Saturday morning, November 14, 1–1:50 CST
Perspectives on Metal Music
Jose M. Garza, Jr. (Texas State University), Chair
Female-Fronted Extreme Metal: Jinjer, Gender, and Genre Norms in Sound & Image
Recognizing both the low rate of female performance in heavy metal bands—globally at the level of 3% (Berkers & Schaap 2018)—and the dearth of music analysis for extreme vocal expression (Smialek 2015), this study analyzes the work of a female vocalist from the genre of progressive metal: Tatiana Schmailyuk of the band Jinjer. My analysis of Jinjer’s song and video, “Pit of Consciousness” (Macro, 2019), yields data that places lyrical and visual subjectivity into interpretive dialogue with musical materials and expression. Using this case-study approach, I focus on two research objectives: 1) to analyze the performance expression of a female extreme metal vocalist; and 2) to illustrate a multimodal analytic model for music video.
Metal scholarship affirms the genre to be dominated by male performers (Walser 1993; Weinstein 2000) and points to the preponderance of patriarchal values, with the performance content contributing to an aesthetic production of misogyny, power, and intensity (Barron 2007; Overell 2013, 2014; Rafalovich 2006; Walser 1993; Weinstein 1991, 2009). The notion of heavy metal as a hegemonic discourse exhibiting hypermasculinity (Walser 1993) has been queried by recent scholars who reveal metal to support a range of gendered and sexualized subjectivities (Clifford-Napoleone 2015; Kahn-Harris 2007).
This paper illustrates a systematic methodology for identifying and interpreting cross-modal expression and aesthetics in words, music, and images. Ultimately, the selected vocalist is shown to claim space and articulate an alternative femininity through concrete effects that challenge norms of gender and genre.
”Dance to the Dissonant Sway”: Groove, Headbanging, and Entrainment in Extreme Metal
Analytical studies of rhythm and meter in extreme metal stress the inseparable relation of musical content (repeated riffs or grooves) with the bodily motions of performers and fans (headbanging and/or moshing). To further analyze this relationship, this paper uses live performance videos and transcriptions of songs by Meshuggah and Animals as Leaders to illustrate how and why a single extreme metal groove can encourage and accommodate multiple modes of entrainment. I argue that these riffs create “targets for bodily motion” (Zbikowski 2004, 286) through (1) the interplay of grouping and meter and (2) the realization or denial of metric projections. To accomplish this, this paper synthesizes work on extreme metal (Hannan 2018; Lucas 2018; Pieslak 2007), grooves and embodiment (Cox 2011; Kozak 2018; Pressing 2002; Zbikowski 2004), and rhythm and meter (Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983; Hasty 1997). The talk will demonstrate that the ability of extreme metal grooves to promote multiple modes of entrainment is an important stylistic marker, with ramifications that speak to broader issues in the study of music and movement.
Tempo, But For Whom? Rhythmic Parallax in Car Bomb’s “Blackened Battery”
The music of the math metal band Car Bomb gives rise to multiple, often incommensurate rhythmic realities for different listeners. I call this phenomenon “rhythmic parallax.” Even basic rhythmic features—such as pulse and tactus—are often radically different depending on listeners’ purposes. I explore four perspectives on various moments from the song “Blackened Battery,” those of (1) a casual listener, (2) the band members while composing, (3) the band members while performing, and (4) a transcriber using software that measures the recording against clock time. Examining the different interpretations that arise from these perspectives provides a novel method for rhythmic analysis, one that cuts across habitual boundaries between metric analysis, microtiming analysis, and discussion of embodiment. I suggest that an analysis that focuses on rhythmic parallax reflects the difficulties, complexities, and apparent contradictions of music temporality.
How Much Math is in Math Rock? Riffs, Progressive Rhythm, and Embodied Music Theory
Dr. Stephen S. Hudson is a Visiting Assistant Professor in Music at the University of Richmond. His music theory research draws on cognitive linguistics, embodied cognition, and performance studies to understand the mental models, embodied metaphors, and performative scenarios that structure our musical experiences. His dissertation “Feeling Beats and Experiencing Motion: A Construction-Based Theory of Meter” explored the performance and perception of meter (especially mixed meter) in heavy metal, baroque recitative and dance forms, and late-Romantic chamber music. Much of his writing explores metal music, including forthcoming articles “Bang Your Head: Construing Beat Through Familiar Drum Patterns in Metal Music” (Music Theory Spectrum) and “Compound AABA and Style Distinction in Heavy Metal” (Music Theory Online). In addition to his scholarly work, Dr. Hudson is an avid baroque cellist.
This paper explores embodied experiences of “metrical constructedness” (Macan 1997), using a new theoretical tool called “motional conceptual models” to analyze the motion experienced in progressive rock’s riffs. Prog rock/metal is often associated with “mathematical” complexity of odd time signatures and polyrhythms. But this complexity rhetoric leaves some mysteries, including the use of such rhythms by non-prog bands; or Meshuggah’s claim that “there is no mathematical approach” in their music; or online arguments about whether Metallica’s …And Justice For All (AJFA, 1988) is “prog-influenced,” when the album is mostly in duple meter and contains few polyrhythms.
Riffs are not just sequences of notes, but motions experienced by performers and listeners (Fast 2001). My “motional conceptual models” represent one experience of a riff’s motion, framing that shape as a prototype category to explain how it can be recognized despite variations (see “conceptual models,” Zbikowski 2002). These “motional conceptual models” show how manipulations of riffs can lead to manipulated perceived motion—providing a unified theory for “ABAC Additive Metrical Process” in Dream Theater (McCandless 2013), truncated riffs by Meshuggah (Pieslak 2007), Meshuggah riffs that begin “in media res” (Lucas 2018), and riff fragmentations I observe in Metallica’s AJFA. Changes in riff shape can thus be perceived as interrupting the normal looping of meter, and this impression of artificial intervention is one possible explanation for Macan’s “constructedness.” This embodied cognition approach to riffs also demonstrates how it is possible to write rhythmically “progressive” rock and metal rhythms by feel, with no math required.