Methodological Approaches to Music and Dance:
Exploring the Field of Heavy Metal and Its Genre Boundaries
September 08 – September 09, 2022, University of Siegen
Music and dance are connected intimately and especially in popular music cultures dance plays a vital role. Even though academic attention so far has rather attended to forms such as tap dance, salsa, hip hop or various forms of electronic dance music, heavy metal is no exception in this respect: It has developed characteristic, music-related bodily practices that at times serve to designate cultural membership as, for example, the term “headbangers” indicates. At concerts, the music is accompanied by common movements like headbanging and moshing and even more unconventional forms such as conga lines or ‘folkloristic’ circle dances can be found. As this suggests, the boundaries to other music genres are not rigid but porous: Historically, for instance, moshing and stage diving entered metal culture via hardcore and (music-)stylistic crossovers can entail extensions of a genre’s dance styles. The specific forms of movement are situated within a complex, relational structure and can vary by (sub-)genre, the course of a concert, the interaction among dancers, the dancers’ evaluation of the music, or the music’s aesthetic character and materiality to name but a few aspects.
The conference wants to pursue this many-facetted phenomenon and discuss how music and dance relate to each other as aesthetic practices in heavy metal. Two thematic focal points are especially of interest, the first of which are methodological questions. Popular music studies have developed various approaches to describe and analyze sounds while dance studies are equipped with techniques for the description and analysis of dance movements. The conference is an opportunity to combine these perspectives and ask how music and dance can be analyzed in relation to each other, which useful methods are already at our disposal, but also how they might need to be modified in order to account for the corporeal and sonic materiality of heavy metal. Which possibilities are offered and which limitations are set by different forms of data collection such as (participant) observation or the study of audiovisual, discursive, and other sources (including historical ones)? How can we approach the analysis of these materials?
The second field our conference wants to focus on is the variability of dance forms across different genres and the gray and messy areas in between them. We do not conceive of heavy metal as isolated phenomenon that is simply marked by its difference to other music. Instead, heavy metal can be understood as a highly differentiated music culture that comprises numerous subgenres which interact with further music cultures in various ways. Part of these interactions is that new movements and sounds find their way into heavy metal while sounds and movements simultaneously migrate from heavy metal into ‘other’ music cultures. The conference is intended to shed light on heavy metal’s internal diversity of dance forms across subgenres such as death, folk, kawaii, or nu metal etc. Furthermore, we want to track confluences and overlaps with dance and music practices of cultures like hardcore, folk, or EDM. We hope that this way heavy metal’s range of movements beyond the canonical forms of headbanging and moshing are rendered more visible in research. With which music cultures does/did heavy metal maintain relations that are reflected in music and dance? How do these kinds of exchange make themselves felt in music and dance? Which specific migrations of sound and movement can be traced?
Since dance constitutes a complex phenomenon that necessitates studies from different perspectives, we welcome contributions from various fields of research such as (popular) music studies, (popular) dance studies, metal studies, sociology and many more! We thereby explicitly pursue opportunities for exchange that trespass disciplinary territories. The conference is part of the DFG-funded research project “The Relation of Music and Dance in Heavy Metal” which aims to develop a method of analysis of aesthetic-performative practices on the basis of qualitative-empirical investigations.
Sherril Dodds (Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University, USA), author of, among others, Dancing on the Canon: Embodiments of Value in Popular Dance (2011) and co-editor of Bodies of Sound: Studies Across Popular Music and Dance (2013)
Gabriele Klein (Universität Hamburg, Germany), author of, among others, Electronic Vibration. Pop Kultur Theorie (22004), Is this real? Die Kultur des HipHop (52014) and co-editor of Methoden der Tanzwissenschaft (22015), and Dance [and] Theory (2013)
Please submit an abstract of your proposed paper no later than January 31, 2022 (11:59pm, CET). We welcome individual presentations (20 min.; Abstract: max. 300 words) as well as panels (individual scheduling up to 90 min.; Abstract: max. 300 words per panel contribution + max. 300 words to frame the panel), and alternative formats (e.g. performance lectures). Proposals of the latter should be marked as such.
Please send your proposal (PDF file) via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can register for conference participation via our conference website. Registration will be open until August 25, 2022. If the provided link does not work, please copy the URL into your browser.
As we want to promote a stimulating international exchange, the conference language will be English. We kindly ask you to bear this in mind for your abstract and presentation.
Notifications of acceptance will be sent no later than March 1, 2022.
We are looking forward to numerous exciting contributions!
The organizing committee,
Florian Heesch, Franziska Kaufmann, Daniel Suer