet in the productions of "Yesterday" and "Eleanor Rigby" and harpsichord-like sounding electric piano on "In My Life".[9] In 1966 The Rolling Stones released "Lady Jane", featuring Brian Jones on dulcimer.[9] Brian Wilson began to use orchestral arrangements, melodies and harmonies sophisticated on The Beach Boys 1965 albums The Beach Boys Today![10] and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) with harpsichord, zither, among other instruments[11] and, the first baroque pop songs of these albums are found, but perhaps the most influential work in the sub-genre was the use of this type of instrumentation The Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds, which was much emulated by later producers.[9]

1960s peak

Baroque-influenced music reached a brief peak in popularity between the beginnings of the decline of psychedelic pop and rock from about 1967 and the rise, particularly in Britain, of progressive rock, which absorbed wider classical influences, growing in popularity from the early 1970s.[3] Its influence can be seen on the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the White Album (1968), The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed (1967), The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle, The Kinks' The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968) and the Bee Gees' Odessa (1969); in singles like Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967), with its Bach inspired introduction and Honeybus' "I Can't Let Maggie Go" (1968).[3] In this period a number of folk-influenced artists incorporated Baroque influences and classical orchestration into their albums, most notably Judy Collins on In My Life (1966) and Wildflowers (1967) and Joan Baez on Joan (1967) Baptism (1968).[12]

Baroque pop today

Baroque pop and rock subsided in the 1970s as punk rock and electronic music dominated, but began to be revived in the work of bands like R.E.M.[13] Modern baroque pop, characterized by an infusion of orchestral arrangements or classical style composition, is generally within an indie or indie pop setting, and can be seen as a reaction to the lo-fi production that dominated in the 1990s.[1] Sometimes traditional pop instrumentation is discarded entirely. Many baroque pop artists of the past two decades can also be classified under several different genres including indie rock, alternative rock, folk, Americana, Britpop, psychedelic, and dream pop.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Baroque pop", Allmusic Guides,, retrieved 13/05/09.
  2. ^ B. Gendron, Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde (University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 174.
  3. ^ a b c d e R. Stanley, 'Baroque and a soft place' Guardian 21/09/07,, retrieved 13/04/09.
  4. ^ Essentials of music: Baroque composers.
  5. ^ Oxford Music Online 2
  6. ^ S. Dominic, Burt Bacharach, Song by Song: the Ultimate Burt Bacharach Reference for Fans, Serious Record Collectors, and Music Critics (Music Sales Group, 2003), p. 123.
  7. ^ T. Cateforis, The Rock History Reader (CRC Press, 2006), pp. 45-51.
  8. ^,, retrieved 13/November/09.
  9. ^ a b c J. S. Harrington, Sonic cool: the Life & Death of Rock 'n' Roll (Hal Leonard Corporation, 2003), p. 191.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) The Beach Boys", All Music,, retrieved 10/September/09.
  12. ^ R. Unterberger, S. Hicks and J. Dempsey, Music USA: the Rough Guide (Rough Guides, 1999), p. 32.
  13. ^ P. Hogan, Rem the Music of Book (Omnibus Press, 1995), p. 64,

Simple English

Baroque Pop is a style of music that came out in the 1960s. It has a classical, heavy orchestral sound to it. Examples can be found on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and recordings made by Phil Spector.

Some Baroque Pop musicians:


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