Heavy metal linked with classical music, academia

by Brett Stevens
March 30, 2013 –

heavy_metal-classical

For many years, metal was viewed as being outside the society which it comments on. Recently, as metal has bent closer toward the mainstream, it has become more accepted, which has led to some metal bands going farther in the direction they were originally going.

As an example, academia shunned metal at the start of the 1990s, but after the work of Deena Weinstein and Robert Walser, began to be taken more seriously. Now, a conference dedicated to heavy metal exists, as does a journal of heavy metal studies. Metal is seeing more acceptance from the world.

In return, metal is starting to give back in a big way. Former Anthrax guitarist, current Red Lamb guitarist and autism awareness activist Dan Spitz will be attending the metal conference to serve as a keynote speaker along with noted academics and journalists who have covered metal. Worldwide attendance will make this a legendary event.

In other news, people are finally making the connection between heavy metal and classical music. As this site has noted for over two decades, metal and classical share many attributes, the most common being a tendency to use phrasal riffs/motifs to create complex narrative song constructions in which each song structure is specific to the material referenced in the song, much like the form of poetry or literature.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Edward Top notes three similarities between metal and classical: both are dedicated to releasing energy, a “shredder” tradition in both and shared enjoyment among musicians, and that both are “outsider” genres to the mainstream, with both coming from camps of people who are probably too smart or too nerdy (I have no idea what he’s talking about) for their own good.

It’s gratifying to see metal get the recognition it has deserved for many years, and for the classical tradition in metal to be acknowledged, at the same time academics are taking metal seriously and digging into its philosophical and social roots. It may turn out that despite years of downturned-mouth condemnation of metal, society is finally taking it seriously and may even learn from what it has revealed.

Photo: Wayne Leidenfrost, Vancouver Sun

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7 comments

  • Stratovarius

    Hey Prozak:
    Do you think it would be possible for a string quartet to play black metal music? Say Maneskyggens Slave, Transilvanian Hunger, Inno Satana, early Ancient and Sacramentum songs on viola – violin?? I think string instruments would reveal the beauty of black metal to a non-metal audience and this in turn would dissipate the stigma of metal music being nothing but noise. Or maybe not. Maybe the melodies would lose its power without the drums and distorted guitars, what do you think?

  • Metal Command

    This could backfire. Academics have a tendency to come up with explanations that then make it into the newspapers and then into conversation. People just repeat those. If they decide heavy metal is frustrated homosexual love, then guess what’s going to happen any time you rock the horns.

  • Belisario

    Is it really necessary for metal to be socially accepted and recognized? As a genre that has built itself on rejection of society and draws much of its inspiration from all possible metaphors of liberation, I don’t think a hypothetical wide recognition would do any good. Not to speak about large amounts of people becoming “metal” all of a sudden. Metal grows much better in quiet and isolated gardens.

    1. Brett Stevens Post author

      Is it really necessary for metal to be socially accepted and recognized?

      It’s hard to assess “necessary,” but I think yes, what metal learned from its own evolution should be added to the history books. This is probably the most interesting popular music genre ever created, and the only one that is both alienated and mythological. There’s a lesson here for all of us, and it needs to be communicated clearly.

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