Upcoming Metal Music Conferences, Panels and CFP’s – 2016

heavy metal
Yes I know I’ve been MIA but there’s plenty of reason! Night school, work and metal music events, have taken over. To make up for my absence, I thought I’d compile a list of upcoming metal related events.

emp_pop_conference_2016

There’s the very cool EMP Pop Conference taking place next week from April 14-16 in Seattle. I’ve been wonderfully invited to speak as part of a roundtable called, Noise Breeding Silence- Heavy Metal Voices along with my colleagues, Laina Dawes, Jeremy Wallach, Ester Clinton, Kat Katz and Steve Waksman. Steve is actually the moderator, so you know it’s going to be a great talk! For those of you who don’t know his work – Steve is a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and wrote the seminal books – Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience and Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk. 

grimposuimAlso taking place next week for NYC locals is the traveling Grimposium – a touring festival that brings musicians, journalists and academics together to showcase and foster discussion on all things metal, coordinated by Vivek Venkatash, professor and metal scholar at Concordia University. This latest event is called, The Sign of An Open Eye: Grimposium 360 and will be taking place on April 14th in Brooklyn at MINY Media Center by IFP. Register here.

clap back

On April 30th, we also have Women CLAP BACK in Music and the Arts at The New School taking place from 10am-5pm. Several women involved in the local metal scene here in NY will be there, like the wonderful Laina Dawes! I’ll be helping with moderating the panel called, Navigating Race and Feminism in the Music Industry.
And of course I’ve got to plug this – I’ll be co-moderating an evening talk on Women in Rock and Metal Music at Barnard College the evening of May 4th, 2016 (registration and info page COMING Soon).

Below is a description of the event – ALL ARE WELCOME!

Women in Rock & Metal Music – 
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 7 PM – 9:30 PM @ Barnard College – Julius S. Held Lecture Hall.

Women have had an increasingly steady presence as performers, fans and supporters of rock and heavy metal music, although previous studies have emphasized these spaces as predominantly masculine and white. In the 21st century, women still face challenges in participating and negotiating this historical gendering of space. While New York City is quite often perceived as a product of its own bubble of exceptionalism; race, sexism, and authenticity remain problematic areas of discourse for many women who take part in these musical scenes.

An evening with Women in Rock & Metal Music seeks to address these issues, exploring how women of varying ethnic backgrounds, gender identities and sexuality, so often marginalized, navigate their participation and construct spaces of liminality through their art, musicianship and voice.

Please join us for a lively discussion and exploration of 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 the feminist site -Slutist ), Laina Dawes (Author of What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal), Justina Villanueva (Heavy Metal photographer and artist) and Cristy Roads (Punk Musician, Zinester and Artist).

In addition to these US-based happenings – there are other, just as amazing, conferences coming up – especially abroad. There’s the Bournemouth University Metal Conference on Metal and Politics, being held in the UK on June 3rd as well as the Modern Heavy Metal Conference in Helsinki, Finland – June 30 through July 3rd. You can register for MHM here.

Also in the UK, is the Dark Leisure and Music Symposium taking place at Leeds Beckett University on September 16, 2016. There’s still time for submission as the deadline is May 15th.

Back in the US, we got the Metal in Strange Places conference taking place in the Fall at the University of Dayton on October 21st – 23rd! If you remember from my previous blog posts, I presented my thesis work on Women in NY’s EMM scene at the 2014 conference in Dayton where I met some of the most awesome people in metal academia.

Proposals for Metal in Strange Places are due by April 22nd.This year’s keynote speakers are Gabby Riches, whose book Caught in a Mosh is a great resource that I’ve referenced in my own work and Tracy Reilly who will be talking about intellectual property and entertainment.

As for CFP’s – here’s a list of current and ongoing calls for conferences, journals etc.:

Metal Music Studies (Intellect)
The deadline for submissions for 3.1 is September 10, 2016
The deadline for submissions for 3.2 is December 10, 2016

IASPM’s page for CFP’s (International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland)
Various deadlines and CFP’s

19th Biennial ISAPM Conference – Additional CFP’s

Shifts and Turns: Moving Music, Musicians and Ideas – 39th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia Adelaide, Australia (November 30 – December 3, 2016)

3rd International Digital Libraries for Musicology workshop New York, NY (August 12, 2016)

Society for American Music, 43rd Annual Conference Montreal, Québec, Canada (March 22 – 26, 2017)

That’s all I got for now!

 

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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/

Summer Work Never Ends when You’re Metal Thirsty

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to – it’s been a couple of things, but the most exciting thing this summer is the fact that I’ve got about 56 pages of my master thesis on women in EMM written, that’s excluding all the appendices–Woo hoo!

Metal researchIn addition, the folks over at the Society of Ethnomuiscology’s Student Union Blog were gracious enough to allow me to post about my experience with academia, motherhood, librarianship, and metal. Check it out!

Moreover,  I just finished writing a book review for Choice Magazine and I’m now in the midst of writing another review for ARLISNA on John Sharp’s Works of Game:On the Aesthetics of Games and Art. Which, by the way, I totally recommend as summer reading!

worksofgameLastly, I’ve been lucky enough to see Gospel of the Witches twice this year! I’ve made a handful of good friends through the academic metal route and the experience has really imparted some enlightening insights for me.

With that said, here’s a couple of pics from the GoTW show at Blackthorn21, July 10, 2015. It really was a great show and unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get pictures of the other bands–all female fronted too, like The Missing and Earthbound!

Finally, it was super cool to finally see Alekhine’s Gun, since I’ve heard so much about Jessica Pimentel’s engaging metal  performances, but of course, I didn’t get any pictures, so here’s a link to some photos of the event from Skullnbones.com

Enjoy!

Archiving, Librarianship, and Art

So the other day I was digging through old papers and found this antiquated gem–it’s basically the opener to an essay I submitted that eventually got me the grant to gain my archives certificate while I was studying Library Science at Pratt Institute, back in 2006. Sadly, my archives certificate is gathering dust, as my career has moved onto more acquisitions-based duties. However, I can say without a doubt that the skills I’ve gained with archival practice have stayed with me, especially through my ongoing collecting of heavy metal music ephemera. Upon re-reading this section of my essay, I got nostalgic and a bit weepy if I really admit, that yes, this was a great reminder of why I wanted to study archives and be a librarian.

During my undergraduate years, I was a double major in Art (Drawing & Painting) and Art History (Medieval Art & Architecture). Being an art student gave me an easy way to transition into librarianship. I was in the slide library at my school on most days researching for art assignments anyway! And, I recall becoming heavily-influenced with visual resources and their influence on poets, writers, musicians and painters. The strong impact of an image on the brain was something I could never ignore. The visual image, as created by an artist, arises as part expression, part dreams realized. It’s probably why I didn’t hesitate to use John Constantine in my opening quote below. There’s something beyond our comprehension in art that sparks the wonder that amazes the human brain. Finding and preserving that experience is part of what motivates me in my daily work.

So read on below and hopefully enjoy one of my earliest essays that steered me towards my first passion of librarianship.

“One thing I’ve learned. You can know anything. It’s all there. You just have to find it.”
John Constantine, in SANDMAN #3: “Dream a Little Dream of Me

From the beginning, my thoughts on archival study and librarianship were tied with the needs of both knowing and preserving. As a child, I had been enamored of the adventures and mysteries of history. Learning to unlock secrets of the past, the feel of something old, traveling through places I could never go, somehow traveling through time and correlating experiences with the past had all been wonders to me. Now, as an adult, I find myself pursuing an extension of that youthful bewilderment and want. I have come to believe Constantine’s quote of being able to know anything because the answers to the glamours of history are all somewhere out there, waiting to be found. The unwrapping of the past and the thrill of discovery have been strong attractions to my curious mind. I found that in my first two semesters in the SILS program at Pratt, I have been able to learn the new and various ways in which to access this knowledge, these secrets. With formal education came a need to further my opportunities with exposure to great minds. I wanted to learn more and to know that that information would last through the future, that there was not a time limit on intellectual value.

To me, nothing could have grounded this need for exploring and preserving more than the passing of my mother last summer. Previously, it had not truly struck me just how much I would come to treasure not only the memories of our life together, but also the physical remnants of everything that I had shared with her. Unfortunately, there is very little of the physical left to remind me of her greatness, perhaps a necklace or other such jewelry, some photos, and myself – the most physical thing I have remaining to remember her by.

Instead of allowing the sense of loss to sadden me, I found a way to foster this need to remember and preserve. I found the key through educating myself and others. It wasn’t long after my enrollment at Pratt Institute that I came to understand the truth of my goal of gaining a Master’s degree. I wanted, and still want, to preserve information and help to disseminate its distilled knowledge to others. It has become a desire to both educate and inform the community of the importance of knowledge and its preservation.

I’ve found that almost all people innately collect. But why? Is it an effort to remember; to retell or to learn? What becomes so special about preserving the past? The value is subjective. It lies in the experience and knowledge gained through the act of preservation. By preserving and caring about our past, we gain insights into how to care for our future. We learn to be advocates of enduring values, both physical and intellectual. It is my hope that, by the end of this program, I will have the skills necessary to aid in the preservation of history, and show people that they can know anything, that they just need to search hard enough and experience the joy of discovery.

Needless to say, I became a recipient of the Archives Certificate program grant at Pratt and had the wonderful opportunity of working with the Othmer Library’s archival materials (see pictures above) housed within the Brooklyn Historical Society building in Brooklyn Heights. It was really an influential time in my budding career and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

And for those interested, here’s the link to the finding aid I helped revised during my work at The Brooklyn Historical Society:

A Need for a Metal Music & Special Collection’s Library in NYC

MetalLibraryPic1

I’ve decided to add the task of starting a Metal Music Library to my list of life goals. As a side effect of all the research I’ve done, nothing feels more professionally fulfilling to me than merging my two loves at the moment – metal and librarianship. Living in New York, it just seems so senseless to me that there isn’t already a physical manifestation of some sort of metal library and collection here. I guess I’m finding it hard to stomach because New York’s history is rich with metal culture and ephemera. We are the birthplace of some of metal’s most notable bands like Anthrax, Dio, Kiss, Life of Agony, Manowar, Nuclear Assault, Tombs, Type O-, etc., Not to mention more extreme metal bands like Brutal Truth, Cannibal Corpse, Demolition Hammer, Immolation, Internal Bleeding, Malignancy. Mortician, Suffocation and on and on. Some of these have spearheaded entire sub-genres of metal.

When I worked at the Met, the Costume Institute Department had a number of music-related exhibitions like, Punk: Chaos to Culture, AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, and Rock Style. I can easily see these kinds of exhibitions displaying the material culture of heavy metal, perhaps record collections, even the fashion, which believe it or not, there is. Just take a look at how the latest Kardarshian brood is co-opting our style.

Kendall-Jenner-loves-Slayer

Or just celebrities in general:

And I’m not posting these images to make metal-heads angry; on the contrary, it’s says a lot about mainstream culture appropriating and encouraging a heavy metal style, even if its a misinterpretation. Is heavy metal music becoming more acceptable, and if so, why? How are perceptions changing and what is the historical importance? Preserving aspects of “our” popular culture and subcultures are important for a variety of reasons.

Take a look at fellow WordPress blogger and musician/scholar Jason Netherton’s book, “Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground” in which he collects an oral history of death metal music from the musicians and people involved in the early scene. Additionally, he’s been scanning and making available early death metal zines from the 1980’s and on, in his blog Send Back My Stamps! – talk about preservation and accessibility!

As I research and work alongside my metal academic comrades, I see further evidence of the need for preserving metal music and it’s material culture. My colleague and fellow librarian, Brian Hickam, maintains a wonderful online bibliography for the International Society of Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) with categories for searching via books, articles, chapters, etc. It’s been very helpful in my own studies.

There are other institutions such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives, which, of course, collect under rock-and-roll, but also includes a variety of subgenres, metal being one of them.

Over in the UK, there is The Home of Metal, a project started as collaboration project with the Black Country Arts Partnership, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery to celebrate and preserve the birthplace of heavy metal in the West Midlands.

Gary Shafer, the man behind Heavy Metal Museum, is also catering to heavy metal preservation and offering a platform for sharing and selling metal memorabilia. And if I couldn’t push the case for Metal Music studies and libraries being important, this article from the Wall Street Journal does the job for me.

In my own home library, here’s what I’ve been collecting and hoping to preserve for my daughter…(it’s very much a growing collection)

Home_HeavyMetalLibrary

Developing Death Metal Vocals – Part 1

As a child growing up in a typical Asian household, I began taking piano lessons when I was five. In fact, I still have my keyboard from kindergarten! I played piano for a couple of years during elementary school and then I moved on to clarinet in 6th grade and middle school. Later in college I began experimenting with guitar and violin. I could never stick to one instrument and I never became an expert in one either. I just always found music and music theory interesting.

During college, if I wasn’t painting or drawing, then I was reading about art or going to local music and art shows. I even worked in an art gallery for a time. In college, I remember taking an elective class on music theory and we explored classical music with our professor playing the piano and testing our ears on the different parts and structures of a piece. It’s no surprise that as of late, it feels like I’m coming round full circle.

With my current research on women in metal and all the various paths that its opened up for me, I find myself wanting to develop my musical side again. This time around, I’ve been curious about singing. In particular, I’m fascinated with the techniques used to develop metal vocals and growling sounds. Now that I know it’s entirely possibly for women to achieve male-sounding death vocals, I’ve become curious if its something I could learn. Like I mentioned in previous posts, my initial exposure to women who employed harsher vocals was Crisis. Karyn Crisis’ voice was unique in its ability to alternate from extremely harsh and tonal to melodic and feminine, a technique that’s still not too common.

I’ve since become a fan of other extreme female vocalists like the women from Mortals, Derketa, 13, Abnormality and Jucifer–just to name a few. All of this inspiration has, of course, had it’s effect on me, and I’ve found myself writing a lot of non-academic stuff in the form of lyrics for potential songs.

My husband has been pretty supportive and has been helping me research singing technique–(yes-we are geeks). We’re possibly thinking of starting a husband/wife duo with him on bass and me on..well, I’m not sure yet. I want to get the vocal thing started but would love to take up drums, cause then, of course, we could be a drum and bass duo. But I digress…

Back to vocal training……

Why is exploring this important?
In the course of my interviews with women, the pattern of appropriating male-coded behavior such as singing with extreme metal stylings became apparent. As anthropology lecturer Estelle Murphy writes,

“…the female growler plays with the listener’s gendered aural comprehension of the voice; her voice is gendered as masculine. Thus, through the appropriation of the masculine voice, the female growler manipulates and exposes a system of masculine filtration, whereby the listener is mislead by the performer’s mask or ‘audio drag’. However, such performances of female masculinity (Halberstam, 2010) raise questions about performative intention and of the masculinity performed by male death-growl vocalists.”(Murphy 2014)

What better way to explore this subversion than to try it out myself?

Blogger Geordi Linsey writes a little about her journey in experimenting with developing metal vocals as well. I found her insights and self-explorations both interesting and helpful. As you can imagine, embarking on such a journey leaves lots of room for introspection!

The Plan:
I decided my first task in this exploration would be to simply find songs I want to sing. This might appear to be easy, but in actuality, it’s not. First off, I’m working from the knowledge that as a grade-schooler during choir, my teachers frequently referred to my singing range as a “contralto” or “alto“. Now skip to almost 20 years later and I’m not sure if my vocal range has changed. I’m actually not sure how one gauges what kind of voice they have if they’re not versed in deciphering such things. Luckily, there is the internet!!! No really…it’s a great starting point. For example, I found the post, “What’s My Voice Type?” from the website Choirly quite informative.

I hadn’t realized that many women get categorized as contralto/altos but are actually mezzo-sopranos. A reason being that many instructors don’t want to spend the time in actually training what they believe sounds off-tune. Instead they end up directing these off-tune mezzo-sopranos to sing as altos where their off-tunefulness blends more easily.

Having realized I most likely fit the category of a mezzo-soprano helped me in figuring out what kind of song I was going to test. As much as I would love to sing Crisis’s Different Ways of Decay (see below), I don’t think I’m skilled enough to pull off the way she alternates her voice throughout each measure.

Additionally, I’ve been more curious about techniques employing guttural death growls and inhalations. An example of one of my favorite singing styles with regard to pitch and timbre is the way John Tardy from Obituary sings, “Slowly We Rot” (see below). There’s a point in the song that Tardy is producing a slow inhalation that comes out like a deep growl. Moreover, I’ve come to like the raspy and deep vocal style he and many early death vocalists employed in the 80’s, like Chuck Schuldiner, Kam Lee or David Vincent.

Interestingly, your actual singing voice doesn’t necessarily impact the style of death vocals you choose. One example of this is Angela Gossow , ex-frontwoman for Arch Enemy. Apparently her vocal range is mezzo-soprano.

Another song I would love to emulate, and which might be a little easier for me, would be “Norge” (see below) by Thorr’s Hammer. It’s got a strong intro by Runhild Gammelsaeter. She opens the song with chant-like verses followed by a deep, almost inhuman growl. I love it!!!

In terms of musical sound, it would be nice if the hubby and I could cultivate a mixture of elements from bands like Godflesh,  Amebix, Mrykur, King Woman, or Fear of God. All in all, this is all a boiler plate, so if you all have some insights, feel free to comment below.

Heavy Metal and Punk’s Material Culture

Film still from The Crimson Ghost, 1945

Film still from The Crimson Ghost, 1945

They’ve done an excellent job over at Boing Boing with a post compiling The Best Heavy Metal Movie Posters. The librarian in me was ecstatic to see material culture of this kind get featured. Highlighted are some very cool posters from which famous bands appropriated some imagery; i.e. The Misfits and Black Sabbath.

Of note, was the movie poster for The Crimson Ghost, a 1946 horror movie that was directed by Fred C. Bannon and William Witney. In particular is the poster which features it’s main villain as a skeleton robed madman–exactly the image that Danzig and the Misfits appropriated for all their merchandising needs.

The film centers around an obscure villain who has stolen an atomic death ray type of machine that can short circuit anything electronic, ensuring a healthy dose of havoc in its wake.

The Crimson Ghost, movie poster, 1945

The Crimson Ghost, movie poster, 1945

Another film mentioned in relation to bands was the Italian-French horror movie and name inspiration for Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath. Released in 1963, Black Sabbath was most famous for Boris Karloff as it’s main commentator. He introduces a trilogy of tales, The Telephone, The Wurdalak, and The Drop of Water, all staring an international cast of actors and actresses.

Black Sabbath, movie poster,

Black Sabbath, movie poster, 1963

In addition to the  posters mentioned above was the movie poster for Mark of the Devil, 1970. I especially liked the line it that read, “The Vomit bag and the price of admission will enable you to see….Mark of the Devil!” You can see the horror’s strong influence on Metal here folks. They go on to add text that says, “Due to the horrifying scenes, no one is admitted without a vomit bag“…
Seductive imagery of naked women on stakes looking like witches add to the sexual horror inducing hilarity of this genre. I couldn’t help but this amusing.

Mark of the Devil, movie poster, 1970

Mark of the Devil, movie poster, 1970

As a librarian, I think it would be a dream job to be in charge of a poster collection that included anything obscure and offbeat like these posters. Often times people forget the value of material culture and it’s influence on other genres of creativity. Ironically, with the advent of technology, imagery that was once seen glossing the covers of album records, CDs’ and posters have given way to something less creative and I can’t help get nostalgic for the lost medium.

In any case, I think I found a new hobby.