RMA Colloquia: Dr Owen Coggins
RMA Colloquia: Dr Owen Coggins
RMA Research Colloquia in Music: ARC Public
Date: Wednesday 08 March 2023
Venue: Studio 2, Advanced Research Centre
Category: Public lectures, Academic events, Student events
Speaker: Dr Owen Coggins
Music hosts a series of colloquia on behalf of the Royal Musical Association featuring national and international guest speakers, along with staff and postgraduate students. All sessions take place in the ARC — Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre, 11 Chapel Lane, G11 6EW (see map). All sessions are free and open to the public, a warm welcome is extended to all.
Wed 8th March, ARC Studio 2
Dr Owen Coggins
I am the Supreme Elite Black Metal Definizator! – Antagonistic Individualism, Perpetual Conflict, and Extreme Ideology in Black Metal
This talk explores perpetual (and self-perpetuating) controversies in black metal about how it should be defined and its boundaries circumscribed, explores how such questions involve tensions between aggressive presentations of self-reliance and commitment to subcultural group identity, history and tradition. The chapter title quotes a black metal musician in an underground magazine interview, demonstrating explicitly how individualism, elitism and superiority combine in assertions about ‘what black metal is,’ while also showing implicitly how such interactions in ‘zines’ (and in other areas of the subculture) are collaboratively staged rhetorical spectacles of antagonistic individualism. Black metal recordings balance anxieties of influence with adherence to stark aesthetic genre conventions; social, gestural and bodily practices at live music events mediate between temporary instances of a collective black metal audience and each participant’s symbolic autonomy; and online discussion self-consciously and ambivalently frames such discussions as about membership of a black metal ‘cult.’ The talk discusses how assertions about the borders and foundational characteristics of black metal are constantly subject to aggressive contestation, with this inflammatory debate itself becoming a defining feature of the musical subculture, one which necessitates analysis in terms of the subcultural politics of (claims to) power and exclusion. Finally, the talk explores how this discursive antagonism might relate to the incendiary yet ambiguously noisy sounds of black metal, and in turn, to wider controversies in black metal about the music subculture’s purported links to esoteric fascist ideology. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at around fifty live black metal events 2019-2022, investigation of online discussions of black metal, extensive analysis of zine interviews, and the author’s own production of a black metal zine, the research is part of a post-doctoral project about ideological radicalisation and oppositional religion in black metal music. The topic of the talk is in development for a chapter in the resulting monograph Black Metal, Crisis and Controversy: Radical Ideology, Marginal Religion and Ambiguous Noise in Extreme Underground Music (Palgrave Macmillan ~2024).