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The Psychology Of Metal Music

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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.

I think it's a stretch to say that Metal is the best music out there.

I will admit, however, that much of this boils down to taste.

:pimp:

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Well I am a post-Objectivist rather than an orthodox (being "If Rand said it, its true") Objectivist, and I tend to have a taste in music that most people consider "Gothic," so I disagree with Rand's aesthetics.

Art CAN be a concretization of philsophical concepts but I have never 'needed' to grasp a philosophy through art. In fact, the first thing I read by Rand was a non-fiction essay (Requiem for Man). It took me a while before I started reading her fiction.

My favorite artists are Botticelli and Kandinsky. Radically different styles quite obviously. I love Botticelli's romantic, sensual style, and Kandinsky's chaotic abstract interplay of colors and forms appeals to me. Both are things that I find beautiful, albiet in different ways.

Also, musically, I listen to electro-Industrial and EBM. This is not happy music. It is dark, depressing, violent, but melodic, catchy and danceable. May I recommend "Empires" by VNV Nation? (Some reviewers have actually stated the lyrics remind them of Ayn Rand)

I consider Rand's aesthetics asserted, not proved. I do not consider it a proper component of Objectivism. I enjoy art whose philosophy can be seen as monstrously nihilistic, but I enjoy it on a non-philosophical level.

Although I am not an Anarcho-Capitalist (I am a Hayekian Minarchist), I think Murray Rothbard was right in his play "Mozart Was A Red." By the end of it all, Rand was losing it. She preached cognitive independence as a virtue, yet punished any dissent with excommunication. Quite frankly, I think that she ended up being very unreasonable.

If I had to rationalise art, I say that any art that represents rebellion and freedom works for me. I love renegades. I find the lonesome, windswept rogue, who neither bows nor subjugates, an incredibly romantic image. Any artist that promotes thinking for yourself and NOT letting others think for you is one I like. Any artist whose work makes me feel defiant and proud is an artist I enjoy. I think, however, that this is a reflectilon of my ethics moreso than my epistemology.

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By the end of it all, Rand was losing it. She preached cognitive independence as a virtue, yet punished any dissent with excommunication. Quite frankly, I think that she ended up being very unreasonable.

This is not the Rand-bashing forum. I think you took a wrong turn somewhere.

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Why do those comments necessarily constitute "bashing," as opposed to honest criticism? Is it necessarily impossible for a rational human being with enlightened self-interest in mind to criticise a philosopher for what might appear to be a deviation from the philosophy she's created and otherwise practices?

Or is it just necessarily impossible to do so on these boards?

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Why do [Andy_X69's] comments necessarily constitute "bashing," as opposed to honest criticism?

First of all, this thread is about metal music, and it's located in the aesthetics forum. Thus one might ask: Why did Andy_X69 feel compelled to tell us his opinion of Ayn Rand's personal behavior in this aesthetics thread on metal music? Does this have anything to do with his enjoyment of "monstrously nihilistic art?" I don't think so.

That single Rand-bashing paragraph (which I quoted) is monstrously placed and reveals Andy_X69's nihilistic purpose for being here. If you read his post carefully, you'll notice that that paragraph has no objective relationship to the rest of his post. Its sole purpose is to inject his anti-Rand rhetoric into this forum. And I strongly object to such behavior--especially when Andy_X69 offers absolutely no evidence for his assertion.

Indeed, his only attempt at proof is a clear straw man. He claims that Rand "preached cognitive independence as a virtue, yet punished any dissent with excommunication." Any serious "post-Objectivist" such as Andy_X69 should know that Rand did not preach "cognitive independence as a virtue." What she did teach was that "rationality" and "independence" were two separate, distinct virtues. Nowhere does she identify "cognitive independence" as a virtue.

It's not too clear what Andy_X69 actually means by "cognitive independence." I don't know where that term comes from. But if he means something like "free will," then he should also know, as a "post-Objectivist," that Rand held free will (or volition) as an axiom, not a virtue.

It seems clear to me that Andy_X69 is still upset, for whatever reason, that Ayn Rand exercised her right to disassociate herself from certain people. And now he has come here to inject periodically his unsupported opinion that Ayn Rand was "unreasonable."

That is why I called Andy_X69 a Rand-basher. His post contains an unsupported, fallacious attack on Rand's character.

P.S. I also want to point out that even if Andy_X69 defines "cognitive independence" in the same way that Rand defines "independence," his statement still contains another straw man. For, Rand did not punish "any dissent with excommunication." She continued many relationships with all sorts of people who did not agree with her on certain issues. What she did do, however, was disassociate herself from the people whom she judged to be bad for her and her philosophical movement.

Edited by MisterSwig

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I think we are not trying to deride certain music for the sake of be contrarian; rather, we are trying to define what makes music and non-music and what the difference between good and bad music is.

I think it comes down to two things:

The amount of effort that went into composing/performing (ie., complexity, thematic development)

and

Sense of life. (whether the music is uplifting or depressing)

For me, I find "Metal" quite malphonic. It's an irritation to hear, rather like listening to a jackhammer, fingernails scratching on a blackboard and a circular saw trying to cut through steel, all at the same time.

OTOH, the musical examples I posted two messages back in this thread, represent the high ground near the pinnacle of the criteria I pointed out.

I have to wonder just what type of person can listen to and like "Metal" and other types of "music" with such unpleasant sense of life. I have long held the opinion that rock music and Objectivism were the antithesis of eachother.

I was even surprised when the Leonard Peikoff Show (later Andrew Lewis) used rock music for the bumper music. While Phil Collins isn't all that terrible, I have a difficult time placing it in the arena of Objectivist music.

Back in '68, I attended Dr. Alan Blumenthal's piano concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC. He played Classical pieces. That was the sort of music I came to associate with Objectivism.

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we are trying to define . . .  what the difference between good and bad music is.

I think it comes down to two things:

The amount of effort that went into composing/performing (ie., complexity, thematic development)

and

Sense of life. (whether the music is uplifting or depressing)

How do these criteria interact? (e.g. What weight is each to be given? Do they operate on a sliding scale?)

What weight, if any, is to be given to the listener's or composer's intended purpose? We're not dealing with this stuff in a vacuum, after all. Is a simple blues song bad, or less good, even though I just want a little music to relax to and that's what the composer intended it to be used for? Maybe listening to John Petrucci's blazing fingers doesn't always suit my purpose. (I'm not ripping on John Petrucci, I like a lot of Dream Theater. You want to talk about uplifting? In addition to being technically admirable, that small happy guitar solo section in "Erotomania" is one of the most uplifting passages of music I've found.)

I'm not saying that the grilled cheese sandwich and the 747 are comparable in terms of creative effort required. What I want to know is how, if at all, you can say that one is "better" than the other. It seems to me that there may be a contextual issue here, i.e. that they serve different purposes.

In the context of our present conversation, perhaps certain types of music serve such different purposes that they cannot fairly be compared at all.

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I have to wonder just what type of person can listen to and like "Metal" and other types of "music" with such unpleasant sense of life.

I enjoy a lot of music in the rock style. I find some of it depressing. However, I heard a song on the radio recently. I don't remember the name or artist. One of the sections involved some screaming. Ordinarily, I don't care for screaming, but something struck me about this particular section.

The lyrics went something like: "I'm gonna take my life as far as I can take it; I believe that you can do anything that you put your mind to."

It was quite a thing for me, because I've often found myself disregarding lyrical content to enjoy this style, and I usually don't enjoy screaming period. But here, the lyrics, in combination with the heavy drums and guitars, made me feel happy. I jumped and moved around and "grooved" in a very joyful way. I was pleasantly surprised at how positively charged up that passage made me feel.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting the idea of "sense of life." Maybe I'm inappropriately considering lyrical content. But I must disagree that heavy music is inherently "unpleasant." Though I think it generally is in this style, the passage from this song was certainly not for me.

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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.

I view sifting through noise to be a needless chore, and, thus, an impediment upon my pursuit of happiness.  Hardly qualifies as an intellectual exercise of any order.

I'm going to go out on a REALLY far limb and guess that you don't like metal music. (Nothing you have said so far, brought me to this point.... :P )

I like some heavy music. I think that music should reflect the lyrics or the intended story or purpose of the piece. In that context, I think metal has a place (Although, Christian Metal still has me baffled...."I love Jesus, I love Jesus......RAWR!!! duhn, duhn duhn...."). Personally, I would not use an oboe to suggest my deep anger about something, but distorted guitar (since anger can blind or blur your senses, the blurring of sound is an appropriate analogy) or distorted bass would be appropriate. Personally, I really like all types of music and can see purpose in them (well, maybe not techno.... :D ) I've said in other threads that my favorite music is prog rock (my definition- Rock music with classical influence). I like complex music, but without definition or a goal for that song, it's no good to me. Taking Rush's 2112 (a VERY objectivist piece), which has influenced many a metal player (being a very heavy piece, especially the overture), is influenced by classical music. The Overture follows a French overture to a "T" and the musicianship is phenominal throughout the entire thing.

HOWEVER, I don't like bands like Korn or Limp Bizkit where it is (to me) just a slur of noise and swearing (which I REALLY hate in music). But, strangely, I do like Linkin Park (uplifting lyrics, and catchy riffs). On the same note, I love Beethoven, Stravinsky, and several other classical composers for many of the same reasons.

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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!

I don't think any of those artists are attempting to stand on the same pedestal as those you listed.

Metal bands built their own pedestal (painted black, with red blood [paint] dripping off and a headless bat laying on it) :D

Out of curiousity, what are we defining as metal here? I don't listen to black metal, but I'll listen to pop metal. Is Rush metal? What about King Crimson? How much distortion do you need before it becomes metal? Jimi Hendrix? Was he metal?

Edited by Styles2112

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I don't think any of those artists are attempting to stand on the same pedestal as those you listed.

Metal bands built their own pedestal (painted black, with red blood [paint] dripping off and a headless bat laying on it) :P

Strongly inclined to agree with that :D

Out of curiousity, what are we defining as metal here? I don't listen to black metal, but I'll listen to pop metal. Is Rush metal? What about King Crimson? How much distortion do you need before it becomes metal? Jimi Hendrix? Was he metal?

I used to term it "hard rock." -the kind of music that relies on high volume, distortion, and a thunderous beat. Hard Rock is a broader, yet focused category that includes such bands as Cream, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, etc.

I don't recall the term "metal" prior to 1971, when a group like Black Sabbath was termed by a music critic as being "heavy metal."

I'm not sure what black metal or pop metal really means, and who are examples of that form of noise. :lol:

Edited by Yes

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In music, I think you're meant to hear the whole piece and most (to nearly everyone who posted) only listen to one part or one area of a song/piece. This is, of course, a personal opinion, but when I listen to something EVERYTHING needs to be there. I like some metal/hard rock. I listen to things that I, myself, personally write and have to decide whether it would sound better clean (and on what instrument) or "dirtied" up a bit. It really depends on what the song (lyrics) is trying to convey. It's my thought that the music needs to reflect the idea being put forth. So, YES, much of metal is heavy and dreary because the lyrics themselves are dreary. That's not to say that it couldn't be happy or life affirming. Sometimes, one loves something SO much that a cleanly produced instrument cannot create the FULLNESS of that emotion. Distortion can. I have many arguments with my bassist because he has the same basic view as you (i.e. distortion is just to cover poor musicianship) to which I completely disagree. I really think that each sound needs to serve it's purpose, be it a violin, cowbell, distorted guitar, or school book (think John Cage). I have heard some AMAZINGLY talented metal bands (and I can judge despite my not liking their music), most of which are underground, or not well known.

Edited by Styles2112

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What about King Crimson?

'21st Century Schizoid Man' is quite possibly the best heavy metal song of all time, but aside from that I think they are groovyrockfunkjazzkindabrilliantwithatwist. :worry:

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Personally I like music that "touches" different aspects of myself. I don´t fully understand how it works, but for example... I love the delicate beauty of Sarah Brightmans voice, and I like Phil Anselmo´s screams in Pantera when i´m in mood for something more agressive. Rush´s 'Bravado' or Yes 'Heart of the sunrise' always lifts my spirits, and Tindersticks always gives me that warm feeling. Prog-rock/metal or fusion often excites me, and I admire the virtuosity. I get different things from different music, and I think that is good as long as I gain something positive from it.

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I dont really think it makes sense to compare metal to classical music - they represent not only different sty;es of music, but different approaches to listening to music. I think that Western classical music generally emphasises a more detached style of listening - the music becomes an object of contemplation, something to be analysed from a distance. Enjoyment ('appreciation') of the music often derived from close study and analysis, in the same way which you would study a painting in an art gallery. Metal is more immediate - the music isnt really something to be studied from outside, its something to be felt and lived from inside. Enjoying metal is largely about feeling the passion and raw energy which the music carries. It's not intended to be listened to while sitting in a dark room with your eyes closed, just like classical music isnt intended to be listened to while dancing about your bedroom in your underwear. To put it simplistically, the difference between classical and metal can be concretised as the difference between the concert hall and the mosh pit. Its not that one is 'better' than the other, its just two different things which I would claim are largely incommensurable.

edit: there are different degrees of this. Some very technical metal can indeed be analysed like classical music due to the high amounts of complexity and instrumentation it has (Dream Theatre and The Mars Volta are good examples). And some types of music are even more involving that metal - trance and house for instance. I dont think classical music could ever have the sense of unity and full body/mind engagement, the feeling of being completely part of the music while the outside world disappears, which you can get from (eg) dancing to hard trance in a loud, busy club. A good moshpit may come close though (I wouldnt know, having never attended a metal concert).

If you start out thinking that music should have one purpose, then its easy to say one type of music is 'better' than another based on how well it fufills that purpose. But different people listen to music for different reasons, hence they may well find your arguments irrelevant even while accepting they are true.

edit2: Regarding the 'noise' comments, I dont really understand this. There are several bands I like which I would completely understand someone classifying as being 'just noise' and 'not music' , although I would obviously disagree (Animal Collective and Dillinger's Escape Plan come to mind, although the former arent metal). And I could also understand why someone would say the same about many hardcore punk and emo bands. But how perple can claim that Metallica are 'just noise' is beyond me - their music isnt really that heavy, and is sometimes quite melodic (especially the Black Album - listen to "The Unforgiven" or something like that).

edit3: And as the above poster says, a lot of it can come down to mood. I'm not a big metal fan and it isnt the sort of music I normally listen to - there are times when I will listen to it and basically just hear noise. But there are other times I will listen to the same music and think it sounds great. It really just depends what youre in the mood for listening to. If I want to relax then I'm not going to put on hardcore punk, and likewise if I just want to sit quietly in a dark room for a while.

Ok I think this post is finished now :o

Edited by Hal

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I dont really think it makes sense to compare metal to classical music - they represent not only different sty;es of music, but different approaches to listening to music. I think that Western classical music generally emphasises a more detached style of listening - the music becomes an object of contemplation, something to be analysed from a distance. Enjoyment ('appreciation') of the music often derived from close study and analysis, in the same way which you would study a painting in an art gallery. Metal is more immediate - the music isnt really something to be studied from outside, its something to be felt and lived from inside. Enjoying metal is largely about feeling the passion and raw energy which the music carries. It's not intended to be listened to while sitting in a dark room with your eyes closed, just like classical music isnt intended to be listened to while dancing about your bedroom in your underwear. To put it simplistically, the difference between classical and metal can be concretised as the difference between the concert hall and the mosh pit. Its not that one is 'better' than the other, its just two different things which I would claim are largely incommensurable.

edit: there are different degrees of this. Some very technical metal can indeed be analysed like classical music due to the high amounts of complexity and instrumentation it has (Dream Theatre and The Mars Volta are good examples). And some types of music are even more involving that metal - trance and house for instance. I dont think classical music could ever have the sense of unity and full body/mind engagement, the feeling of being completely part of the music while the outside world disappears, which you can get from (eg) dancing to hard trance in a loud, busy club. A good moshpit may come close though (I wouldnt know, having never attended a metal concert).

I disagree...I can totally get into many Classical works even more than I could get into metal. Maybe I just "listen" to classical wrong, but there's some stuff that can be as/ or more rockin' than much rock. On the other hand, I think trance/house music is some of the worst stuff out there.

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Now, back to the music. Is it a contradiction that I am an Objectivist, yet like non-Objectivist music? Or is it simply a psychological matter and not a philosophical one? Like I said, it does not negatively affect me, it is just the only sound that attracts me.

We are all really inspired by different types of melody and rhythm. Now if you find something musically envigorating, you will do so regardless of the lyrics.

To deny yourself these pleasure's based on the fact that the creators aren't an "objectivist band" would surely be detrimental to your enjoyment of music.

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I dont really think it makes sense to compare metal to classical music - they represent not only different sty;es of music, but different approaches to listening to music.

They can be considered differently due to different contexts, perspectives, listeners preferences, etc. But they do share a similar formal language: western tonality. Therefore it is possible to compare them is some ways. Some comparison is done by referring to some metal music "Neo-Classical Metal". Much of it is really more Baroque (i.e. "Bach & Roll") in form, melody & harmonic structure than Classical per se, but the general association and identification still rings true.

I think that Western classical music generally emphasises a more detached style of listening - the music becomes an object of contemplation, something to be analysed from a distance...

Some people do this. Doesn't mean it's a "standard" reaction or conceptual tag.

... just like classical music isnt intended to be listened to while dancing about your bedroom in your underwear.

Why not? I have many times! :) Really, though, I love the passion, drama, excitement & RAW POWER of some classical pieces. A good orchestra blasting away on the first or fourth movement of Beethoven's 7th (for example) can easily rival a metal band or song for sheer raw energy.

I dont think classical music could ever have the sense of unity and full body/mind engagement...

Again, why not? I can appreciate that it may not have this effect on you. But it does on me.

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Yes Christopher I think you make some good points. It is purely subjective of someone to say "I dont think classical music could ever have the sense of unity and full body/mind engagement....." (as metal). We just can't make the assumptions that classical music can't do for one person what rock/metal does for another.

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Yes Christopher I think you make some good points. It is purely subjective of someone to say "I dont think classical music could ever have the sense of unity and full body/mind engagement....." (as metal). We just can't make the assumptions that classical music can't do for one person what rock/metal does for another.

I would like to add this introspective observation: there are many pieces of classical/romantic music which cause me to literally stand up with an exultation which runs through my whole mind and body, and in some instances I am filled with the urge to walk through walls, pushing all obstacles aside (or destroying evil-doers, as the case may be). The nature of these actions is value-oriented, that is, the kind of actions, if taken in a non-musical context, would lead to the attainment of values or to the destruction of disvalues. However, a mere following the rhythm, or the beat, with feet or clapping hands, is action which is not value oriented. That is why the emotional and visceral effects of a great symphony are much more valuable to me---in listening, I am fully alive and going somewhere, achieving something with heart, mind and spirit. The world is great and beautiful and I am central to it. When I listen to most rock and heavy metal, it's like I'm very vigorously going nowhere----the world is loud, but small.

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Why not? I have many times! :worry: Really, though, I love the passion, drama, excitement & RAW POWER of some classical pieces. A good orchestra blasting away on the first or fourth movement of Beethoven's 7th (for example) can easily rival a metal band or song for sheer raw energy.

Again, why not? I can appreciate that it may not have this effect on you. But it does on me.

I admit that, ironically, I was too hasty in assuming that my experiences generalised. Although I do enjoy some classical music, I dont (and doubt that I could) listen to it in the same manner that I listen to metal. But yes, theres no reason to assume that this applies to everyone. However, I do think that theres a qualitative difference between the experience of (eg) listening to a Beethoven piece in a concert hall and dancing to trance music at a rave, but I'm not sure how to put it into words (my use of a vague phrase like "sense of unity and full body/mind engagement" probably gave this away).

Edited by Hal

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Why not? I have many times! :worry: Really, though, I love the passion, drama, excitement & RAW POWER of some classical pieces. A good orchestra blasting away on the first or fourth movement of Beethoven's 7th (for example) can easily rival a metal band or song for sheer raw energy.

Again, why not? I can appreciate that it may not have this effect on you. But it does on me.

Man, I love your commentary on music. I actually have a little dance I do to Beethoven's Piano Sonata 3 especially if I am sick because it becomes my little "rebellion".

Not only is classical music good for listening to in your underwear, it is also good for simple old fist pumping. Where the hell do you think it came from, everybody? Tchaikovsky had the news.

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I have question that's a little off topic: Where did you get the name, MentzerLivesOn? Are you a fan of the late Mike Mentzer? Just curious.

I strongly disagree with your assessment: Objectivists condemn those things they see as a destructive and harmful to a reality/life oriented ethics. However, it is certainly not totalitarian: They never claim that force or government action should be used to enforce artistic standards; such controls are at the very heart of totalitarianism, and objectivists oppose this sort of government more vehemently than anybody else. To express one's opinion freely and to "vote with your dollar"---on the other hand---is the opposite of totalitarianism; it is the individual living his life on his terms and actively supporting his values.

Furthermore, art has objective meaning just as language does: Musical taste reflects aspects of the psychology of the hearer. Now, I do not mean to insult you; you seem like a fine young man. However, if somebody were to watch almost exclusively slasher movies (and not merely out of childish curiousity but as their primary means of distraction), I would fear for his psychological stability since slasher films are, by their very construction, contrary to life [in general, I think pretty young co-eds are better when they are alive; and I would dare to say that this is not merely a matter of personal taste either]. A penchant for heavy metal is similar to a penchant towards watching slashing movies.

What is the purpose of heavy metal's lack of clear melody; what is the purpose of the unfocused screaming in heavy metal music; why does heavy metal reject every aspect of musical form and structure? It is not merely to portray anger. Much brilliant classical music is angry; the portrayal of anger is a frequent classical theme, just as it ought to be since righteous anger is a valid and even noble emotion. However, heavy metal's denial of melody, harmony, and every other traditional aspect of musical structure is not a necessity of portraying anger: it is a necesity of portraying blind rage, which is a very different beast. By denying the mind all the ques that orient it within a musical peice---that constitute the very meaning of that peice---the heavy metal musician shows the true target of his anger, not injustice but the mind itself.

Edited by Franklin

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I admit that, ironically, I was too hasty in assuming that my experiences generalised. Although I do enjoy some classical music, I dont (and doubt that I could) listen to it in the same manner that I listen to metal. But yes, theres no reason to assume that this applies to everyone. However, I do think that theres a qualitative difference between the experience of (eg) listening to a Beethoven piece in a concert hall and dancing to trance music at a rave, but I'm not sure how to put it into words (my use of a vague phrase like "sense of unity and full body/mind engagement" probably gave this away).

This is exactly the problem, how to explain musical opinions in words. I have got better at this for sure, but sometimes you might have an extremely valid point but not be able to get it through because you just can't find the words or the description. It's very frustrating.

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What is the purpose of heavy metal's lack of clear melody; what is the purpose of the unfocused screaming in heavy metal music; why does heavy metal reject every aspect of musical form and structure? It is not merely to portray anger. Much brilliant classical music is angry; the portrayal of anger is a frequent classical theme, just as it ought to be since righteous anger is a valid and even noble emotion. However, heavy metal's denial of melody, harmony, and every other traditional aspect of musical structure is not a necessity of portraying anger: it is a necesity of portraying blind rage, which is a very different beast. By denying the mind all the ques that orient it within a musical peice---that constitute the very meaning of that peice---the heavy metal musician shows the true target of his anger, not injustice but the mind itself.

What metal music have you listened to? :confused:

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