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SharpAndSlender
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 2:35 pm 
 

This might be a little too vague for the metal forum so feel free to move it if you like.

Okay, so this is something I've been turning over in my head for a long time. It goes back to the typical mainstream versus underground/extreme music argument and the inability for many people in the mainstream to get past the more outwardly extreme or bizarre aesthetic of a lot of underground music. I often hear people say that metal would be taken more seriously if they would present themselves as more ordinary bands rather than the sort of distinct outsiders they typically are.

Relating to this is the idea of getting over the hump of aesthetics in general. I'd like to use the black metal band Teratism as an example: when playing live, they dress in robes, wear spikes and corpse paint, the whole nine yards, and I think they're a rather tasteful example of that. My question is this: is it fair to ask that the listener (or attender of a Teratism concert) do some of the legwork and get themselves into the mindset to appreciate such an extreme aesthetic, or is it a fact that if Teratism was a truly great band, the quality of their work would shine through any and all form of presentation?

In short, is it fair in art to ask the listener to extend themselves or should great art be viewed as great completely within itself?
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Abominatrix
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 2:45 pm 
 

A good topic. I think we can probably connect this to a discussion Saintinhell, Failsafeman and I had some time back about music and presentation. In any case, I don't think the two should be separated, especially in this modern multimedia age where, really, so many things are possible, and when music alone is barely enough of a product from a certain standpoint, since it can be digitally replicated and passed around by all and sundry. I don't have much time to elaborate right now, but I think the short answer to your question is that it should be a little of both. Certainly Tarotism would have to make very good music for any degree of outlandishness to really mean anything. Unfortunately, there are a number of bands out there who rely on outlandish presentation alone and really make rather normal music.
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FasterDisaster
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 2:49 pm 
 

Since I have attention issues, I'll rephrase your question the way it makes sense to me:

Does art have to transcend its own boundaries to be accepted by the mainstream?

Does art have to break the barriers of it's own particular genre to be accepted by the outside?

I think tuning ones' ears to a specific sound is needed to appreciate it. Early In Flames is a good example of when I had a problem with this. I felt that even though they were melodic, they were mostly boring because I never really heard metal like that before and it just kind of bored me. After trying to listen to it another time, I sort of understood what the band was doing and was able to appreciate it.

But, to be honest, your question seems vague, so all I can say is that most of the aesthetics of metal, are usually frowned upon in mainstream culture as a whole, which is why you get a certain opposition to its messages and aesthetics by a large group of people. Since we are trained to enjoy and be invested in this sort of stuff, it is a part of our culture. I think there is a possibility for people from the outside to, as you said, do the certain legwork and find a way to appreciate certain aspects of what is being presented, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will enjoy it.
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Evil_Johnny_666
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 2:53 pm 
 

I'd say both. The music itself should stand on its own as a piece of art, you shouldn't be missing something if you don't see the band live for example. Though a certain live experience, while not necessary, shouldn't be automatically excluded. Anything exterior to the music itself should serve to enhance the musical experience and not extend it or replace it like some bands tend to do. I'd say that if any music is enhanced by any other element or experience, it's not necessarily "greater" since it's first and foremost the original support of it, enhancement doesn't mean better to me, it's just another dimension. Then I'd say you don't really need to extend your perceptions, as long as you can appreciate the music for what it is, I think it has done its job. But if you do, you certainly are rewarded.

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MetalHeadNorm
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 3:03 pm 
 

I think that if a spectator fails to appreciate a type of art, than it is their own fault. Artists aren't suppose to conform to standards, they're suppose to create things out of themselves. Spectators can either like, dislike, or be indifferent to it, but the artist is never responsible to teaching spectators how to properly enjoy their art. That'd be ridiculous seeing as how each person can enjoy the same piece of art in different ways, and no way is more right or wrong than the other.
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failsafeman
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 3:26 pm 
 

SharpAndSlender wrote:
My question is this: is it fair to ask that the listener (or attender of a Teratism concert) do some of the legwork and get themselves into the mindset to appreciate such an extreme aesthetic, or is it a fact that if Teratism was a truly great band, the quality of their work would shine through any and all form of presentation?

In short, is it fair in art to ask the listener to extend themselves or should great art be viewed as great completely within itself?

I read your question as: is presentation necessary to the art, or should metal bands tone down that presentation so as to be "taken seriously"? I would answer with a resounding "no". Think about how much lamer King Diamond would be without all of his theatircs, or for a more abstract example, how much less interesting a good pie would be if it were presented as a formless gray loaf, regardless of taste. Presentation, while not necessarily a part of the art itself, is important to getting into the proper mood and mindset to really appreciate the art. I would say that if someone couldn't get over Teratism's getups and so couldn't take the music seriously that they wouldn't be liking it for the right reasons anyway if Teratism wore casual clothes or suits or whatever, and that person was suddenly able to appreciate it. You don't necessarily have to like the presentation to like the art, but you can't absolutely hate it to the point of not even taking the art seriously.
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Under_Starmere
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 5:26 pm 
 

SharpAndSlender, I think there's some misinterpretation going on in this thread because your subject title and the post itself are combining a little dissonantly. But just to address the final, summary question at the end of your post, I think it's really difficult to answer because it's subject to all kinds of factors.
Ideally, audience members would always be trying to extend themselves to think outside their current box, trying to find new frames of reference and attempting to look past the superficial to the deeper layers of art. Though, as is obvious, this isn't all that common, so to expect it from people is kind of hopeless. And with art, you're always going to be coming up against the walls of personal taste... it's very difficult for anyone to spontaneously start liking something that simply aesthetically isn't their thing, especially as people get older. To use metal as a particular example, I'm personally amazed that people can't see the music and beauty in metal that seems completely obvious to me, and all that comes through to them is an uncomfortable feeling of assault or dissonance with little musical nature to it. It seems absurd, but that's how it is for some people. It's as though we metal fans are sailing on a ship, looking down through the water and seeing all kinds of cool animals and awesome rock formations, enjoying the wind and the action, while the non-metal fans are just staring out at whitecaps, clinging to their life preservers and feeling sick. I think it's not so much the preconceptions around metal as just the aesthetic walls that make people turn around and look the other way. My brother's co-workers were flabbergasted the other day when he was talking about why he enjoyed funeral doom... they just couldn't see why anyone would want to listen to something dark and desolate. How can you hope to transcend that sort of mentality? It's not that it's necessarily wrong, it's just adamant against exploring those spaces. Like someone else here said, it's the listener's issue, not the music's.

Also, the accessibility that you're talking about doesn't necessarily have to come in the form of bland mass-appeal aesthetics a la Metallica, but that's what it usually comes down to. And one might argue that popularity equals greatness, but I won't. I don't know if metal will ever be considered "great" outside of its own sphere, as apparent as it might be to us metal fans when we're in the presence of great art.

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SharpAndSlender
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 6:48 pm 
 

Yeah, it appears I expressed myself a little vaguely, so let me try and narrow it down a bit.

There's an Australian depressive black metal band called Austere. They play a particularly weepy, reverb-drenched variety with vocals that are more... unusual than even Silencer. When I am in the mood for them, the vocals are extremely powerful and gripping in the context of the music. When I'm not in the mood for them, they just come off as silly and ridiculous.

So here's a microcosm of the main question of the thread: is the situation above my failure because I'm not always willing to extend myself enough mentally to enjoy it, or is it the band's failure because they can't create something that I appreciate regardless of mood?
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DancingDecember
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 11:03 pm 
 

I wouldn't really say that's the band's failure. I mean, it would be near impossible to create a piece of music that could be enjoyed regardless of mood...I consider Blasphemy's Fallen Angel of Doom to be an all time classic, one my absolute favorites, but if I'm not in the right mood it doesn't really do anything for me. I think that falls more on me than it does the music. FAOD is still a great album, if I didn't enjoy it I just wasn't in the mood for it, if that makes sense.

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Tormentor312
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PostPosted: Wed May 19, 2010 11:11 pm 
 

i had similar thoughts when i was getting into DM / BM when i was first getting into metal, i was only into thrash and the grandfathers, i hated extreme vocals, but i thought the riffs / music were awesome.

i pushed myself to listen because i thought the music was too good to not listen to just because of the vocals, then i ended up liking the vocals as well down the line.

i think if a band is truly great, it will shine through. my mother stood in pouring rain for the pink floyd animals tour in the 70's. if a band is not good, people will not go out of their way to see or listen to them.
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matrixmetal
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 12:28 am 
 

To be great, does art have to transcend preconceptions?

From the back cover of my copy of Leo Tolstoy's What Is Art? ...
"What Is Art? is the result of fifteen years of reflection about the nature and purpose of art. The book is noteworthy not only for its famous iconoclasm and compelling attacks on the aestheticist notion of 'art for art's sake,' but even more for its wit, its lucid and beautiful prose, and its sincere expression of the deepest social conscience."

"Tolstoy's claims that all good art is related to the authentic life of the broader community and that the aesthetic value of a work of art is not independent of its moral content deserve the most serious attention by contemporary artists and aestheticians."

edit to add:
In terms of extreme metal, black metal in particular, this "authentic life" of the artist expresses itself in *all* of the combined.. eg.. the album covers, the song titles, the assumed stage names of the musicians and this is all measured by how many spikes they have on the armbands, how cool is the corpse paint, which guitars they play (are there decapitated goat heads on stage?)

But to argue that the aesthetics of black metal is less or more "authentic" than the actual sound of the black metal music is pretty vacant, to steal the phrase from the Sex Pistols song.

The singer in Abigail Williams doesn't have the aesthetics but does this exclude him from all art? or just black metal art?

The moral content of black metal is where the "kvlt"-ness, "trve"-ness comes from, I believe. No amount of bullet belts can change that.

Take Ensiferum, for another example. I saw them live, they were all shirtless and, wtf? No Tattoos. What are these aesthetic criteria that we secretly require to make "art" into "acceptible art" and not something else?

The conversation about art & aesthetics is fun, ultimately futile, but still fun. I prefer to let the artist configure themselves how they wish and it comes then for me to evaluate the "authenticity" of it and I am totally selfish when it comes to what art is good/bad in my opinion.

Somehow the artist has to live off his art.. that's how so many great works of the renaissance were created anyway.. as trinkets for the idle rich, powerful, educated & literates who had so much time on their clean, clean hands.

Folk art (a close relation to our beloved black metal) has a different attitude altogether. Black metal is art of moral consequences more than aesthetics. Black metallists aren't trying to get on MTV or VH1, in fact, they despise it for what it amounts to is laziness and insatiable hunger for vacant entertainments.


Last edited by matrixmetal on Thu May 20, 2010 1:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ENKC
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 12:29 am 
 

To be great? Possibly. To be serviceable and enjoyable? No.
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SharpAndSlender
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 1:29 am 
 

I think there has to be a balance between the two options in my example: yes, I think that expecting the listener to suspend disbelief to some degree is appropriate, but too much of that just excuses bad art.
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failsafeman
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 9:39 am 
 

This is actually an extremely complicated topic, and I doubt there's any kind of real conclusion we'll be able to come to. I mean think about it this way: haven't you guys ever listened to an album for the first time, and liked it a lot, only to listen to it the next day and realize it sucks? I find I do that quite a lot when I listen to something I think is just going to utterly blow but am surprised by it not totally sucking - that feeling gets blown out of proportion and I way overestimate how good the album is.

Most recently I think I did that with Elixir's 2006 album. For those who don't know, they're an NWOBHM band that released a good debut and then started sucking immediately thereafter, so I fully expected their most recent album to really suck - instead, it was just mediocre, but when I heard some tracks for the first time I thought to myself "HOLY SHIT THIS RULES!"

Now, the point of that is: mood can also positively distort your impressions. I think the only thing to say is, listen to an album multiple times and get a sort of average. In other words, you sort of have to meet the artists halfway. The listener should extend himself to try to get a good evaluation, but how well the artists express themselves is also important. However metal has always had a sort of "for metalheads, by metalheads" policy, and of course metal that attempts to pander to the mainstream is often shunned. So, the listener has to understand the "metal" vocabulary, because metal bands don't (and shouldn't) write using a more accessible vocabulary.

So, I guess what all of this rambling is supposed to mean is that, given a listener with an adequate frame of reference and multiple listens to mitigate mood distortion, it should become clear whether or not an artist has expressed themselves well enough to be understood. Personally I don't think great art should be - or even is, in practice - more accessible than that. Nobody comes in off the street and reads Shakespeare for the first time and gets everything right away.
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SharpAndSlender
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PostPosted: Thu May 20, 2010 11:35 pm 
 

failsafeman wrote:
This is actually an extremely complicated topic, and I doubt there's any kind of real conclusion we'll be able to come to.


Of course not but it's way better than another topic about deathcore.
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