Heavy Classically: One And The Same

The disconnect between classical music (all types) and heavy metal (all types) is probably less to do with musical form (although blues-based heavy metal is obviously divergent) than class. See, people into classical music are largely of a different economic, educational, and social background from dudes who headbang and play air guitar to “Fucked with a Knife” or “Aerials”. Of course, the former statement is a major generalization, but let’s pretend it’s true and the world’s basically black and white. And also let’s pretend classical acolytes and heavy metallers are of the same age (16-35), since classical, much like jazz (again a major generalization), typically appeals to older folk like your parents or their parents. Age and level of music exposure and acceptance (two different concepts) are big deals, but let’s just assume you got the kids into Beethoven, Bach, and Rachmaninoff on one side of the fence and kids into Cannibal Corpse, Asking Alexandria, and Paradise Lost (hey, Albert and Scott!) on the other. There’s no middle ground. No Therion, Rhapsody Of Fire, or Van Canto to sooth the senses of both camps.

So, now that we got all the un-scientific stuff out of the way to point out there is, in semi-fact, a cultural, social, and economic gulf between the two, it turns out the groups share more (scientifically-speaking) than we ever thought possible. Really. Although this Herald Scotland article dates back to 2008, the sheer magnitude of the findings should, if anything, give stately classical folk and work-a-day heavy metallers reason to share a beverage, spin some tunes together, and to appreciate their perceptionally divergent tastes.

Here’s a quote from the article: “I was struck by how similar fans of heavy metal and classical music really are,” he said. “Apart from the age differences, they were virtually identical. Both were more creative than other people, both were not terribly outgoing and they were also quite at ease.” This is from professor Adrian North of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University. He surveyed 36,000 people from all over the world for this conclusion. It’s right on, actually.

We heavy metallers are creative types. We’ve (rather, bands) splintered into and spawned more sub-genres and sub-sub-genres, intrepidly accepted the incorporation of many types of music into the heavy metal edifice, and created more MySpace pages than any other genre known to man. There is no end to our vision. Then, there’s the cover artists. Seagrave, Romano, Baizley, Landau, the Clark brothers, Decibel artists Guerreiro and Mark Rudolph, and so forth. It spirals out of control from there.

We aren’t terribly outgoing unless we’re A) supported by other members of the tribe B) inebriated or C) both. That’s right. Even bands that spend half of their living lives performing metallic thunder on stage aren’t gregarious types.

We are at ease, for the most part. Unless at a concert, where noggin’ bashing, hoisting invisible oranges, or throwing the goat is an active, pro-energy ritual. But the music is aggressive, loud and somewhat dynamic, so perhaps these factors purge annoying Britney Spears/Billy Ray Cyrus-like personality traits from us. It’s either that or double bass drums, quick guitars, and songs about dark things act as neurotransmitters to dull other senses that other types of music — perhaps pop or country — enhance.

So, the next time you feel like beating down band geeks at school or get negatively ogled by the girl with the flute case, realize there are more similarities than differences. Scientific not just notional stuff. Sure, this sounds like the end of a G.I. Joe (link for the unfamiliar) episode, but it’s important for people who are passionate about music — in this case classical and heavy metal — to stick together, to learn from one another, and to support the endeavors of those who one day might be on your in your stereo, on your iPod, or streaming from the cloud.