IIPC Debate 8 Dec

IIPC debate: Tuesday 8.12., 16:15
Female Metal Vocal Expression. Jinjer: Progressive Metal and Alternative Femininity
Lori Burns, University of Ottawa


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Lori Burns is Professor and Director of the School of Music at the University of Ottawa. Her interdisciplinary research (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada) merges cultural theory and musical analysis to explore representations of gender in the lyrical, musical and visual texts of popular music. She has published articles in edited collections published by Ashgate, Bloomsbury, Cambridge, Garland, Oxford, Routledge, and the University of Michigan Press, as well as in leading journals (Popular Music, Popular Music and Society, The Journal for Music, Sound, and Moving Image, Studies in Music, Music Theory Spectrum, Music Theory Online and The Journal for Music Theory). Her book on popular music, Disruptive Divas: Critical and Analytical Essays on Feminism, Identity, and Popular Music (Routledge Press, 2002) won the Pauline Alderman Award from the International Alliance for Women in Music (2005). She was a founding co-editor of the Tracking Pop Series of the University of Michigan Press and is now serving as co-editor of the Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series. She is also Associate Editor of the journal Music Theory Spectrum.


In the context of female performance in heavy metal bands—globally at the level of 3% (Berkers & Schaap 2018, 103-104)—my recent work examines the contributions of female vocalists to the metal subgenres. Using case studies, I realize two research objectives: 1) to analyze multimodal performance expression of female vocalists in metal music; and 2) to complicate the conventional understanding of extreme gender subjectivities (hypermasculinity and hyperfemininity) in metal subgenres. Heavy metal scholarship affirms the genre to be dominated by male performers (Walser 1993; Weinstein 2000) and points to the preponderance of patriarchal values and hypermasculinity, with the performance content contributing to an aesthetic production of misogyny, power, and intensity (Barron 2007; Kummer 2016; Overell 2013, 2014; Rafalovich 2006; Walser 1993; Weinstein 1991, 2009). The notion of heavy metal as a hegemonic discourse exhibiting “fantasies of masculine virtuosity and control” (Walser 1993, 108-109) has been queried by recent scholars who reveal metal to support a range of gendered and sexualized subjectivities (Clifford-Napoleone 2015; Kahn-Harris 2007). I examine how extreme vocalists navigate the hypermasculine discourse of death metal to express an alternative gendered subjectivity. Recognizing the dearth of music analysis for extreme vocal expression (Smialek 2015), and a recent appeal for scholars to “ground a constructed perspective of masculinity from examples in heavy metal itself” (Scott 2016, 122), this study analyzes the work of a female extreme metal vocalist within the subgenre of progressive metal. I adopt a rigorous analytic model for words, music, and images and illustrate how the expressive strategies of Tatiana Shmailyuk (of the band Jinjer) challenges the hegemonic norms of metal.

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