Ô Canada! La Première Partie

Ta da!  See, I DID manage to get around to writing at least about SOMETHING from Canada!  And I’ve optimistically labelled it the first part.  The second, though, might be well after my thesis submission date in September.  But this, at least, should at least make people think this blog is actually being used 😀

So, this first part?  The most important, to be honest, as without this bit, I never would have gone (although I expect I would have gone sooner or later; I mean, I already want to return!).  This part is my brief conference report.  I had to write it as part of my conditions of funding from BASEES so I thought I may as well replicate it here, with some additions.

Boundaries and Ties: the Place of Metal Music in Communities’, Victoria, BC, Canada, 9th-11th July 2017.

I was awarded a BASEES Postgraduate Research Grant, the Graduate School Travel Prize from the University of Nottingham and funding from the Partridge Bequest held by Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Nottingham to attend and present my research at the International Society for Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) biennial conference, held this time in Canada.  Having never presented my research outside of my own University, nor having been outside Europe in my life, it was an exciting experience!  The two-and-a-half day conference was supported by keynotes from Keith Kahn-Harris, one of the founding members of ISMMS and Brittney Slayes, lead singer of Victoria-born power metal band Unleash the Archers.  Panels were parallel to give more time and breadth to the programme and included categories such as local & global metal communities, performance, resistance, scene construction and ethics.  Presenters were from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, including cultural studies, musicology, anthropology, religious studies and history, as well as independent scholars and industry professionals.

My research concerns the first album of Russia’s leading heavy metal group, Aria, and I presented a basic overview of late Soviet cultural history as well as insights into my research on themes and influences in the album.  I was the only person presenting on Russia but other researchers presented on cultures as disparate as Japan, Madagascar, Austria, and Indonesia, proving that metal music and culture is a global phenomenon.  I connected with researchers in Birmingham who hope to extend their ‘Home of Metal’ study out from there to other ‘homes’ of metal across the world.

In the evening of the first day there was an opportunity to go to Unleash the Archer’s album release gig in Downtown Victoria, and on the final day there was a special screening of the documentary film ‘Blekkmetal’ about the origins of Norway’s black metal scene, set against the backdrop of the 2015 festival of the same name.  This was followed by a Q&A session with two of the producers.  In the evening there was an opportunity to experience more of the local metal scene in an ‘all-ages’ gig at a local community centre.  The ISMMS AGM was also held during the conference and I participated in this as an ordinary member. There were also plenty of opportunities for networking and sightseeing: on one occasion I happened upon one of the locals down at the beach:


North American River Otter

I was heartened by the interest in my research, and I was able to reconnect with friends I first met in Hull in March 2016.  I was impressed by the range of different approaches and projects metal scholars are undertaking and managed to speak with most people about their research.  I was also in charge of live Tweeting the conference using ISMMS’ official Twitter profile (@ISMMSOfficial), which was challenging but very useful for making me think differently about the papers being given.

Overall, I think the conference was a very valuable experience: not only was it an excellent opportunity to present my research to the ‘metal’ side of my field, but it was also an exceptional chance to travel well outside of my comfort zone!  I did, in fact, experience ‘culture shock’: because Victoria is an English-speaking part of Canada, the difference in culture was, in a way, surprising, as everywhere else I have been are predominantly foreign-language based foreign cultures!

I made many new academic friends at the conference, people who are researching new and exciting things and people who are very interested in my research.  I have opened up some opportunities for myself in future research as well as in the opportunity to become more involved with the administration and promotion of ISMMS, once my MA is finished.  I also pushed my boundaries by experiencing music I don’t generally associate with (extreme metal) and research that is unusual and innovative, pushing the boundaries of academic thought (especially Gemma Antonelli’s paper on self-mutilation in performance).

Thankyou very much to BASEES, the University of Nottingham Graduate School and my Russian and Slavonic Studies ‘family’ for granting me the financial opportunity to undertake this groundbreaking trip!  It was beyond worth it!

Don’t hold your breath for the next instalment: my list of ‘urgent things to do once my thesis is handed in’ might already need to be split into ‘super urgent’ and ‘can wait until after Christmas 2017’…!