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Composing Impulse – What Makes Metal Musicians Write Music?

by Joe
May 9, 2009 –

Musicians are basically storytellers, like writers are. In literature, great works are deemed so not just for their superior arrangement of elements (i.e. how “beautiful” or “organized” a certain piece is), but by how well they tell a central message or idea which the artist tries to communicate to his audience.

Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. (…) They are:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. (…)

2. Æsthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. (…)

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose.—Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

- George Orwell, Why I Write

In the above quote, the english author George Orwell indicates that writers have a special urge to fulfill their purpose, which also goes with a kind of appreciation for aesthetics that surpasses the experience of most people. All of that concentrated towards a goal: to express thoughts that go beyond the individual, a concern towards society or the world as a whole.

In an interview with another famous writer, Aldous Huxley, we can find a similar notion:

Interviewer: What would you say makes the writer different from other people?

Huxley: Well, one has the urge, first of all, to order the facts one observes and to give meaning to life; and along with that goes the love of words for their own sake and a desire to manipulate them. It’s not a matter of intelligence; some very intelligent and original people don’t have the love of words or the knack to use them effectively.

- Aldous Huxley, The Art of Fiction

Both views could be summed up to 1) writers wish to satisfy a personal urge towards creating beauty and 2) through their art, they share their vision on life, the world and its direction.

Music, like literature, also focus on expressing ideas, but in a different language and with a similar care for aesthetics, or how well the elements expose that idea.

Metal is no exception:

This isn’t something we do to pay the bills, it’s not a job and it’s not a chore, its something we are truly passionate about. It is something that each one of us needs in our lives, because without it, our lives would have a huge void. It’s very hard to convey this feeling to some people, but it is like a drug, a powerful driving force that we enjoy following year after year, record after record. So this is what kills complacency, our love for what we do and our passion and drive to move it forward and improve on it.

(…)

Well, I really can’t speak for anyone else, but I would imagine and would like to think musicians use their music to express their thoughts and feelings, whether it be on religion, or just their take on the world. For us, Death Metal was the perfect vehicle for conveying our feelings, sometimes angry, bitter and sad, but ultimately to express ourselves through the music.

I don’t think musicians sharing similar views will necessarily create the same types of music, because music is an individual thing and it is personal. Our music is very aggressive and powerful with a lot of heaviness, dark melodies, and very haunting at times, and this certainly reflects what the lyrics are saying. Some bands do have something to say in their music that is real and will make people think, other bands like to go in a different direction and create lyrics that are fantasy, pure entertainment for the listener, which is also fine, and we have also incorporated some of this to drive home our point on some occasions, but I think for the most part we fall into the first category.

We usually have something to say, and we don’t like to be preachy about it, but we like to present it in such a way that it does paint a bleak picture, and I think this certainly drives home the point quicker once you understand what the point of the song is. This genre definitely has a culture AND a philosophy all of its own.

- Immolation interview

For hessians, metal is beauty and order expressed in the language of fury and noise. The best works in the genre were created by people who are artists by nature, like Orwell and Huxley were and musicians like Ross Dolan are. Not everyone can become an artist and that’s why any form of art that encourages participation above all gets swamped into mediocrity.

Knowing that, hessians should think twice before giving their approval towards anything that comes their way. Be more critical. Some tips regarding that will appear in a future post.

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