overground scene

Heavy metal and intellect.
August 26, 2012, 10:13 pm
Filed under: metal, people, popular music, social theory | Tags: , , ,

A short rant. Somebody posted a picture on facebook which depicted a newspaper article. The article was about a piece of research by some psychologist who argued that, despite the popular expectation that clever kids listen to classical music, they appear to be listening to heavy metal instead. The said psychologist based this finding on a survey of more than 1500 kids of a gifted children’s college.

I have to admit that I didn’t go out looking for this article in order to read it, so I am going to mock it solely based on this small newspaper article. Some psychologists crack me up. Ignoring decades of intellectual thought by social theorists is unacceptable. Making connections between taste in music and cleverness is simply absurd. I don’t even know where to start from. Very basic stuff, ignoring the spatiality and temporality of a phenomenon is the first crucial mistake. I am pretty sure that if this person went back 30 years they would have discovered that privileged  kids would indeed be listening to classical music. Secondly, we are talking about a school that apparently teaches privileged kids, from rich families. The reason is that 30 years ago social life was much more organised in comparison to social life today. There was clearer differentiation between the legitimate high culture and popular culture. Since then and especially the last 20 years society has experienced changes often being referred to as post-modernism. Today the boundaries between popular culture and high culture are blurred. This has affected heavy metal music in two ways. Firstly, heavy metal musicians have felt much more comfortable with adopting a more mainstream image, and pursue more legitimate routes to music, hence we have ended up with many heavy metal bands who know their music theory and present themselves in less confrontational ways than the past. Of course, this could also reflect the need of heavy metal musicians to appear legitimate, according to what is perceived to be high culture, and not a bunch of imbecile hicks. On the other hand, the fact that today’s heavy metal has incorporated many elements of the dominant high culture is another reason why it is more appealing to youngsters of privileged backgrounds. In fact, I would expect fewer kids from working class backgrounds listening to heavy metal today. Of course, an interactionist would just observe these “gifted”  kids, and eventually realise that probably through negotiations of what is considered to be “cool” and “clever”, and depending on who occupies the dominant positions in the group, kids construct their own meanings why it is ok to listen to heavy metal. And that wouldn’t be because of intellect, but because someone very influential in the group is listening to heavy metal, which takes us back to what the chances are for “gifted” kids to find metal music attractive and postmodernity. That.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

what is an ‘interactionist’? also it might be interesting to think how ‘gifted children’ is a constructed category.

Comment by pachoi chom pachoi chom chom

I agree! I refer to the school of symbolic interactionism in sociology; it posits, and looks into, how people negotiate and form meanings through interaction 🙂

Comment by lentil81

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