We don’t need no high-cost, high­brow, heavy me­tal ed­u­ca­tion

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

They’re sign­ing up as we speak for a two-year de­gree course in heavy me­tal mu­sic (be­lieved to be the first of its kind), which be­gins in Septem­ber in a col­lege in Not­ting­ham. Two years seems a bit ex­ces­sive. For a mod­est fee (and ex­penses) I could get those two years down to five sec­onds: “Wear black, play loud, sing about death.” Class dis­missed.

Ig­nor­ing the fact that me­tal­heads will­ing to pay £5,750 a year in course fees might be bet­ter off spend­ing the money on per­sonal hy­giene prod­ucts and learn­ing ba­sic so­cial skills, com­men­ta­tors are fo­cus­ing on this “academi­sa­tion” of heavy me­tal be­cause the re­ceived wis­dom is that me­tal is rock’n’roll at its dumb­est. Which is kind of the point. Who wants a mu­si­cal world full of Thom Yorkes?

The de­gree or­gan­is­ers are loftily talk­ing up the course by us­ing terms such as “cul­ture” and “con­text”. They point out that you can study mu­sic at Ox­ford, Cam­bridge or any other univer­sity, but that this “genre” de­gree is unique.

“Heavy me­tal is an ex­tremely tech­ni­cal genre of mu­sic and its study is a ris­ing aca­demic theme,” they say. Me­tal is “se­ri­ously stud­ied in con­ser­va­toires in Helsinki”, has clas­si­cal mu­sic roots, and lead­ing axe-men such as Joe Sa­tri­ani in­cor­po­rate the works of Pa­ganini in their oeu­vre.

In­deed. But that Helsinki Univer­sity aca­demic trea­tise, Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Heavy Me­tal Chord Struc­tures – Their Acous­tic and Modal Con­struc­tion, is about as in­ter­est­ing as a 10-minute me­tal drum solo. As for Sa­tri­ani us­ing Pa­ganini, big swing­ing Stra­to­caster – The Beach Boys have used Bach.

The me­tal de­gree is there mainly be­cause the peo­ple be­hind it feel the genre lacks aca­demic cred­i­bil­ity com­pared with jazz and clas­si­cal mu­sic.

First of all, you can’t put Me­gadeth up against Miles Davis (that’s like com­par­ing and con­trast­ing Jedward and Tom Waits). And if me­tal isn’t taken se­ri­ously, it’s be­cause half the time it comes across as more chore­ographed than an all-in wrestling match and makes your aver­age panto look like Ib­sen. There’s more hair and make-up on show at an aver­age me­tal gig than then at a Girls Aloud per­for­mance.

Apart from writ­ing es­says and giv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions about the his­tory of heavy me­tal (for the love of God!), stu­dents who go on to the sec­ond year will be shoved out to play some gigs as part of their course re­quire­ment. Whereas some stu­dents are sent into ob­scure, draughty rooms and given dead an­i­mals or dead bod­ies to prac­tice on, heavy me­tal de­gree stu­dents will be giv­ing it the “Hello Cleve­land!” in or­der to earn course cred­its – an ap­palling vista.

The big­ger is­sue here is that you sim­ply can’t teach rock’n’roll. You can learn about con­tracts, pub­lish­ing, man­age­ment and all the other an­cil­lary stuff, but peer­ing at chord pro­gres­sions and writ­ing es­says on “riffs” is the last thing you should do if you want to rock. And be­fore some­one says “but Adele went to the Brit school”, Adele would have hap­pened any­way, and what about all of her class­mates who never made it?

A de­gree in heavy me­tal mu­sic? A pass­port to a job in Burger King more like. bboyd@irish­times.com

Joe Sa­tri­ani: Pa­ganini pas­sages

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.