After fits and starts throughout January, I've been able to have a good February so far (thanks to R3 letting me borrow her svelte 15" PB G4) and my goal is to deliver a humble solitary chapter to my editor next week at the SAM conference. I've started at the beginning, reworking the first diss. chapter and have found some cool things to riff on (so to speak). For instance, at the end of the dissertation process I discovered a useful book on American hardcore punk but could only reference that genre in a footnote. It's been nice the last few days to bring the footnote into the main text and incorporate it into a bunch of new material about hardcore and the NWOBHM as they relate to thrash metal. Waksman's chapter on the NWOBHM (in his forthcoming book) was also very important in that regard. Since "Identity" is an important noun in my title, I've been trying to be conscious of putting all the new stuff into that context. So, I have a little bit about James Hetfield's juvenile vocal shriek (and his trepidation at being Metallica's "front man" initially) and the development of his voice into the powerful chest mid-range "bark" that's come to represent his popular image. I'm also looking forward to dissecting the development of his particular body language during performance. Basically, when you see pictures of Hetfield on stage, at the microphone mid-song, from the last ten years he has this really interesting hunched/squatted posture. The posture conveys a sense of immovable stability and with his center of gravity so low it sort of enacts the heaviness of the music. Combined with the way his upper body hunches over the mic, head pointed downward into the mic and tilted to the left slightly allowing his hair to drape over the right side of his face (but only for as long as he's singing -- in between phrases he flips his head back theatrically making the hair fly), it's a very unusual stance. But, importantly, it's one whose development can be documented by video: in 1983 Hetfield stood straight up, in 1984 he's got the lower torso somewhat in the squat but the upper torso is till fairly straight. By 85 and 86, the complete Hetfieldian stance is evident. From there I'll be talking more about the way the changes in rhythmic texture and intensity were represented physically within individual songs like "Whiplash." And from there, from there, I need to find an ending to the chapter because it originally went straight into the second half of the old dissertation chapter, which is now chapter 2 of the book. I have some ideas for the transition between the two chapters having to do with the band's gear being stolen on their first tour in 83, and that leading to the writing of "Fade to Black," the subject of chapter 2 -- so, the whole "young thrash metal band tours U.S. living the life until tragedy strikes. How do they handle it? Tune in next time..." -- that kind of thing.
P.S. My sidebar on Cliff Burton in Bass Player Magazine came out this week, so I am officially a professional musicologist (they say the check's in the mail). It's only 621 words, and judging by the tricks they had to do to get the layout to on the page to look good, I could have given them 1000 words and things would have been fine. Still, they only wanted 500 words to begin with. It's on page 56 of the February 2005 issue if you're browsing in the magazine section of a bookstore. If not, the article is available online as well.
Posted: Friday - February 11, 2005 at 10:56 PM