Update: Recording of Barnard Panel Talk on Women in Rock and Metal

I meant to share this back in June, but of course so many things were happening. I was conferencing like a fiend, researching, and finalizing my new job status! On top of that, Vish and I were visiting pre-schools for Ella. Afterwards, summer hit, and all I could think about was fiscal close procedures at work and how to plan for Ella’s birthday.

So with all of that finally behind me, I’ve now have a tiny bit of relief in my schedule and am trying to get back on the horse with blog posting. Some of you might remember that back in May I co-moderated and organized a panel at Barnard College about women in the rock and metal music scene here in NY. It was panel born out of my thesis research. And although I posted about the wonderful shout-out we got from the online magazine, The Tempest, I wanted to share the recording that my husband did of the event.

So without further ado – here’s Part 1 and 2 of Women in Rock and Metal Music.

Panel speakers were: (from left to right) Charlotte Price (co-moderator), Joan Jocson-Singh (me!!), Mindy Abovitz (Tom Tom Magazine), Laina Dawes, (music journalist), Justina Villanueva (photographer), and Cristy Road (artist, musician & zinester)
Disclaimer –  In Part 1 you can hear a bit of my daughter’s babble, but it’s only for about a minute and half.

It gets better. Enjoy!

Part 1

 

Part 2

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On Special Music Collections

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Issues of the punk-rock fanzine Slash are included as part of UCLA’s punk archive. Photo: UCLA Library Special Collections – from the American Libraries Rock in the Vault Article – May 2, 2016.

I’ve been talking for some time about the need for a special music collection on Metal music in NYC, so I was glad to see this recent article entitled, Rock in the Vault published over at the American Libraries website. It’s about how university libraries are becoming the new place to go for music archives.

The article mentions both Rutger’s growing collection on rock, hardcore and punk music as well as Cornell’s collection on the Hip Hop genre.

As for NY, we’ve a rich tri-state history on Metal. There’s venues that could offer historical information like L’Amour’s of Brooklyn or even the closed down record store Metal Kingdom in Queens. Ephemeral materials abound in the form of zines, cassettes, vinyls, patches and documentaries. As a metal music scholar & librarian, having physical collections as primary resources is just one way we can solidify and start building our place in the larger academic world.

It would be my dream to start this at Columbia…so here’s hoping I find a way here or elsewhere.   \m/

Panel talk: Women in Rock & Metal Music

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Join the Barnard Library for a lively discussion on gender, race, violence, and acceptance in the NY rock and metal scene with panel speakers Mindy Abovitz (Tom Tom Magazine creator/editor), Kristen Korvette (creator of feminist website Slutist), Laina Dawes (author of ‘What are you doing here? A black woman’s life & liberation in heavy metal‘), Justina Villanueva (photographer & artist), and Cristy Roads (punk musician, zinester, & artist).

Moderated by Columbia University librarian and metal scholar Joan Jocson-Singh, and Barnard Library’s own performing arts librarian Charlotte Price, this event is open to everyone. Check out the Facebook event

Here’s the event page over at Barnard college:
http://library.barnard.edu/events/Women-Rock-Metal-0

Many thanks to Justina for designing this web flyer!

Death’s Metal Maiden: The Portrayal of the Grotesque Female Body on Extreme Metal Album Covers

I’m taking a much-needed break from writing my actual thesis and instead looking at the art produced for extreme metal music albums. In this way, I feel like I’m paying homage to my first love in academia: art history.

I recently came upon an interesting CFP on my blog feed from the University of Winchester. This upcoming summer, they are holding a conference on Death, Art, and Anatomy and put out a call for papers on any research having to do with the following topics:

  • Death and art
  • Anatomy and death
  • Anatomy and art
  • History of anatomy
  • History of death
  • Religion and anatomy
  • Religion and death
  • Medieval and early modern death beliefs and practices

It got me thinking, and I started to explore the idea of how some extreme metal album art could be an extension of the medieval concept of grotesque realism.

So I began reading and discovered previous research making this claim by author and Professor Karen Bettez Halnon. In her paper, Heavy Metal Carnival and Dis-alienation, she examines the use of grotesque realism in performance, lyrical construction, and the appearance of bands like Gwar, Slipknot, and Cradle of Filth. Although these bands are not all categorically extreme metal, it made me think about controversial extreme metal cover art that has been produced in the past few decades.

Referencing philosopher and critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Halnon defines grotesque realism in relation to her study as a form of “heavy metal carnival,” whereby the noise of commercialism is dismantled and transgressed by heavy metal’s ability to challenge societal norms of conduct, dress, taste, morality and civility (Halnon, 2006). What this encompasses is a fandom and culture that encourages the obscene and bizarre, disassociating it from general musical audiences that would favor more socially-accepted styles of popular music, visual art and fashion.

As an example, she cites the band Gwar, who spray their “slaves” (the audience) with red-colored water (symbolic of blood) and other bodily fluids, effectively enacting a spectacle of grotesque through fantastic and fictional displays of human dismemberment, torture and beheadings. On its most base level, this spectacle transgresses the limitations of real and fantasy for participating fans. Like Halnon believes, “the display signifies the creative life-death-rebirth-cycle”. (Halnon, 2006)

GwarWithin the paper, Halnon echos Bahktin’s own definition of grotesque realism as:

“Eating, drinking, defecation, and other elimination (sweating, blowing of the nose, sneezing), as well as copulation, pregnancy, dismemberment, swallowing up by another body—all these acts are performed on the confines of the body and the outer world, or on the confines of the old and new body. . . . The grotesque image displays not only the outward but also the inner features of the body: blood, bowels, heart and other organs. Its outward and inward features are often emerged into one.” ([1936] 1984: 317–18)

Does this not sound like extreme metal to you? Hanlon goes on in her paper to talk about inversion within the heavy metal carnival. What really caught my attention was the following:

“The carnival-grotesque is not only exposing the deep (hidden, vile, disgusting), interior aspects of anatomy but also what is spurned, spoiled, stained and hidden in the body politic. Inverting the ordinary devaluation, invisibility, or “symbolic annihilation” of those positioned at the bottom of (social) hierarchies (Larry Gross quoted in Gamson 1998:22)”

These two statements mark further evidence of the grotesque for lyrics constructed by extreme metal bands like Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, or Deicide. However controversial the works of these bands and bands like them can be construed, it made me curious to explore the imagery depicted on albums of this nature.

Furthermore, I wondered if the often violent and horrific covers of extreme metal albums were indeed an extension of both the medieval grotesque and heavy metal carnival, then what research, if any, was being conducted specific to the treatment of women, so often depicted in controversial images flagging the albums.

If I decide to write a paper for this conference, I think it will broadly speak to the use of grotesque imagery on extreme metal albums as a form of intentional aesthetic and then move more specifically to the depiction of women, particularly the thematic imagery of Death and Women on covers.

\m/ –Hail Metal– \m/

Individual Thought Patterns: Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Music Scene – 10.19.15

Cover of Natalie Purcell's book

Cover from Natalie Purcell’s book, Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture

I just realized that although I’ve been working on this research for some time, I’ve rarely posted anything that’s part of the draft thesis. So in case you were wondering…here’s a sample of what I’ve been writing about. I’ve included the abstract, table of contents, and just the working introduction, which reads very auto-ethnographic.
Draft – Individual Thought Patterns
And of course, please feel free to contact me if there’s something just glaringly odd/off. It’s still a draft form so I’m sure my advisor and second reader will have changes in mind.

Thanks  \m/

“If we don’t own the narrative of our own bodies, somebody else will use it against us.” -Kiran Ghandi

Just read this post by marathon runner Kiran Ghandi, who some of you might have heard of on the news because she dared to run a London marathon during her period, without, (gasp), a pad or tampon!

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While I wouldn’t personally do this–I think it takes great balls (pun intended) to brave this out and make it a statement — which is women shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies. I know my own reasons stand to be looked at critically regarding why I wouldn’t do this, which is also why I can say being socialized a certain way disservices both men and women in our society. Acts like Kiran’s make me re-examine what I think about body hair, bodily fluids and perception. This self-reflecting my friends, is a good thing.

There was a great point made about how people wouldn’t look twice if someone ran with a nosebleed and blood all over their shirts. Yet somehow women’s bodies fall under a specific category of policing – it’s both fascinating and disturbing. We need to ask why.

On another note, to tie in with my love of all things music– Kiran’s also the drummer for several bands, including – M.I.A, Thievery Corporation, Madame Gandhi. Being a female drummer in itself is another avenue in which women can break stereotypes. I love it! If you ask me, it’s very metal and it’s very feminist.

Kiran2

All in all, I’m glad she brought attention to an issue all women go through with regard to body image.

As I’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be sure I’ll be reading more about Kiran Ghandi.

Finally in her words, “If we don’t own the narrative of our own bodies, somebody else will use it against us.”

Women and Death

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One of my favorite bloggers has done it again! Curator Carla Valentine, over at The Chick and the Dead blog has published another excellent post–this time about Women in the Death Industry–nope, my metal-head friends, not the Death Metal Industry, though I’d have to say the following quote below made me think it apropos for my own observations–

“If death is most often anthropomorphised into a foreboding, grinning male does it not make sense that his companion is female? The current ‘trend’ for women in the death industry is not a trend, then, but merely an influx of women taking their rightful place back at death’s side and, once again, becoming the guardians of the dead.”

Check out her very informative and enlightening post:

http://thechickandthedead.com/2015/07/28/the-corpse-brides-women-in-the-death-industries/