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Compositional analysis of metal?

Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 02:51:50 AM
Has anyone on the board undertook a compositional analysis of metal?   I've searched multiple times but the search engine being what it is, my efforts have proven fruitless.  A number of you seem to have had some secondary education (or beyond) courses in music theory and composition, and I'd appreciate your knowledge being applied to anything in the death metal or black metal realms.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 04:08:12 AM
My feeling is that there is no theory behind most metal. In general each song is just a mashup of random riffs they came up with by playing random notes on their guitars strung together by shifts in drumming patterns. Many people here like to pretend that's not true.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 04:55:58 AM
My feeling is that there is no theory behind most metal. In general each song is just a mashup of random riffs they came up with by playing random notes on their guitars strung together by shifts in drumming patterns. Many people here like to pretend that's not true.

that may very well be true but it's immaterial to a study of the music.  whether or not the musicians were actively seeking to create music that followed a defined structure doesn't negate the quality of what they produced.  many of the most revered figures in music could barely read music, and a great number possessed no classical training in music composition; those facts don't automatically detract from my enjoyment of their work, nor does it lessen my interest in understanding the mechanics of what they did.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 08:03:01 AM
most metal

Here's your problem - most Metal is crap.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 04:39:12 PM
Check out the musical theory section of my website.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 05:17:51 PM
My feeling is that there is no theory behind most metal. In general each song is just a mashup of random riffs they came up with by playing random notes on their guitars strung together by shifts in drumming patterns. Many people here like to pretend that's not true.

Conscious adherence to theory produces craft, not art.

Compositions that emerge organically are the ones that resonate on the deepest levels.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 11:42:49 PM
many of the most revered figures in music could barely read music, and a great number possessed no classical training in music composition; those facts don't automatically detract from my enjoyment of their work, nor does it lessen my interest in understanding the mechanics of what they did.

I didn't say anything about the quality of the music. I just explained the process behind it.

Here's your problem - most Metal is crap.

The OP didn't specify good metal. Even then, the majority of the best artists have little theory behind their music. They just pick up a guitar and play whatever comes out.

Conscious adherence to theory produces craft, not art.

Compositions that emerge organically are the ones that resonate on the deepest levels.

This is verifiably wrong on both counts.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 10, 2010, 11:50:18 PM
From what I understand, most metal acts of any value adhered to some type of theoretical approach to music or had an understanding of musical theory.  Such bands that I know of for sure include Gorguts, Morbid Angel, Burzum, Emperor, Darkthrone, At the Gates, Demilich, Atheist, Summoning, Sacramentum, and I believe rather unexpectedly Paul Ledney.  Correct me if I'm wrong on any account, and I'm sure there are also others to add to the list.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 11, 2010, 12:17:50 AM
The OP didn't specify good metal. Even then, the majority of the best artists have little theory behind their music. They just pick up a guitar and play whatever comes out.

If this is the case, then I am an absolute marvel, within the world of Metal, given that my composition follows Traditional Western Music Theory.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 11, 2010, 02:48:20 AM
I don't think you're going to find much on metal composition, but try labeling riffs with letters while listening to a song and see if you can't map out the patterns that crop up, the ones that disappear, the ones that evolve, and the ones that simply re-appear.

Whether the patterns you see are deliberate or not doesn't matter, what's important is that you're realizing or understanding some sort of pattern.

Look at this for an example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_form#Single_forms

Good songs have a tendency to reuse riff/motives efficiently without being meatheadedly repetitive or cyclically pop-music with the verse-chorus-bridge alternations.

Good songs have few non-sequitur parts or riffs, and if there is a non-sequitur, it's "explained" later on in the song or perhaps on the album. ADD-ridden metalcore and deathcore bands like to have non-sequiturs to make you remember their song has no intent other than to dazzle or be different.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 11, 2010, 01:11:39 PM
My feeling is that there is no theory behind most metal. In general each song is just a mashup of random riffs they came up with by playing random notes on their guitars strung together by shifts in drumming patterns. Many people here like to pretend that's not true.

Sums up the first time I listened to Massacra pretty well.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 11, 2010, 01:21:58 PM
In general each song is just a mashup of random riffs they came up with by playing random notes on their guitars strung together by shifts in drumming patterns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrFTR9fucr8

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 12, 2010, 01:47:32 PM
My feeling is that there is no theory behind most metal. In general each song is just a mashup of random riffs they came up with by playing random notes on their guitars strung together by shifts in drumming patterns. Many people here like to pretend that's not true.

Sums up the first time I listened to Massacra pretty well.

Has that feeling changed at all?  That's still the sense I get from Final Holocaust.  On that release in particular, I think this lawlessness adds a lot of appeal.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 12, 2010, 03:41:29 PM
When I first listned to FH I wasn't familiar with this "riff-salad" brand of death metal. Having listened to the likes of Morbid Angel before approaching Massacra again I think I was better equiped to enjoy it. There's just so much music on FH and it requires a great amount of attention to digest it all.

Re: Compositional analysis of metal?
August 12, 2010, 05:53:14 PM
Though some quality bands have produced underground metal with a substatial level of "formal" theory in mind (At the Gates, Sacramentum, Gorguts, etc.), the real marvel of this music is that it's created by intelligent but generally untrained musicians who produce coherent and evocative music out of a subconscious INSTINCT towards order.  A good example of this is Darkthrone (think UaFM) who were attempting to create deliberately alienating, ugly, and random sounding music, but shat out a grippingly beautiful hymn to darkness, maybe despite themselves.  To me, this element of surprise, when order escapes the swirling chaos against all odds, is the most important and consistent attribute of quality underground metal, and the one that separates it from other worthwhile musical mindsets ("genres") like classical or ambient, and so justifies the chaotic and ugly aesthetic of metal, as opposed to the clean tones common to most quality western music.  You can't transcend chaos without the chaos.