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Black Metal Symposium

by Cosmo Lee

Hideous Gnosis, a “Black Metal Theory Symposium,” will take place on December 12 at Brooklyn’s Public Assembly. (Details are here.) It looks to be a presentation of papers, along with moderated discussion. The presenters include Nicola Masciandaro, a university English professor; Brandon Stosuy, whose writing portfolio includes Pitchfork, Stereogum, and The Believer; and Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, guitarist/vocalist for Liturgy.

What it is about black metal that attracts academics? You don’t see people writing treatises like “Anti-Cosmosis: Black Mahapralaya” or “‘Remain true to the earth!': Remarks on the Politics of Black Metal” on thrash or doom. I get wary when academia crosses with metal. Deena Weinstein and Keith Kahn-Harris have done good sociological work on metal, but I have little inclination to explore further. When brainy people take metal seriously, that helps justify it to the non-metal world, which is nice but not necessary. Louis Armstrong comes to mind: “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” So does Bruce Lee: “Don’t think! Feeel!”

Scott Wilson, one of the presenters, says in this blog post:

Black metal and academic discourse are no doubt heterogeneous and cannot be conjoined, but in bringing one into proximity with the other it is, I believe, our expectation that this clash should result less in the academic illumination of black metal than in the blackening of discourse itself wherein the forces of black metal restore some of the powers and dangers of discourse which the procedures of academic institutions seek to ward off and master by controlling and delimiting them.

Black metal in 2009 is a curious source of “power” and “danger.” 15 or so years after its prime, those elements have faded. In terms of danger to anything, black metal is pretty low on the list now.

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