The biology of heavy metal : evolutionary links between science and culture

Skeech, M 2021, The biology of heavy metal : evolutionary links between science and culture , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Abstract

The modern landscape of heavy metal can be seen as a splintered and interconnected mass of seemingly disparate styles and sub-styles. Literature that examines the history and culture of this music is increasingly common, but musicological study into the nature of developments within metal music are rare. In this thesis, I define the ways that metal changes and expands over time, using a Darwinian evolutionary framework to explore the variety that is central to metal music today. I devoted particular focus to imagery within this study, and through the analysis of the conventional and outlying themes of 10 distinct subgenres, I identified lines of influence and inspiration between them in order to understand the evolutionary nature of developments within the genre. In order to effectively determine the conventions that govern the ideas of genre within metal, I chose a very large sample size, consisting of 1000 bands across 10 separate metal subgenres. Through the examination of text (lyrics, titles), images (album covers, video) and personal presentation (dress code, live performance), I define the central themes of each subgenre, and pair these with knowledge of the musical developments within the genre to accurately portray evolutionary changes that pervade metal as a whole. I also question the acceptance of transgressive themes within the genre, and apply anecdotal evidence and research into the standards of other artistic media to provide reasons for the relative artistic freedom of metal musicians. Through this study, I have observed evidence of all three Darwinian evolutionary principles - variety, inheritance and changes in local conditions - in action within the metal genre, which suggests that metal music evolves in a similar way to other large open systems.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Brissenden, PG (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Depositing User: Michael Skeech
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2022 15:50
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2022 15:50
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/63776

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