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Metal Music Composition:
Evolution of Structure, Expression, and Production

Edited by Ciro Scotto and Lori Burns

  • Proposal length: 200-300 words, with 1-2 sentences included on how the proposal fits with this project.

  • Deadline: March 31, 2022

  • Address for submissions: or

With this collection of essays, we aim to examine metal music composition as a practice that comprises a complex gathering of formal musical, expressive, and technological parameters. Designed to address each of the building blocks of metal composition in the context of the evolution of metal subgenres over decades of development, we invite expert metal analysts to contribute a chapter on one of the specific elements: structures (including form, riff, harmony, rhythm, and meter); instruments (examining the role of the guitar, bass, kit, keyboards, additional instrumentation); voices (featuring a range of vocal techniques and styles); and productions (demonstrating the role of gear, capturing, processing, and mixing technologies). All of these elements are meant to be examined with the aim of building an understanding of metal music composition.

The editors will introduce the volume with a reflection on the aesthetics of metal music composition, establishing some fundamental principles that we understand to ground the meta- genre of metal music: heaviness and distortion; subgenre distinctions; liveness and staging practices; gendered expression; and lyrical messages and meanings. It is expected that these five guiding principles will emerge throughout the volume, in the context of the discussions of individual compositional elements.

Through the curation of this volume of essays, the editors hope to illuminate the story of metal history through its compositional elements. The experience of appreciating metal and understanding metal will guide the writing of these chapters. Authors will focus on a technique or topic and demonstrate with a few key examples how the technique or topic contributed to the evolution of metal composition. Authors are encouraged to adopt the following aims: to draw from a range of bands in order to represent the diversity of musicians and vocalists at a global level; to avoid a case study approach; to offer a reflection on metal composition across the meta- genre; and to demystify some of the conventional thinking that does not do justice to modern metal.

No existing studies of metal focus on musical composition in this complex meta-genre. While many monographs and collected editions on metal music are in circulation, they typically focus on sociological and cultural factors, leading to a refined understanding of the socio-cultural messages and meanings of metal subgenres and specific bands. While these issues are fundamental to metal music expression and the growing diversity of metal musicians, the field is missing a comprehensive music-analytic exploration of the “compositional” parameters of this significant music meta-genre.

In using the term “composition” we are referring to a range of musical content that emerges in metal music. Arising from collaborative, performative, and improvisational approaches to song- writing, metal songs are organized musical compositions that feature highly technical and specific formal designs, harmonic/melodic structures, rhythmic/metric structures, gestures/patterns, and instrumentation, and vocal techniques and effects. Since processing technologies and production values are significant elements in metal music composition, articles in this section will demonstrate how production techniques expand the metal compositional space beyond pitch and rhythm.

We encourage contributions from a diverse set of authors, representing diversity of perspective as well as experience within their academic careers (from emergent to senior scholars). Contributions will be approximately 6500 words.

Organization of the Volume:

Part I
Aesthetics (to be written by Burns and Scotto)

Part II
Structures (Riffs, heavy chord structures, harmonic design, rhythmic and metric structures, song forms)

Part III
Instruments (guitar as compositional generator, kit as compositional foundation, the role of the bass, expanding instrumentation)

Part IV
Voices (vocal techniques, vocal heaviness, harshness, and the extremes of vocal range, operatic vocals, extreme oppositions)

Part V
Productions (gear, capture, production, mixing, producing)

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