3 years ago
So I was just sitting around, enjoying my weekend, blasting my music (as I tend to do), when I started wondering why the heck I was listening to Korn at all. I mean, I have to be pretty straightforward when I say Korn is not a great band. They’re definitely hit or miss — sometimes they’re just straight up creepy, to be honest. Nonetheless, I have to say, they have this obnoxious habit of popping up with a good song every now and again, keeping them in a few of my Pandora stations. So how did I even get to the point where I could listen to any of it?
Yes, I’m blaming Van Halen, arguably the best rock band of the time, for my apparent (fleeting) interest in elements of Korn. (WTF, right?) Well, in my defence, they’re musical marijuana (note: I don’t actually believe in “gateway drugs”).
Above: A GATEWAY DRUG.
I first got into them in middle school, and they’re really sorta border hard rock, I’d say, but they’ve got a nice clean sound. I’d definitely have to argue with anyone that said they had a “dirty” sound. The vamping on the guitars is characteristic, sure, but the sound as a whole is very well defined.
Okay, so one thing leads to another, listening to even border hard rock inevitably leads to some “harder” bands: AC/DC, Black Sabbath, even (oh my gosh) Nickelback!? Regardless, eventually I ended up on the hard-rock/heavy metal boat, and it’s fantastic. That’s not to say that I don’t still enjoy Van Halen (they’re still in my top 10), but I’ve gained a healthy appreciation for the distortion and raw emotion that I think is better portrayed in the sort of bands like Disturbed, Breaking Benjamin, and Metallica.
Some people argue that these sort of bands lack a true compositional structure, appreciation of subtle elements of music, etc.
Take a long look at Metallica, the extended structure of their songs, and the complexity of the music, and try to repeat that. The intricacy that tends to be found in not only layering, but actual TEXTURE — sometimes almost tangible — in the music, is remarkable. It’s really how I justify my appreciation of both symphonic and metal (I’m using this as inclusive of the rock genre in general, but it’s the more extreme version) musics (in fact, the best is hybrid: Symphonic Metal).
The two really aren’t that different! The instrumentation and the volume. But the effect of the music, the goals of the songwriters/composers, and the intensity of the performers are unerringly similar. Eliciting emotion, creating a feeling of personal presence, is what they do, and they do it well.
This is true also of some (similar) genres, such as jazz and blues. This somewhat leads into my dis-appreciation of “pop” music. I find that pop music just tends to repeat thoughts without ever really bringing anything new into the mix. It doesn’t bring emotion to the table, only forces the listener, through resonance of a constant idea, to eventually bring themselves to some sort of personal catharsis (and I use that term extremely loosely, since I disagree that there is any catharsis).
The difference is similar to that between empathy and sympathy (often called empathic concern). Pop features sympathetic forces: they seek to force some sort of connection to the listener and have that “I know what you’re feeling.” influence; symphonic and metal instead seek to create the emotion in you that the writer or performer has had inside themselves — you literally feel what they’re feeling, and it is a much more direct empathic connection.
The end result of this is really a question: why do so many people find conflict between symphonic and metal music? And why is that divide so commonly an age barrier? Emotion isn’t discrete — why should music be?