Shout-out from the Tempest

Lovely writer, Esther Merono Baro, over at the Tempest website wrote up a nice re-cap with quotes from last week’s panel that I organized on Women in Rock and Metal @ Barnard College.  5 women in punk and metal who give zero f*cks about their bitch face

I was glad to see folks enjoy our talk and get insights into the work we do. Hopefully this can become something we do annually!

And here’s some photos from the slideshow I put together of our panelists (some photos courtesy of Justina Villanueva). Unfortunately, Kristen Korvette wasn’t able to make it.

 

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!

Popular Culture Conference, April 1-4 2015

pca-2015-montageb

My colleague Angela Washington and I presented at this year’s Popular Culture Association (PCA) Conference in New Orleans. This presentation was more aligned to my first love– art librarianship and not to metal music, though I did attend a metal panel at this conference.

Sailor Moon manga - MMA Dark Kingdom-2We presented our paper entitled, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library” under the Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Popular Research panel. We decided to present on how we started the graphic novel collection at the Met’s Nolan Library when I was working there back in 2010. It was right before we hired the current Public Services Librarian who is now conducting the teen and children’s programming. We were first up on our panel and got to meet and see wonderful presentations from the head bibliographer at Tulane and librarians from  both San Diego State University and Florida International University. Overall, our presentation went very well and Angela did a great job at explaining the Watson and Nolan’s collection policy and its unique nuances involved with selecting, purchasing, processing and programming at the libraries.

Below was our panel line-up:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library The libraries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are home to over 900,000 books and periodicals… Angela Washington

Joan Jocson-Singh

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Paper
Poodle with a mohawk: Collecting cat and dog comics in an academic rare books department In New Orleans, with its wealth of distinctive popular culture associations, it may not surprise… Joshua Lupkin Tulane University, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Paper
NSFW: Sexually Explicit Comics in Academic Libraries Sexually explicit topics have been safely explored in the academic bubble for decades. However,… Anna Culbertson San Diego State University Paper
Doujinshi and Libraries Doujinshi are Japanese publications, usually created by amateurs and fans, though occasionally… George Pearson Florida International University Paper

Of course, I was most excited to attend the Music (metal) panel because of the papers presented (see below). A highlight for me was hearing Victoria Willis’s presentation on The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video, because of her theoretical framework and it’s relation to feminism.

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Sunn O))) – A Camp Dimension? In a video posted to YouTube, the drone metal band Sunn O))) can be seen performing an… Albert Diaz UCLA Paper
“Rime of a Metal Mariner” “Rime of a Metal Mariner” looks at Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as an adaptation… Justin J. Roberts University of Kentucky Paper
The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video In this paper, I examine the role of twerking in Mastodon’s recent video for “The Motherload.”… Victoria Willis Georgia State University Paper
Hype, Visual Personae, and “Real” Music: The Example of Lana del Rey Before Lana del Rey’s first album, ‘Born to Die,’ hit the stores, she was an internet sensation… Mark Allister St. Olaf College Paper

And the panel on Music (Gender) was too great to pass up:

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin Sasha T. Strelitz: “Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin”

Many…

Sasha Strelitz University of Central Florida Paper
“Bootylicious” with “Love on Top”: Female Empowerment and Performing Sexual Agency at the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show In the middle of an exclusively masculine contest of muscle and strategy between the Baltimore… Claire Anderson University of Washington Paper
“Papa, you ain’t got no mama now”: Analyzing Female Agency in Race Record Ads When it comes to analyzing and understanding blues music, many researchers have turned to the… Catherine Gooch University of Kentucky Paper
“What a Great Song…Except for the Lyrics!: Examining Rape Culture in Popular Music”

In this paper, I explore the cultural and social landscape that popularizes music that…

Melinda Mills Castleton State College Paper

I’ve been telling folks for years that the Popular Culture Association is the most interesting academic conferences I’ve been to. Because it deals with popular culture, it really spans disciplines and is one of the more affordable conferences to attend if you’re not a member. You can present as an independent scholar which is also nice. I had a great time meeting other academics and really enjoyed learning about the varied research that’s going on all of the states.

Next year’s conference will be in Seattle – so I’m really looking forward to that.

Mothering: The Extreme Metal Way

metal mom shirtI mentioned in a previous post that in between thesis writing, book/music reviews, work and parenting, I’ve begun researching motherhood and metal. It’s a side interest that came up with my thesis research that I’m finding fascinating because I’m a new mom and a metalhead and sometimes that can be strange to folks; especially when, as a new mom, you’re trying to make friends with other moms.

I didn’t really think too much on it before, but through interviews and surveys, I started to notice that enjoying extreme metal seems to be at odds with parenting. One example, which totally upset me-though my husband found it humorous because its most likely a “fake” page, was a Facebook page that I recently found while researching called, “Moms Against Heavy Metal“. Whether or not this page is authentic, it construes an idea that heavy metal negatively impacts on the social and family values of adolescents and continues an idea that has been around for decades, when people thought that rock-and-roll music was evil and Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips would shred the moral fabric of the children of the 50s. This continued into the 80’s and 90’s with crusades against heavy metal and other kinds of music – ala Tipper Gore. Some would argue that musical censorship like this can even be traced back to historical times with the Church banning music that included the tritone, which of course features prominently in heavy metal.

Started by the supposed mom who has a son whose life was almost ruined by heavy metal. She writes this on her About Me page:

“8 years ago, my son started listening to Cannibal Corpse (a hardcore metal band). Ever since then he began wearing all black and wouldn’t listen to his mom or dad. Today, my son has been finally left rehab after 2 years. This is all because of metal music.”

To me, this is sad on a couple of fronts. For one, although it might all be tongue-in-cheek, it points to a more serious matter of how metal’s reputation is so often negatively perceived. Secondly, there are assumptions and accusations being made about people which are derived solely from a person’s musical taste. I can’t help but think of how ignorant words like, “The music made me do it,” or “I saw it on TV so I did it too,” sound.

Understandably, younger children can be influenced by a variety of things that they see in the media and elsewhere, including the home, but that’s where we have a problem–parents need to explain things, not just restrain or avoid when they think that something might be inappropriate. Children need to know “why” to begin to build rationality and a moral compass. Nowhere on this mom’s FB page does she talk about asking why her son listened to metal or what he thought about her own reactions towards the music. Thirdly, if you’re going to accuse music of corrupting morality, know something about the music!!! It’s comedic to me that Cannibal Corpse gets labeled as hardcore….ummmm NO.That’s a different type of music that comes from punk rock, not heavy metal. The sad fact is, I have met real people who are very misinformed on topics that they’d argue to death. I’m sure you’ve all met them – arguing about religion, politics, feminism, economics and race, without a real understanding of the subject matter.

Getting back to Moms Against Heavy Metal – has this person ever read interviews with the band? They’re pretty articulate and express what they think about writing the music that they do, justifying it as art in the same sense that movies and video games express often fantastic content, why should music be any different? How different are writing horrific lyrics and producing movies with horrific content? Should we be taking artistic license away? If so, a plethora of books would have to be taken off the shelves. Not to mention artwork. I don’t see an outcry to ban Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft or the Saw movies.

Granted, there are many bands out there that spread agendas full of hate, misogyny and racism – but entire genres shouldn’t be blamed for these people and their opinions. And of course, it’s not just metal music. You can find hate in rap, folk, and pop …just read about some of these musicians and their backgrounds.

Additionally, I have to wonder what she would think of metal bands like Amorphis, whose lyrical writing is Finnish storytelling at its best. Or again, my favorite – Crisis, with songs of proto-feminist themes. Or even transgenderd musicians like Marissa Martinez of Cretin or Mina Caputo from Life of Agony, both musicians who found compassion from the metal community. Would she be against bands like Blotted Science or Conquering Dystopia? These are both extreme metal bands, with members of acts like Cannibal Corpse, but which create instrumental music. Is she blaming the sound, the lyrics, the tempo, or some other combination for her son’s behavior?

Personally, for me, heavy and extreme metal music have been empowering. It is for a lot of metal heads. As a transgressive form of music, it can alleviate feelings of alienation, abuse and grief. I believe for this mom, exploring her son’s psychology, and her own, would be a better way to get to the root and resolve the issues they have, not starting a crusade against an entire musical genre that has millions of positive, productive fans globally. If this mom was a little more enlightened, she’d realized there is a very open discourse on metal music and she’d not only see benefits of listening to the music but the benefits of being a musician and performing.

Luckily, on the flip side to this are real moms like Lisa Petty over at the blog Parenting: ten to twenty who sees this benefit for her and her son. She’s written a funny post about being a metal mom, called “I Am a Metal Mom – Not a Soccer Mom” where she acknowledges her son’s passion for the music and encourages him to be comfortable with himself, even if he’s different from everyone else around him.

With that, I leave you with some pics from this adorable “My Mom Wearing Heavy Metal Shirts” Tumblr page….(this was genius!)

Testament mom

death metal momMetal moms

About Me: Depth & Transgression

JoanI realized, the “About Me” section in this blog is a bit wanting and I thought that even though I’ve been relaying all the sordid details of my research, I haven’t really let my audience know about me (although one can argue that you’d get a feeling about who I am if you’ve been reading my posts!)

But anyway, here’s some details about me and where I’ve been going both academically and professionally. First off, this blog was started back in 2011 as a way for me to get my bearings with writing in academia as well as a way to force me to just, well, WRITE!

I’ve always been a fan of all types of music, especially 80’s New Wave, Classic Punk, and, as you can tell–Extreme Metal. By Extreme metal, I am mostly talking about Death, Doom, Sludge and some Grind.

My first life was spent as an Art lover and student. I went to SUNY Albany for my Bachelors in Studio Art (Drawing) and Art History (Medieval Art and Architecture). Having experienced first hand working in a Visual Arts Library, I thought to myself, wouldn’t becoming an Art Librarian be cool???And I wouldn’t have to be a starving artist to boot! So about a year after I graduated college, I went to Pratt for my Library degree in Library/Information Science with a Certificate in Archives (which is gathering dust by the way).

In the midst of my Pratt life, I ended up, very luckily, working at The Thomas J. Watson Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I worked there for about 6 years as an Art Librarian, enjoying the highs and lows that accompany art reference, cataloging and inter-library loaning! This was a great way to merge my love of art with reading and organization.

However, somewhere down the line, I ended up thinking about getting a second masters degree. I remember talking to some mid-level librarians who told me that in order to work in a college library, having a second masters for specialization was helpful. So that’s what I did. I decided to go to Hunter’s CUNY program in Anthropology with the beginning intention to write about Anthropology and the Pacific. Having found out that most schools in the NY didn’t really have faculty focused in that area-unless you’re going for the PHD, I was outta luck. So I started thinking about what else was fascinating about humans and culture.  And then I had an enlightening conversation with my husband. He brought up Karyn Crisis from Crisis and her influence as seminal person in the death metal scene in early 90’s NYC metal. It got us to thinking about women in Heavy Metal Music. And it most certainly led me to researching what, if any, academic literature was written in Anthropology about women and their experience in these often “hyper-masculine” and “misogynistically” described musical genres. We talked about Dawn Crosby from Fear of God/Detente, as well as women who were musicians  not vocally fronting in bands, like Jo Bench. I wondered what led them to participate in this sub-culture of extreme metal and I wondered if they felt marginalized or empowered by the scene.

Side cutFor me, around 2007, my reasons on listening to Death Metal became apparent. For one, my ears had slowly become trained to actually listening to the genre as form as oppose to just hearing loud noise. And two, no other music for me could correlate to the passing event that I had just overcome, that of my mother’s death. Down-tuned guitars, heavy bass-lines, and blast beats all lent itself nicely to both the angst and grieving I was undergoing. Finding women as vocalists and musicians in the scene served as a way to connect. This became very poetic for me and it’s what I believe happens to people when they connect to a particular style of music. It was a transgressive experience.

But where has this left me? It’s left me at a point where I am still learning from many of the women I have surveyed and interviewed during my research. I am finding, that like me, they are empowered by the music and their acceptance. Although bad experiences exist in any sub-culture, emerging patterns of tolerance have also been relayed to me. I am finding that in NYC, diversity and gender are ever the forefront in cultural concerns. What that may mean for women in the EMM scene can have a variety of meanings. For one, if feminism, especially that of the third wave feminism can be applied to EMM, then the make-up I am seeing, which is fairly diverse when compared to EMM scenes outside of NY, aligns itself well with the third wave.. There is a predominantly Hispanic population of women involved in the the local EMM scene and it does indeed encompass, “many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds”.

In the near future, my professional plans are to finish up this thesis and disseminate it. After that, I plan on going back to my first love of art and perhaps dabbling in creating music. All of this research has cemented to me that there isn’t many female artists lyrically writing about what it is to be a women, if they even get to write the songs!

For example, what would it be like to hear something like Cannibal Corpse’s “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” from the point of view of the victim? Or maybe lyrics that relay the pain, terror, and joy when birthing a child? How about lyrics about being a female serial killer or the pain felt when having a miscarriage, etc? These are all reasonably within the motifs of Death Metal but align themselves with a feminist agenda. It’s something I have yet to hear with maybe Brooklyn’s Castrator being an exception.

Gender Reassignment and the Metal Music Community

I came across an interesting interview the other day over at Invisible Oranges on the male to female transition of one of the members in the heavy metal band, Cretin. The interview was posted in June of 2011 so I’m sure I’m pretty late on the news, but I guess that’s bound to happen when your knee deep in researching and learning new things. I added this tidbit of information into the “learning new things” category. Although it’s not about women and their participation in the Metal Music community, it’s of course related and is actually quite a fascinating read!

I was drawn to this interview because I wanted to know first-hand what kind of challenges Marissa Martinez, formerly Dan Martinez, received upon coming out to the metal music community.

Below: a pic of Martinez pre-transition and post-transition:

15062_artist

From the interview it looks like most of Martinez’s hesitations were internal and that the metal community didn’t react or treat her horridly. Though it wasn’t an easy transition  it seems she was able to, with support of her ex-wife and band-mates, experience a therapeutic and cathartic transformation. I’ve seen that the majority of the time this isn’t the case.

In one comment, Martinez says that she was approached at the 2011 Deathfest by supportive fans who knew her pre-transition and that some young girls who were new fans had said that it was awesome to see a woman who could grind. This of course made Martinez laugh and only supports the fact that Metal still has its marginalized groups that exist within it.

I think the most surprising thing I digested from the interview was Martinez’s upbeat and optimistic attitude. I thought it was great that her story had a successful outcome, one where she had great support from her fellow band-mates and her fan base. It was great to see she wasn’t only striving to produce creative music but that she took an active role in participating in the transgender community and speaking out about her experience.

And of course, it puts more meaning to Cretin’s song Daddy’s Little Girl, which I love:

Nouvelle Vague with a sprinkling of something heavier…

NouvelleVague_1I remember a couple of years ago first being introduced to the musical genre of bossa nova from a fellow musician/librarian of whom I worked with. I never thought that I would find a band, let alone songs that appealed to me. Lo and behold Nouvelle Vague comes along and changes my perception. Granted, they are French cover band and probably appeal to me because the majority of their covers are of 80’s songs that I love, without shame. Hell, their name translates to “New Wave” for goodness sake. I couldn’t help fall in love with their sound which is the complete opposite of the death and sludge metal I’ve been listening to lately. They undoubtedly have a “Frenchness” to them that if visualized, would probably be like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, complete with animated pig and gnome figurines.

Obviously with covers of bands like Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Clash, etc, I don’t think you can go wrong. Unless of course you think that the covers are blasphemy, but I didn’t feel that way.

NouvelleVague_3

 

One song cover really sticks out to me and I supposed it’s because it’s one of the few songs that I like to mix in between long bouts of death metal tracks. The song is called, “In a Manner of Speaking”.  The original version was done by Depeche Mode, written by Martin Gore–a guy who I think doesn’t get all the recognition he deserves, but that’s another post. I’d be curious how this song would sound like if it had a sludge metal sound applied to it. Maybe something to put on my list.

And below is the Nouvelle Vague version, which although sounds much lighter, seems to carry the same undertone of unrequited love for me, albeit a poetic lilting version.

I usually juxtapose this song with a Gallhammer one, called “On the Onset of the Age of Despair” (see the depressing theme here?)

Another song I like to put into my bossa nova – metal mixes, is the “Cosmic Sea” by my all time fav band, Death.

Anyway, hope you enjoy my soundtrack and insight of the morning.  \m/