International Society For Metal Music Studies
Call for Papers
4th ISMMS biennial international Conference, 17-20 June 2019, Nantes (France)
“Locating Heavy Metal Music and Culture”
Five years have passed since the inception of the ISMMS (International Society for Metal Music Studies), an international association that has been triggering a new dynamic of collective research on hard rock, heavy metal and metal within the humanities and social sciences. It was officially launched during the first conference on “Heavy Metal and Popular Culture” at Bowling Green State University (Ohio, USA) in April 2013. This founding event which was followed in 2015 by the “Modern Heavy Metal: Markets, Practices and Culture” at the University of Helsinki’s (Finland) International Institute for Popular Culture, and in 2017 by the “Boundaries and Ties: the Place of Music Communities” Conference one at the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada).
Within that time span, academic research and events dedicated to metal studies (books, scholarly journal issues, conferences, and workshops) have multiplied all around the globe – a process confirmed by the creation in 2013 of Metal Music Studies (Intellect Books), an interdisciplinary research journal.
Following the United States, Finland and Canada, France will thus be hosting the 2019 edition of this metal studies conference. After years of prosperous research and study, and six years after the birth of the ISMMS, time has come to review knowledge on metal music and culture.
With “Locating metal” as our core theme, we wish to discuss situated analyses, stemming from fieldwork or corpus studies.
Locations and positions can be understood in the proper sense, that of the geography, the territories or the physical spaces and places of metal practices, communities and scenes, as well as in the figurative sense, as social space.
In the 1980s, the first studies on heavy metal described the genre via ideal types (and sometimes, stereotypes), and concluded that in practical and symbolic terms, this electric guitar-based music was – in general – appreciated by young, working class, “white”, Western, heterosexual men, brought up within a Judeo-Christian environment, who lived in the suburbs of major cities.
These first analyses served as milestones, but have been qualified or deconstructed since, with heavy metal’s considerable evolutions since the early days, as well as with the assertion of a great variety of metal identities: indeed, the genre has always been appreciated by a broad array of people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds, although it may not appear to be so within public space. Thus, as metal music aged and its many subgenres propagated all over the world, the fans’ perspectives on gender, race, class, North/South relations, sexual identities or religious beliefs were questioned anew.
What is metal’s relation to the urban environment? Is it always a suburban music, or is it also a rural, countryside music? Or on the contrary a city center music? Are its most dynamic scenes rooted in major or mid-sized cities? If so, for what reasons? What effects do space and place have on the passion for metal, on concert or festival attendance, or on the acts of purchasing and listening to records?
How do other cultural or social variables (class, nationality, gender, etc.) influence the rural or urban dimension of metal practice, and where are its scenes located?
How can we associate the local dimension of musical practices with the music’s aesthetic features? More specifically, is there a link between specific territories and metal subgenres (black, death, doom, dark, nu metal…), or, for instance, lyrical themes or a certain imagery?
When compared to other musical genres or cultural practices, do metal scenes or subgenres form within major cities, small ones, suburbs, or elsewhere – how and why?
More metaphorical understandings of “locating” metal music will also be possible. Researchers could focus on the social and symbolic location of metal culture. Is the passion for (some) metal socially legitimate, or is it still disparaged? What are the effects of the education or the listeners’ nationality on how they perceive heavy metal? This could lead us to consider how this culture’s image has changed with time and through space, via its global dissemination in Asia, Africa and South America.
We will examine the musical and sonic features and performances of songs considered as metal. What is usually defined as typical, in terms of instruments, rhythmic conventions, privileged frequencies? Can we locate metal’s sonic features?
This call for papers is more globally open to any new research on metal, insofar as it articulates a corpus and a coherent method of analysis.
As it collectively strives to better understand metal’s musical elements and cultural attributes, the ISMMS clearly aims at having various academic fields dialogue and collaborate. Moreover, the research dynamic in metal studies feeds new internal knowledge within institutionalized fields and their approaches to analogous objects (from musicology to sociology, via cultural and subaltern studies).
A short bibliography of edited publications
• Jeremy Wallach, Harris M. Berger, Paul D. Greene (eds.), Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World, Duke University Press, 2011
• Titus Hjelm, Keith Kahn-Harris, Mark LeVine (eds.), Heavy Metal. Controversies and Countercultures, Equinox, 2013
• Andy R. Brown, Karl Spracklen, Keith Kahn-Harris, Niall Scott (eds.), Global Metal Music and Culture. Current Directions in Metal Studies, Routledge, 2016
• Gabby Riches, Dave Snell, Bryan Bardine, Brenda Gardenour Walter (eds.), Heavy Metal and Popular Culture, Springer, 2016
• Gérôme Guibert, Fabien Hein (eds), “Les scenes metal; Sciences sociales et pratiques culturelles radicales”, Volume!, vol. 5, n°2, 2006 [in French]
2. Practical information
Proposal abstracts should be 600-1,000 words long. They must make explicit the presentation’s main questions, the field or corpus studied and the methodology. They should include a title, the name(s) of the author(s), contact information (email address and so forth), and academic affiliation (if any).
They should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 December 2018. Answers will be sent by 21 January 2019.
The conference will start on Monday afternoon, 17 June 2019 and end on Thursday morning, 20 June 2019. A French-to-English simultaneous translation service will be available.
The registration fee is of 200 euros for tenured researchers, and 100 euros for students or non-tenured researchers. It will have to be paid after acceptance, and no later than the end of April 2019 (1 and a half months before the conference).
Two influential metal studies scholars have already accepted our invitation to deliver keynote presentations. Others will be announced shortly.
• Pr. Deena Weinstein (University of Chicago, USA), the author of the seminal book Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, Lexington Books, 1991;
• Pr. Will Straw (McGill University, Canada), who will discuss his 1984 paper “Characterizing Rock Music Cultures: The Case of Heavy Metal”, Canadian University Music Review, no. 5, 1984.
The 2019 ISMMS conference will be hosted in Nantes – that’s 30 km away from the town of Clisson, where the 14th edition of the Hellfest Open Air Festival will be taking place, right after the conference, on the weekend of 21-23 June.
Conference convenor: Dr Gérôme Guibert Maître de conférences, sociologist at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Université Paris 3). He is an ISMMS member and is part of the Editorial Advisory Board of Metal Music Studies. He is also cofounder of Volume! the French Journal of Popular Music Studies
Local conference organizers:
• Camille Bera (University of Rouen)
• Hyacinthe Chataigné (FEDELIMA, Nantes)
• Dr Corentin Charbonnier (ISEN, Nantes)
• Benjamin Fraigneau (FEDELIMA, Nantes)
• Dr Gildas Lescop (University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle)
• Baptiste Pilo (University of Rennes 2)
• Jedediah Sklower (University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle)
• Dr Michael Spanu (University of Lorraine)
• Dr Sophie Turbé (University of Lorraine)
• Cécile Verschaeve (Pôle Régional des musiques actuelles Pays de la Loire)
Institutions: ISMMS, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Lieu Unique
French Version on the website www.francemetalstudies.org :