MINING FOR METAL: HEAVY METAL AND THE MUSIC LIBRARY.

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Date: Sept. 2021
From: Notes(Vol. 78, Issue 1)
Publisher: Music Library Association, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,332 words
Lexile Measure: 1480L

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ABSTRACT

Heavy metal, once considered an outlier among the popular music genres by music critics and scholars, has nonetheless consistently enjoyed a large and dedicated fanbase. In the twenty-first century, it has become an increasingly popular subject of music scholarship, which has led to an increase in the number and variety of metal resources available to and collected by libraries. This article will provide a basic introduction to heavy metal music and materials and some suggested best practices for working with these materials in a library or archival setting.

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Heavy metal (often referred to simply as metal) is a complex and sometimes controversial musical style and cultural movement. Once considered an outlier among popular music genres by music critics and scholars, metal has nonetheless consistently enjoyed a large and dedicated fanbase. In the twenty-first century, it has become an increasingly popular subject of music scholarship, which has led to a rise in the number and variety of metal resources available to and collected by libraries. However, some librarians have little more than a passing knowledge of the genre (though there are certainly several dedicated metal fans among the ranks, as evidenced by the formation of the Metal Music Librarians Facebook group). This article will provide a basic introduction to heavy metal music and materials and some suggested best practices for working with these materials in a library/archival setting.

WHAT IS HEAVY METAL?

Musically, heavy metal is an outgrowth of hard rock, and the similarities between the two can sometimes lead to confusion about whether a given performer is better classified as playing metal or hard rock. (1) Thus, a clear, comprehensive definition of heavy metal is beneficial to anyone wishing to catalog, collect, or otherwise interact with metal in their collections. Unfortunately, as with any music genre, metal resists clean classification, bleeding into hard rock (and vice versa) and further splitting into multiple overlapping subgenres.

Metal music scholars have defined metal as a "cluster of rock music styles" (2) and a "bricolage." (3) In fact, heavy metal boasts dozens, if not hundreds, of subgenres, perhaps matched only by electronic dance music for the number and variety of its offshoots. (4) Karson Jones writes that metal's "subgenres stand at the peripheries of metal or at the intersection of metal and other genres of music, but maintain enough of the traditional heavy metal code to remain within the family--to be considered an offshoot rather than an entirely new genre." (5) Thus, while heavy metal's subgenres differ from one another in various ways, they also tend to share many similar features.

Heavy metal's timbre is one of the first perceivable differences between it and other music genres. Wallach, Berger, and Greene describe "loud, distorted guitars; prominent and aggressive drums; and emotionally extreme singing techniques." (6) Other scholars point to "thick sound [and] amplified distortion" (7) and "painfully High decibel levels" (8) in metal. By pushing volume levels to their extremes, musicians can overload amplifiers, creating distortion in the guitar (s) and bass....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A674745982