Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Walser, Robert. "Eruptions: Heavy Metal Appropriations of Classical Virtuosity." Popular Music 11 (October 1992): 263-308. Reprinted as Chapter 3 in Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1993.

Although heavy metal music is typically viewed as removed from the classical tradition, the most influential heavy metal guitarists of the last two decades were in their turn highly influenced by the classical tradition, particularly in expressions of virtuosity. These influences range from straightforward borrowing of classical melodies or harmonic progressions to exploring the values associated with being a classical artist and a virtuoso. The reasons for direct quotation vary. Emerson, Lake and Palmer created a 1972 remake of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for the purpose of elevating public taste. Rainbow' s hit Difficult to Cure (1981), featuring guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, quotes Beethoven's Ode to Joy with an altered meter and a new introduction, finishing with sounds of laughter. The intent of this example is parody. Perhaps the most subtle form of appropriation lies not in quotation but in adopting values associated with classical music artistry. Yngwie Malmsteen represents not only the height of virtuosity, but also the nineteenth-century concept of the separation between artist and society. Malmsteen is a self-proclaimed "genius" whose style focuses on elitism and experimentation. The most compelling reason to examine the relationship between heavy metal and the classical tradition is heavy metal guitarists' increasing interest in classical models. Electric guitars provide the closest analogy to the virtuosic approaches to the organ, piano, and violin of past centuries.

Works: Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Pictures at an Exhibition (266); Deep Purple / Ritchie Blackmore, Highway Star (268-69); Rainbow / Ritchie Blackmore, Difficult to Cure (270); Edward Van Halen, Eruption (271-77); Ozzy Osbourne / Randy Rhoads, Goodbye to Romance (281).

Sources: Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition; Beethoven, Ode to Joy from Symphony No. 9 in D Minor; Rodolphe Kreutzer, Caprice Study #2 for Violin; Pachelbel, Canon in D.

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Felicia Miyakawa

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