First Advisor

Reiner Krämer

First Committee Member

Michael Oravitz

Degree Name

Master of Music

Document Type


Date Created



The progressive rock genre has been an intriguing subject of study for the scholarly community, especially within the last 30 years. An understudied part of the progressive rock scene, however, is its manifestation in the United States through the band Kansas. The band from 1970’s Topeka is acknowledged by Mitchell Morris as troublesome for critics due to the hybrid use of European art music and blues influences. It is no wonder a large study of Kansas music has not taken place due to the maligning of the band by its critics as well as the controversial views regarding pretentiousness of progressive rock in academic circles. Spiritual quest is often associated with progressive rock and the music of Kansas is no different. Kerry Livgren, their chief songwriter, often processed his own journey of spiritual quest through his compositions. Yet spiritual quest also manifested in compositions that were not his own, and manifestation happened in three specific ways, examined in chapters 2-4. Kansas, like classical composers and psychedelic bands that influenced them, used musical topics to sonically construct narratives of spiritual quest. Such musical topics are highly connected to a framework of presentation, conflict, and resolution (PCR). Facilitating the creation of topics are the contrasts of timbres as a result of instrumentation. A third vehicle of the tension and release of spiritual quest are the metrical devices utilized, specifically grouping and displacement dissonances as well as abrupt changes to regular and irregular time signatures.

Abstract Format



Music Theory


Progressive Rock, Kansas, Kerry Livgren, Spiritual Quest, Music Theory, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, Topic Theory, Rhythm and Meter, Timbre




100 pages

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