«canterbury» - best artists
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.”
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.”
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], 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.”
Hopper’s family, however, lived in the city and the Wilde Flowers did play many of their early gigs in Canterbury, notably at the Beehive Club, in Dover Street, and the city’s various colleges. It was at a Students Union-organised event at Canterbury Technical College that Soft Machine gigged with Pink Floyd - twice, before and after Floyd were signed to a record deal.
And it was in a house in Whitstable (within the Canterbury City Council area) that Caravan went into rehearsal for some months before moving to London and a recording contract.