According to the arguably scientific theory nicknamed the ?Mozart Effect,? listening to the music of some classical composers, specifically Mozart, can increase my IQ. Would listening to heavy metal after Mozart negate the benefits that I?d receive?
If so, I?m in trouble ? my CD collection consists of an equal number of Slayer albums and Mozart symphonies. Sometimes I find listening to a Bruckner symphony helpful during an intense study session, but other times in stressful situations I crave Iron Maiden with the same voracious appetite. Heavy metal music is as important a part of my day as a daily dose of Beethoven or Brahms.
Many classical music fans believe that heavy metal music conveys different messages and appeals to a much different mentality than does classical.
In reality, many of the elements that appeal to ?metal heads? ? power, fury and general angst ? are found just as often in classical music. Although Mahler never composed for electric guitar, many of his symphonies are as dissident and powerful as a popular heavy metal opus.
Mahler?s sixth symphony for example, aptly titled ?Tragic,? is as gut-wrenching as any Cannibal Corpse album.
The work, with its shriek of an ending, leaves anyone who listens feeling a bit queasy.
Classical music is not always about the ?Pastoral? or the ?Ode to Joy,? as many people believe.
Classical music, like all art forms, addresses the whole of the human condition ? not just its more pleasant manifestations.
Even Mozart, who is held to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing composers, wasn?t afraid to address powerful and frightening topics.
In his opera Don Giovanni, the protagonist is a philanderer. He is not a knight in shining armor ready to save the damsel with a catchy tune.
In one of the first and most memorable arias, ?Madamina, il catalogo questo,? Leperallo sings a list of Don Giovanni?s sexual conquests. It?s a long list.
At first listen, if you don?t know Italian, it sounds harmless ? it would be diffcult to surmise the true subject matter. Just because the music isn?t ?heavy? doesn?t mean it can?t still be angry.
At the end of the opera, Don Giovanni is cast down into hell because of his sins. This part, although an astoundingly beautiful work of art, is dark in tone and has a decipherable emotional meaning.
Don Giovanni, considered to be one of the great operas, is not relaxing. For that matter, neither is most opera. Operas often take on more explicit themes than those expressed in the lyrics of many heavy metal bands.
Classical music and heavy metal are even more connected. A heavy metal album can even mimic a classical piece in form.
Take, for example, Bon Jovi?s multi-platinum 1986 album, ?Slippery When Wet.? Although not the heaviest of heavy metal albums, it still falls under the mass term heavy metal, under the sub-heading ?hair band.?
The album starts off with a straightforward rock tune called ?Let it Rock? and then, in powerful crescendo, proceeds to the albums big hits, ?You Give Love a Bad Name? and ?Living on a Prayer.? At this point, it mellows out with the ballads ?Dead or Alive? and ?Never Say Goodbye.?
In true classical form, the album ends on an upbeat note with another straight rock tune ? ?Wild in the Streets.?
This structure is remarkably similar to the setting of a concerto. Most classical concertos, Mozart?s Third Violin Concerto for example, begin with a quick Allegro, then move to a more somber Adagio. They then conclude with something lively and vivacious. Mozart?s Third ends with a Rondo.
With both the Mozart concerto and the Bon Jovi album, the listener is left feeling complete. He or she experiences a little bit of everything along the emotional spectrum and is left with a raised fist or a happy tune to hum.
The emotions that lead to the composition of a tense Brahms symphony are the same emotions that created Life of Agony?s ?River Runs Red.?
Human beings haven?t changed their natures since the Baroque era ? we are, as Walt Whitman recounts, ?struggling the same, battling the same.?
Instead of wearing powdered wigs and playing the harpsichord, today?s musical rebels are clad in jeans and leather, strumming an electric guitar.
Its easy to mistake costume for message. We play and listen to music so that we are not alone and feel connected to something more than ourselves.
Both Mozart and metal offer this to people in equally valuable formats. They simply utilize different orchestrations of the same thing, and are both ultimately human.