Hmmmmm, well, unfortunately the audio recordings of the presentations are of extremely poor quality, pretty much not listenable. I was hoping they would produce written transcripts, which they have but they are collected in a book (link
). Also I have found on the internet three of the presentations posted for free by their authors:
- Anti-Cosmosis: Black Mahapralaya by Nicola Masciandaro
- Remain true to the earth!: Remarks on the Politics of Black Metal by Benjamin Noys
- The Headless Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Evan Calder Williams
Personally I have only read the above three papers, and I must say that my opinion of them is fairly positive. I don't necessarily agree with everything they express, but I do think they are reasonably well constructed and interesting, healthy contributions to the marketplace of ideas in the domain of metal.
I think it's important to point out though, particularly in the case of that first paper by Nicola (who I believe was one of the symposium organizers by the way), that his paper is not necessarily intended to be persuasive as much as it is intended to illustrate a perspective... many would criticize it for being presumptuous and lacking in reasoning, but I do not believe it is an attempt to be definitive on the subject, it aims not to explain how to connect the dots but to elaborate the image the author perceives with the dots connected. I think it has merit particularly since that image is hardly even expressed anywhere in the marketplace of ideas, there is basically no writing about it yet. True Nicola does not go out of his way to be humble, but personally I think that's OK as we could all do with less self-depreciation in the name of political correctness (and I think such sentiment is not too foreign in the black metal scene).
Before people bash this symposium, I wonder if they have actually read any of the papers to the end, rather than just disapproving of the pictures used on the website or basing their judgments only on stereotypes or first impressions?
Agreed. There's a real lack of quality writings on black metal in academics. I wrote a paper last year and I think I only found one journal article that really had any sort of useful information on black metal (Kahn-Harris, K. (2004). The 'Failure' of Youth Culture: Reflexivity, Music and Politics in the Black Metal Scene. European Journal of Cultural Studies , 7 (95), 95-111). In comparison, there's A LOT of literature dealing with punk, riot grrl, goth, hip hop, and so forth.
I think it's all just bullshit.
Academia doesn't work like you and me. Instead of coming up with analysis toward action, they come up with talking points. They do this because then the rest of society takes those ideas and runs with them and finds a direction toward action.
I am all in favor of this symposium, even though I think you're right that a fair amount of b.s. is going to get flung around. That's how academia works, and isn't a fault of this symposium itself.
If you look at it that way, you can see that these guys are an ANUS wet dream -- they're treating black metal like an art form and analyzing the meaning behind it. And since the words "transcendental" and "Romanticism" got in there, it's doubly awesome.
I have no problems with what they're doing and think we the metalheads should promote this even more.
Funnily enough, I made similar arguments to the sin-eater comment stated in that article using a Frankfurt School analysis of black metal. In short: In order to resist popular culture, black metal had to become antithetical and introverted "beauty" into transgressive ugliness. Something about rejecting the easily digestable, rationalised structure of popular music which resembled the mechanical work experience in favour of a more chaotic, irrational approach too...
It's true there is not much quality writing available yet on black metal, which is one reason I think this symposium was a good idea. There's a little more than just that one paper by Harris though, which I have collected in a link archive on my metal website
. I would particularly point to some of the papers from the Heavy Fundamentalisms: Music, Metal and Politics conferences which deal with black metal.