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The Psychology Of Metal Music

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Sheer nonsense.

Only if the pleasure in using ones senses and using one's mind to process the sense data to find harmony/inconsistency with one's own emotional responses is "sheer nonsense".

The fact that, in other forms of music, you do not have to try to sift through the noisiness of Metal, contributes greatly to the enjoyment of the music.

Only if one finds pleasure in not having to use one's mind, and can simply "let go" and "feel" whatever may come.

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The combination of lyrics and noise is meant to cause discomfort.  The lyrics are in concert with the noise, often portraying despair, death, misery, powerlessness, and the like.

Clearly much metal music is not intended to produce great emotions of joy and happiness. But that doesn't make it "noise." Consider the fact that some great classical compositions are intended to produce negative emotions and conjure images of hell, war, or the like. Does that make them noise?

It's insulting that bands like Megadeth, Metallica, and others like them call themselves musicians.  I simply hate  this noise.  How dare they try to stand on the same pedestal as Rachmaninoff, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky!

These bands do not attempt to stand on the pedestal of classical composers, and I think you know that. You are talking about two totally different forms of music from two totally different time periods.

But even if Megadeth was trying to stand on Wagner's pedestal, that still doesn't make their songs "noise."

Where is the evidence for your fundamental claim that metal music is "noise?" I think it is thoughtless for you to continue calling metal music "noise" without offering any evidence whatsoever to back up such a statement. You are, in essence, condemning a whole genre of music and those who like it--without explaining your reasons for doing so. That is wrong.

It may be bad music. You may not enjoy it. Okay. But what makes it "noise?"

Edited by MisterSwig

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It may be bad music. You may not enjoy it. Okay. But what makes it "noise?"

The evidence for my contention may be found in Ayn Rand's discussion of music in The Romantic Manifesto.

In it she attempts, and very reasonably so, to explain how it might be possible to adapt reason to music by citing philosophy regarding tonal variations. She seems to draw the observation that a greater quantity of tonal variations can result in a musical composition that can arouse a greater sense. This makes a lot of sense to me.

Now let's take a typical Metallica piece. It will consist of two or three notes in the melody line, easily achieved with two or three minor chords on the guitar. The tonal variation is so simple as to be understood by the listener as one, perhaps two, perhaps three different notes. Now enhance this listening experience with distortion, fuzz, and a tone-deafening throbbing of the primitive drumbeat and you have, well, noise!

Metallica makes as much musical sense to me as a truck on 42nd Street blowing its horn and starting up.

To you, it may be bad music. To me, it is bad music. For me to call Metallica's "music" bad music is giving them a needless compliment they do not deserve.

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Only if the pleasure in using ones senses and using one's mind to process the sense data to find harmony/inconsistency with one's own emotional responses is "sheer nonsense".

Only if one finds pleasure in not having to use one's mind, and can simply "let go" and "feel" whatever may come.

As a rational human being, I have volition in what I want to listen to and what I don't want to listen to.

Under no circumstances do I ever consider trying to listen to Metal's noise as the productive use of one's mind. Why should I process the data of some sound garbage when I could be enjoying a fine rock song like "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys?

I have proven that the "music" called Metal is nothing beyond noise. That continues to be my opinion and nothing that has been said on this board or sent to me via PM will serve to have me change that.

I will offer no further discussion on this matter.

Edited by Yes

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The combination of lyrics and noise is meant to cause discomfort.

Well, yes. I think metal music is analogous to jalapeno peppers in this regard! Jalapenos do cause a kind of discomfort, but I love 'em! Same with metal music. I think a prime example of this is the song "I Am I" by Queensryche. It is an intensely uncomfortable song, but boy is it good. I don't think art in general has to have "making you feel good" as its goal. Reading We the Living caused me worse than "discomfort" but it was a great book.

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[Ayn Rand] seems to draw the observation that a greater quantity of tonal variations can result in a musical composition that can arouse a greater sense.

This does not mean that a composition with less tonal variation is "noise." It would only mean that such a composition arouses a lesser sense.

Now let's take a typical Metallica piece.  It will consist of two or three notes in the melody line, easily achieved with two or three minor chords on the guitar.  The tonal variation is so simple as to be understood by the listener as one, perhaps two, perhaps three different notes.

Even if this were generally true about Metallica's music (which it is not), it still would not mean that such music is "noise." True noise has no melody or chords whatsoever--not even simple ones.

To admit that Metallica has melodies and chord progressions--even simple ones--is to admit that it is music and not noise--in the literal sense.

Edited by MisterSwig

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The evidence for my contention may be found in Ayn Rand's discussion of music in The Romantic Manifesto.

In it she attempts, and very reasonably so, to explain how it might be possible to adapt reason to music by citing philosophy regarding tonal variations.  She seems to draw the observation that a greater quantity of tonal variations can result in a musical composition that can arouse a greater sense.  This makes a lot of sense to me.

Good. Now look up "tonal" in a dictionary. It means a sound of specific pitch, duration, and quality. Change duration while on the same pitch, and you have a tonal variance. Change the quality of the sound with the same pitch and duration, and you have a tonal variance (for example, a trumpet playing the same pitch and duration as a flute, or even the same as an electric guitar -- different quality).

Quality can be many different things such as: clean or distorted, loud or soft, muted or exaggerated, harmonic or discordant, or a number of other variations I can think of. Each of these falls under the category "tonal variance".

Because you do not like certain qualities of tonal variance (or do not acknowledge anything as a tonal variance other than pitch) is in no way "proof" that "metal is noise".

While I will agree with you that late Metallica is very primitive, not all metal music is like them (and I dare say, that Metallica post-1990 is not even metal, but nothing more than distorted pop music). If it is tonal variance you seek, try some Symphony X on for size and tell me they are "simple".

There are free MP3's of Symphony X available from the band's official website. In the context of this thread, I would recommend the songs "The Accolade" and "Awakenings".

Edited by TomL

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Under no circumstances do I ever consider trying to listen to Metal's noise as the productive use of one's mind.  Why should I process the data of some sound garbage when I could be enjoying a fine rock song like "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys?

Hahahah :thumbsup:

/endsarcasm

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"Distorted" and "discordant" are not descriptions of the quality of a tone. Rather, they are periodic interruptions, or as you say, tonal variances, embedded into a tone, or pitch. If music becomes distorted, or remains discorant, to the extent that the tones are no longer perceived as periodic vibrations, then it is no longer music, but is rather *noise*.

But "tonal" does not mean "musical". Noise and/or silence can be introduced periodically as a harmonic accent, which is a temporary disruption in the tonality of a song, but it's still a musical device. A snare drum, for example, is atonal, but it's still a musical instrument- a rhythmical one. Likewise, one tone sounded monotonously, with no introduction of melody is not musical. A test of the Emergency Broadcast System is not an example of music, but of noise, although it is "tonal".

The point is, there is are ratios of tonality/dissonance that must be maintained in a peice in order for it to be considered music. "Music" that intentionally blurs the lines between music and noise by making it "as distorted as possible" or "as dissonant (unrhythmical, non-periodic, a-tonal, etc.) as possible" yet still be considered music, is, in my oppinion, the same as any other nihilistic "modern art" which attempts to be a destruction of art.

Is Heavy Metal music or noise? Well, maybe some of it is music, some is noise, and some fluctuates. But I'd say the essential or diffinitive characteristic of Metal music is that it blurs the line between music and noise- therefore the presence of noise (random soundwaves) is a determining characteristic of Metal-- therefore you shouldn't be surprised if someone says "Metal is noise". The only legitimate argument you could make would be, "well, it contains noise, but it contains music as well". I'll leave it for you to decide what the psychology and ideology is behind such "music".

Quality can be many different things such as: clean or distorted, loud or soft, muted or exaggerated, harmonic or discordant, or a number of other variations I can think of.  Each of these falls under the category "tonal variance".

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Now let's take a typical Metallica piece.  It will consist of two or three notes in the melody line, easily achieved with two or three minor chords on the guitar.  The tonal variation is so simple as to be understood by the listener as one, perhaps two, perhaps three different notes.  Now enhance this listening experience with distortion, fuzz,  and a tone-deafening throbbing of the primitive drumbeat and you have, well, noise!

Have you bothered to listen to different pieces of Metallica throughout there career? I very much doubt you have. Try "orion", "call of ktulu", "to live is to die"... and you will see there's is far from simple three chord music.

Edited by TomL to remove a personal attack

Edited by TomL

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Sheer igorance about this kind of music! Have you bothered to listen to different pieces of Metallica throughout there career? I very much doubt you have. Try "orion", "call of ktulu", "to live is to die"... and you will see there's is far from simple three chord music.

In fact I have.

I just listened to Symphony X's "Awakenings."

This band can blow Metallica out of the arena. No question.

They remind me of a modern day blend of the Nice, Yes, and King Crimson, with a little Queensryche thrown in for good measure. (Yes, I did like "Fly On Your Way Like an Eagle.")

(edit by Yes- yes, I like to keep it clean, too. thanks, Tom!)

Edited by Yes

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Thanks for the Symphony X recommendation, I like them a lot.

They show a lot of promise for a so-called "progressive metal" band.

Perhaps they ought to call themselves a "true progressive rock" band. Whatever they call themselves, they are a very promising talent.

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.......with a little Queensryche thrown in for good measure.  (Yes, I did like "Fly On Your Way Like an Eagle.")

I think I'm in for a correction because now I'm not sure whether it was Queensryche, Iron Maiden, or someone else who did this song back in the early 80's. OK, my fellow rock fans, help me out here! :)

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It was Iron Maiden, and the song is actually called "Flight of Icarus". It's on the album "Piece of Mind" (no that's not a typo). I was a huge Maiden fan in my teens.

Edited by TomL

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There's a lot of "noise" talk here. However, to properly criticize music - any music - you have to first understand what music really is.

Music is nothing more than sound organized in time. Traffic is noise, but if I record it, cut it up and create a rhythmic composition from it, it's now music. It may be bad music, it may be crude, but it's still music.

Does music have to have "tones"? Ask a professional percussionist that.

The issue that this "noise" commentary exposes is that - as in all creative endeavors - morality defines the composer's material. Music, like all other art, is a selective recreation of reality based on the composer's value-judgements (to adapt Rand).

If there's a composer that wishes to express primal urges of anger or frustration, he might be Rage Against the Machine - he could be Shostakovich writing "Leningrad". If there's a composer that feels a transcendant happiness, he might be Rachmaninoff - he might be Brian Setzer leading a big band. Is a concerto more "genuine" music than swing? More harmonically and melodically complex, sure, but no less honest or sophisticated.

Additionally, a musician's intent is part of the morality of composition. John Cage and other "indeterminacy" engineers (for lack of a better term - I don't dare call them artists) did not organize sound - their aim was disorganized sound, and that cannot be considered music because it takes man's mind completely out of the "creative" process.

What of a jazz player who improvises, then? It sounds random to the listener who is unfamiliar with the technique, but it is indeed music (perfomance composition) because the improvisor is aware (on some level) of every note and rhythm before it is played.

The deeper your understanding of music as a form of art, the more sophisticated purpose it serves in your life. But as that understanding comes, tastes change - and it's good that they do - but don't allow your gut reaction to music change your identification of it as such.

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Music is nothing more than sound organized in time. Traffic is noise, but if I record it, cut it up and create a rhythmic composition from it, it's now music. It may be bad music, it may be crude, but it's still music.

If music is *nothing* more than sound organized in time, then all sound that is in any way "organized" would be considered music-- sound bytes from the news, bird calls, talk radio shows, etc. This definition is no less arbitrary than saying, "Graphic art is nothing more than something you hang on a wall." Sound organized in time must be *periodic* in order to be considered music.

Does music have to have "tones"? Ask a professional percussionist that.

Is tap dancing considered music? I've played the drums for years, as well as other instruments.. But I wouldn't be so quick to say that a rhythm alone is music until some kind of melody is added. But some metal music and/or free form jazz is so much disconected drum rolls and crash-cymbal strikes that I don't know if I'd even call it rhythmic.

What of a jazz player who improvises, then? It sounds random to the listener who is unfamiliar with the technique, but it is indeed music (perfomance composition) because the improvisor is aware (on some level) of every note and rhythm before it is played.

It's possible for a jazz player to improvise without sounding random at all, depending on their technique. If their "technique" is based around creating music that sounds completely random, as in so called "free jazz," I would hesitate to call it music. I don't think John Cage was any less aware of what he was doing than such improvisers.

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Interesting thread.

I have personally pondered many of the questions you metal fans have made in relation to a personal taste I have, which happens to be Electronic Dance Music. This is the music most of you would associate with raves; yes this is the "sound of the jungle played in stinking" basements. This however does not mean that I endorse drug induced mind stunting activities, I simply enjoy the beats and a well constructed house or trance track which actually requires some creativity to produce. I enjoy the happy, uplifted, sense of life that is possible to find among people who are also in the scene, despite their often destructive and contradictory premises. I try to offer my own views and philosophy as an alternative (ie. objective reality as opposed to drug induced escapism and achievement as the true pathway to happiness).

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I wholeheartedly urge you to listen to a song or two from the following bands, and tell me metal is "noise":

Nightwish: A metal band with a classically trained female opera singer.

Dream Theater: A progressive metal band with a guitarist that has been compared to Satriani and Vai.

(Edited to remove an impolite remark.)

Edited by softwareNerd

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Music is sound organized in time - that's it. Composition is the artful craft of writing music.

I do not think this is accurate or exclusive enough for a strict defintion. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary gives this:

Music: 1 a : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony

As an Objectivist seriously concerned with proper defintions, I am not sure this is even exclusive enough. But, in my estimation, the essential component here is "to produce a composition having unity". With this in mind it is possible to say that one may create a piece of music using damn near any "auditory object" provided that object is a pure enough tone to be heard by a human ear & understandable to a human mind as note specific.

On a related note, percussion instruments (i.e. snare drums, cymbals, etc.) are not strictly speaking "atonal" or "non-tonal". Classically they are referred to as "having indefinite pitch". As opposed to instruments which have "definite pitch", meaning that tones it produces have a clearly established fundamental pitch & overtone series.

Because, however, they are still identifiable though their qualities, I have never personally been satisfied with this classification. I had this to say in a music essay about this topic:

"Describe the proper function of percussion instruments.

Their proper function is the same as any musical instrument: To provide useful, coherent, integrated melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and thematic information. One point of elaboration: classically, percussion instruments are divided into two categories: ones with specific pitch, and ones with indefinite pitch. I do not regard the second category as a proper conceptual division. By its nature, EVERY sound has a pitch (or several pitches, fundamentals, and/or overtones). Cymbals and snare drums are typically placed in this category. However, I have noticed that melodically and harmonically they can be used and made or tuned to provide a satisfactory as well as an unsatisfactory pitch relative to the context in which they are placed. Therefore, I do not buy the "indefinite pitch" idea. It sounds, to me, like a lazy cop-out. I am pleased that manufacturers produce a variety of different sounding cymbals and snare drums that can be tuned."

...the sonic cartoons of a sophisticated Zappa guitar solo...

THAT is the most concise & accurate statement about FZ's solos I have ever heard! Bravo! :D Rather than an extended list of adjectives (complex, irreverent, witty, off-kilter, rhythmically wacky, funny, fun-loving, ETC.) you have summed up perfectly the emotional reaction I have to hearing FZ blast through "The Black Page", "Black Napkinks", or "Heavy Duty Judy".

Did you make that up or hear it, read it somewhere? Can I use that?! Ever since reading this I have been laughing about it. Good stuff.

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It was Iron Maiden, and the song is actually called "Flight of Icarus".  It's on the album "Piece of Mind" (no that's not a typo).  I was a huge Maiden fan in my teens.

Thanks for the clarification, Tom.

Although I was not a fan of Iron Maiden, I thought this was a fine effort on their part.

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I am a huge metal fan. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it. It's certainly not "noise". In fact, it's orders of magnitude better in composition and in virtuosic performance than mainstream pop and hip-hop (the latter of which is, accurately, "noise").

For those who liked Symphony X at first listen (aren't they good?), you might try listening to other power metal, such as Stratovarius, Rhapsody, Nightwish, Kamelot, Evergrey, Dark Moor, or Avantasia, as well.

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I think we come into an issue of aesthetics here, which are partly the product of personal preferences.

I listened to a couple of Symphony X samples, after following this thread. I am trying to understand what some are arguing here.

My observations are basic:

The tempo is fast, the skill level to perform the patterns of sounds, live, is, no doubt, superb. There is a level of complexity on a thematic level, but most of the complexity is on a smaller scale of the immediate size of a measure. Yes, it takes tremendous skill to play this with real instruments (not computer sequenced MIDI).

The other observation is that listening to this is about as pleasurable as fingers across a chalkboard.

So, all that skill and virtuosity is lost on this listener.

There are many reasons to listen to music. Some of them are:

Inner solitude, introspection

Visceral "animal" gut expression

Celebration of joy

Mourning of loss

I listen to a vast array of musical styles, excepting RAP, Hip-Hop and Country/Western. My favorite is often played symphonically. There are pieces of music that take one on a virtual journey through that inner space of the mind, without leaving the room. Music that is complex, ever-changing--yet maintaining its context, built upon melodies of such uplifting beauty.

I became acutely aware of this while hosting my weekly radio show last night. I was hearing a piece of music from "Mononoke Hime" by Joe Hisaishi. It was from a "Symphonic Suite" and the piece was a requiem. Despite that fact, four minutes into the piece, there were portions of it that were so intricate, so uplifting and so cleverly constructed like a grand puzzle, that I was just aghast at the genius of the music. I could listen to that Requiem over and over again and never tire of it. As I listened to what could be termed an 'adagio', I was hearing the melody, and underneath it, a complex sub melody played by cellos, so smoothly blended together that it just made for a case of "sonic nirvana." Many thematic variations emerge; you can't predict what is going to happen next, it is all so unexpected, but perfectly integrated into the framework of the music. And that, to me, is musical genius.

Maybe I'll put a sample up on my web site and provide a link later, so my description has some examples. Compared to such music, "Metal" just doesn't exist in the same universe.

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I've put together some example excerpts of what I consider to be real music, both from a scholarly viewpoint, as well as from an aesthetic one.

I have provided private links to short excerpt clips in MP3 format. All clips total 15.9MB, so feel free to download them all and compare.

The clips represent what I feel are the pinnacle of musical thematic development, beautiful melodic structure and classically-inspired orchestration.

Emphasis on melody in "Sophie's Tomorrow" from the new Miyazaki film:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-Howl...9;sTomorrow.mp3

Here, the emphasis is on a dramatic theme, dark, mysterious, but developmental in this exerpt from Sailor Moon Symphonic Poem:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-Sailor...em-DarkIntr.mp3

This intricate piece involves many thematic variations, all integrated ingeniusly together to form an integrated whole in Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-JoeHis...ite-Requiem.mp3

This hypnotically-beautiful piece develops a climactic plateau in "Nausicaä's Theme":

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-JoeHis...eyoftheWind.mp3

This bewitching melody transforms in sonic shape & texture while straddling the line between scary and beautiful:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-MAGIC_...TRA_VERSION.mp3

A beautiful melody that changes like the seasons, with many thematic variations and mood changes all integrated into the whole:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-NobuoU...n-MainTheme.mp3

If ever a piece of music "spoke" to me, I'd have to say this one is it. I would even say this melody communicates a sense of "sincerity". If you listen closely, you can almost get a sense of words coming from the music in Norihiro Tsuru's "I Will":

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-Norihi...ntSun-IWill.mp3

A stunningly beautiful melody of awakening. Simple, but the right choice of notes on the piano and virtuosic playing on the cello:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-Please...e-Awakening.mp3

Stunning beauty, masterfully-orchestrated, is this excerpt from RaXephon:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-RAHXEP...foreYouKnow.mp3

This takes us into another realm. I call it a "sonic narcotic" because I could swear my brain was smoking after listening to this music. Synthesized, but shows what the right combination of notes, tempo, rhythm and sequence can do, as well as the sound qualities themselves:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-X_OST2...uuNaTatakai.mp3

Another melody of beautfiful nature. Each as magnificent as any Classical great from the past:

http://www.dv-clips.com/mp3/Excerpt-X_TV-OST2-Omoi.mp3

Did anyone else find these emotionally moving?

Did they not touch emotions that "Metal" leaves cold?

Do they not "resonate" with your values?

Edited by mweiss

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Why are some of you trying so desperately to deride others' taste in music? It's a matter of taste, simple enough. There's no changing that I feel that metal is the best music out there, and probably no changing your opinions contrary either.

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