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Genre & Music

Music is a very broad subject to tackle. Under the music category are numerous sub-topics are very difficult to entirely encompass and discussed. Among the different music genres available, heavy metal is one of the most prominent. As such, this paper shall tackle and discuss the important topics related to heavy metal. Heavy Metal is an example of musical genre, as distinguished by literature writer Franco Fabbri. It has identified technical rules, developed ideologies, and behavior rules for its audience as well as the musicians. It also has social rules, and a history that presented its evolution.

Technical Rules According to Fabbri, there are formal or technical rules that a certain music must satisfy for it to be able to be classified within a particular genre. It may be true that a genre has to follow a typical form; however, adherence to such criteria is not the only means for classifying a genre. Although this serves as a significant factor in defining a genre, it is not entirely sufficient (Fabbri). In the case of heavy metal, there are technical rules and conventional beliefs that have helped establish this genre into how it is known today.

Heavy metal is defined as the type of music which involves the mixture of the loud blues rock and psychedelic distortions of the 60’s. It is best characterized by powerful virtuosic guitar riffs, and heavy drums and bass. Most of the songs classified in this genre have aggressive, driving rhythms, and grandiose lyrics (Lilja). In the musicological point of view, heavy metal features the “power chord” or that which heavy metal musicians refer to as a chord consisting only of an interval of the fifth or the fourth with possible octave doublings.

According to musicologists, this is the type of chord that distinguishes heavy metal from all other genres. This may be considered as the most important technical requirement in distinguishing this genre. With such, it may be said that heavy metal has technical rules that allows it to be considered as a music genre. Its technical rules include, loud guitar riffs combined with artistic psychedelic distortions; although in reference to Fabbri’s claim, it does not necessarily mean that any music with such technicality may be considered as heavy metal.

The aggressive quality, the loud almost irritating sound and the distortions distinguished it to be another genre yet it is not the only reference from which the conclusion may be derived. As such, there are other factors that may be taken into consideration. Semiotic Rule Fabrri mentioned that all genres follow a kind of semiotic rule. As it was with the technical rule, semiotic rules do not necessarily define the genre, but aid in distinguishing it from another genre (Fabrri). Semiotics or that which refers to the meaning conveyed by the genre is common in the music of a particular genre.

In the case of heavy metal music, common meaning conveyed by the songs under this genre is said to have leanings on madness, violence, and the occult. It is said that in comparison to hard rock, they are said to be similar in the manner that they emphasize on misogynistic, macho sexuality, environmentally aware liberal politics. The only difference was said to be the leanings (Lilja). As such, it may be understood that the given typical message of heavy metal is the semiotic rule that must be followed in order for the music to be recognized as under this genre.

More importantly, it may be understood that since heavy metal has semiotic rules it may be concluded that it is indeed a genre by itself and not a sub-category of another genre. Behavior Rules Behavior refers not only to the behavior of the musicians in front of the audience but also the behavior of the audience towards the music. This is how the sincerity of the musician may be measured by the audience and how the audience may respond to it. This also refers to the rules of conversation, and the rituals involved in recognizing the music, and the people who are truly into that given genre (Fabrri).

In heavy metal, there is a typical movement which identifies a fan under this genre. Most heavy metal enthusiasts adopt the fashion exemplified by their idols. For instance is the clothing and the hairstyle. Most heavy metal audience identify themselves under the said genre by sporting really short-clipped hair or greasy long locks, they wear black shirts, leather jackets, and tight black jeans (Lilja). The clothing and hairstyle are not the only reactions that distinguish heavy metal enthusiasts from others.

There are also rituals like buying the albums of their metal icons, and attending concerts. During concerts they are the most likely to “mosh and headbang” while the music is on (Lilja). From this, it may be said that heavy metal has complied with the need to have behavior rules in order to be distinguished as a genre. Therefore it is a genre whose loyal enthusiasts know the rule by heart and abides by them unquestioningly. This distinguishes them from other genre audience and establishes their identity.

Social and Ideological Rules Like a movement or organization, a genre has a goal or a favored purpose. In the case of the genre’s ideology, its enthusiasts religiously adhere to the behavior rules that characterize that certain music genre. On the social aspect, this may refer to the status involved in that certain genre. A person, by adhering to the status typical in a certain genre, may denounce genuine social rules just to identify to the genre that he or she fancies (Fabrri).

For the Heavy Metal enthusiasts, the group had always been composed of male youth from either lower or middle class families. In United States, most of its enthusiasts come from lower class families. On the other hand, Europe’s heavy metal fans are composed of youths belonging in middle class families (Lilja). The ideology that drives them further into the genre is individuality and freedom. Heavy metal is said to fight or to oppose the established authority and autonomy from the rest of society.

Both the audience and the bands under this genre are required to follow this rule. However, there is a sub-rule for the band. In order to promote its autonomy from the rest of society, the band ultimately must never show any interest to commercial appeal (Lilja). Given that it has sociological and ideological rules that should be followed, this further identifies heavy metal as another genre. These rules may be used to distinguish it from other genres and proves its individuality from other musical classifications. History

Heavy metals’ rich history is another factor that shows that it is by itself an independent music genre. Although most genres technically evolved from other genres, heavy metal has a history of its own to tell of the process of its revolution and development. From the blues incorporated with psychedelia, heavy metal emerged as music. The development of heavy metal was triggered by the invention of the electric guitar by Fender. First it had only been a six-string guitar and gradually Fender was able to produce an electric bass guitar.

From this and other musical instruments in the late sixties and the extreme creativity of men like those in The Who, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, heavy metal was given birth. Having its own origin and distinguishing characteristic, which includes the evolution of some already existing musical characteristics, heavy metal may be derived as another genre. Summary and Conclusion From the above information it may be drawn that heavy metal has its own set of rules and characteristics that help in distinguishing it from other classifications and music genres.

First, it has technical rules, which defines it as that genre of music characterized by loud sounds of guitar riffs combined with distortions. Second, it has semiotic rules, which states that heavy metal disseminates music with the male macho fervor that is slightly leaning to the occult and other dark themes. Third, it has behavior rules that are religiously followed by its enthusiasts as well as the band members. Fourth is that it has social and ideological rules that the musicians pursue and enthusiast cling onto. Lastly, it has history or a basis of its development.

Given such and Fabrri’s definition that genre as a set of musical events governed by a definite set of socially accepted rules, heavy metal is thus a musical genre and not a sub-genre of hard rock. It adhered to Fabrri’s requirement and its rules cannot be contested. It has been existing from the very moment the movement began until today where it still continually gathers enthusiasts. Works Cited Fabrri, Franco. “A theory of Musical Genres: Two Applications”. Popular Music Perspectives. Amsterdam: Goteberg; Exeter, 1981. Lilja, Esa. “Characteristics of Heavy Metal Chord Structures”. Finland: University of Helsinki, 2005

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