Monday, December 18, 2006

Classical influence

The appropriation of "classical" music by heavy metal typically includes the influence of Baroque, Romantic, and Modernist composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Niccolò Paganini, Richard Wagner, Ludwig van Beethoven, Bela Bartok and Igor Stravinsky. And the ever evocative tritone was already exploited by Romantic composers like Liszt, and most specifically by modern classical composers (such as Bartok, Stravinsky or Schoenberg) who used it especially for its anguishing and dark connotative qualities.

Deep Purple/Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had been experimenting with musical figurations borrowed from classical music since the early 1970s. Following Ritchie Blackmore, Randy Rhoads and Uli Jon Roth, the "classical" influence in metal guitar during the 1980s looked to the early eighteenth century for its model of speed and technique; notably, classically-inspired guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, whose technical prowess inspired a myriad of neo-classical metal players including Michael Romeo, Michael Angelo Batio and Tony MacAlpine. However, while heavy metal musicians may have often been inspired by classical composers, it is important to stress the fact that their music does not descend from classical music. Classical music is art music (that is to say "erudite music") whereas heavy metal is popular music.

Moreover many specialists and critics have observed that heavy metal musicians actually focus on and borrow superficial aspects of classical music (motives, melodies, scales or even sometimes real orchestral sets). However, heavy metal bands, including neo classical and progressive metal bands, generally do not try to exploit the compositional depth and complexity of classical music. For example, the players who name Bach as an influence on their work seldom make use of the complex counterpoint which is central to Bach's compositions. Furthermore, the extensive use of power chords in heavy metal (implying countless consecutive fifths) goes against one of the main principles of classical music.The use of consecutive fifths and octaves is a violation of an important rule of harmony and classical aesthetic.