Music Colloquium Series: Laina Dawes (CWRU)

Laina Dawes
Friday, November 17, 2023

4:00 PM 
Harkness Chapel, Classroom
Sponsored by the Center for Popular Music Studies

Music colloquia provide a weekly forum for presentation and discussion of recent research by distinguished visitors and CWRU faculty and graduate students in musicology, historical performance practice, and music education. 

All talks happen on Fridays at 4:00 PM (Eastern) in Harkness Chapel, Classroom, and are open to the public unless noted otherwise. 

About the Talk

“Race, Heavy Metal and Engaged Aggression: Creating a New Black Music Vernacular" 

Engaged Aggression is a concept that explores how Black music listeners can utilize extreme music genres to channel internalized anger and aggression in a healthy manner. The concept is centered on the theory that extreme or "underground" music sub-genres, such as heavy metal, hardcore and punk and their accompanying cultures can provide a safe outlet, specifically for Black youth, to explore emotions that when expressed within public spaces can be perceived as a threat, often leading to the public policing of behavior centered on racialized stereotypes about race and aggression.

This talk will review previous research conducted with Black heavy metal, hardcore and punk fans, and how active participation within these music cultures has served as an therapeutic outlet and cultivated community among Black underground music listeners. I argue that a “new black music vernacular,” comprised from the recent emergence of several all-Black hardcore and punk bands, challenge the traditional “scripts” of recognizable characteristics within these musical subgenres and sonically acknowledge the need for spaces where Black musicians and fans can temporarily escape societal racial oppression and prescribed racial popular culture categorizations. This new Black vernacular also empowers a young generation of Black music listeners who reject race-based and static music categorizations which tie racial authenticity with music listening preferences.

About the Speaker

Laina Dawes (PhD Columbia University) is the John P. Murphy Postdoctoral Scholar at CWRU and is the author of What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal (Bazillion Points, 2012). She is also a music and cultural critic whose writing can be found in print and online magazines, such as Hazlitt, Bitch, SPIN, Cuepoint, Wondering Sound, Flavorwire, Refinery29, MTV Iggy, MySpace, The Wire UK, NPR, Toronto Star and Exclaim! Canada. Laina graduated with a Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies from The New School for Social Research in New York City and completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science and Sociology from York University in Toronto, Canada.


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