Classical and Pop Metal – Part 1 (Banishing of Preconceptions)

Article by David Rosales, 1st installment of a 7 part series
The terms pop and classical get thrown around pretty carelessly, with little regard as to what they actually mean as foreign meanings are imposed on them. It can be shown that most of these distinctions are quite arbitrary, even if they are meaningful indeed. What we should be asking ourselves is which of the definitions may provide a useful distinction that goes beyond the plain appearances or superficial glances at structure.

Music works at so many more levels than bare form (which is only the means and not the music itself) that the analysis typical of academia which focuses on either what I would call brute-force complexity or what they may deem “innovative” is problematic. Music history has proved that mere innovation, which more often than not is little more than momentary novelty, does not bring about long-standing results in itself. It may certainly result in long-standing popularity, but one may see that in these cases the “novelty” in question, as a concept, antecedes any natural reactions and feelings people may have to it.

A good example of this is The Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky. Its fans are usually music majors, more often than not, or amateur posers who are merely shocked by its reputation and how strange it sounds – how “different” it makes them feel. In each of the cases, the most immediate arguments for the greatness of this music will come in the form of cold musical analyses that point out its innovations in rhythm, or how “shocking” the character is. Basically, bombast and syncopated hip movements.

The same is true of metal or any other genre. Innovations and novelty come and go, the former being absorbed into the background as useful processes to express the metaphysical concerns that the particular music has, while the latter makes an impression and is left behind. As we recognize this universal rule of human-made music, or art in general, we come to understand that we cannot base definitions strictly on whether or not innovation is taking place as this also tends to be confused with novelty. Only time — and long spans at that — can truly prove the difference.

Finally, the biggest preconception we must get rid off to properly start this discussion is that the terms we mentioned before are actually defined. There is no complete consensus regarding what “popular music” strictly consists of. Furthermore, the term “classical” seems to be used as meaning both a period in Western traditional music, and what is actually modern academic activity which appropriates the former for itself as if some kind of crowning ceremony had taken place in which Beethoven bestowed power upon Wagner, who in turn anointed the likes of Schönberg. Let’s get rid of all such popular (ha!) assertions and try to arrive at useful terms.

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22 thoughts on “Classical and Pop Metal – Part 1 (Banishing of Preconceptions)”

  1. Poser Patrol says:

    Hey David

    Are there any Russian/Slavic composers you find value in? I know Brett isn’t too fond of them, excepting Chopin if memory serves.

    1. Mussorgsky is sort of fun, I guess. And Chopin was a Frenchman raised in Poland.

      1. Rhogan says:

        Sorry, but that’s incorrect, he was a Pole who emigrated to France for political reasons.

        1. Poser Patrol says:

          Well, ethnically he was half Polish, half French.

  2. vOddy says:

    I usually have to use a dictionary to understand the exact meaning of every word in these articles.
    I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Today I’ve learned the word “antecede”.

  3. Spinal says:

    This “issue” very much needs to be subject to scrutiny. Very good initiative. It was somewhat touched upon in Robert Walsers book about heavy metal, atleast he touched upon the problem of definition regarding “classical” music, if I remember correct. Also, the part on novelty/innovation was interesting. A good read I say! The Stravinsky example was spot on.

  4. vOddy says:

    Anyway, on topic:

    I usually refer to “classical” music as European orchestral music. It seems more accurate.

    1. vOddy says:

      Unless it’s some string quintet chamber music, of course. That’s not really orchestral. But I generally just listen to symphonies anyway, which are orchestral.

      1. Fine Young Catamite says:


        I usually come here to cruise for cock. On a lucky day you can score some nice pubes up your nose if you name drop bands like Burzum, Sacramentum, Gorgoroth and Demilich

        1. vOddy says:

          Tits or gtfo.
          Sorry, mate. And no man tits.

        2. Protip says:

          If you’re looking for something a little more serious but your man isn’t having it, try talking to him about European values and how dumb black people are. There’s no quicker way to a Hessian’s heart.

    2. Life Afirming Existentialist says:

      Classical encompasses orchestral and non-orchestral compositions such as quartets, quintets (as you mentioned), sonatas, for example.

  5. Toorn van Got says:

    I like the Rite for exactly the same reasons I like most metal. It evokes a tremendous impersonal power, and a sense of necessity of ‘dark’ aspects of existence. But here, there’s no narrator present; you’re thrown into this snake pit and no-one’s spoon-feeding you how to deal with that.

    The Rite is fractured, it’s dissonant and chaotic like the recollections of a nightmare. As far as I want to bother with meta-info: don’t listen to this as if it were an attempt at a Bruckner symphony, it isn’t one.

    The vid above is weak tea, try this instead:

  6. Roger says:

    You’re a faggot if you think any metal band touches the musical complexity of Stravinsky. I’m not saying the latter is some God of the classical, but making an anology with ‘pop’ music is waaaay off the mark.

    1. “Musical Complexity” is really not the same as musical quality. What goes deeper, what is more in connection with what it is to be human in context? This is important.

      That “outer” complexity is of little interest to one seeking a deeper connection. Bach > Stranvinsky.

      1. Roger says:

        Bach is indeed better than Stravinsky. But Emperor is better than Master. Does than mean Master is of no value? No.

        re: complexity, my point was that this complexity rules Stravinsky outside of anything to do with ‘pop’.

        As for quality, which I did not address, The Right of Spring far outstrips the descriptions you dismissively gave it. “Basically, bombast and syncopated hip movements” is one of the most hand-wavey and un-engaged criticisms i’ve ever read. It doesn’t address any of the texturing, atmosphere, or more melodic sections. The right of spring is not a hip hop piece, my friend.

        As for … “Its fans are usually music majors, more often than not, or amateur posers who are merely shocked by its reputation and how strange it sounds – how “different” it makes them feel.”… This is simply someone writing for an audience he knows is pretty young and will lap up what anyone who pretends to know what they’re talking about gives them.

        How, my dear man, would you know who the fans of the right of spring are – right around the globe? Would you care to tell us? Only God would have such all-encompassing knowledge. Please… also tell us how you know that everyone who likes this is simply getting a rush off ‘feeling different’…

        Thank you.

  7. I blew my head off like Per Ohlin says:

    Would theory help understand and appreciate Classical more?

    1. Yes, actually, it does.
      And in my experience, going deeper into the best of classical (baroque and classical masters) helps one better appreciate death and black metal better. And curiously, the converse is true as well.

      1. I blew my head off like Per Ohlin says:

        I know what composers I should start off with, but unsure which compositions I should listen to. I’ve also struggled to organise Classical music on iTunes. What would you suggest?

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