Header_DenigrataA Lecturer in Popular Music at a British Higher Education institution, Denigrata Herself is undertaking her PhD in women in extreme metal. She is also the front woman/guitarist in Denigrata, an experimental black metal collective. Denigrata have coined the term noir concrête for their music, meaning the avant-garde dark noise initiated by Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen finds a different rhizomatic existence within their contemporary black metal performance space.

Denigrata Herself is a gender theorist whose research and publications to date focus on body performativity, reclamation of female space, tattooing, graphic novels, death metal and black metal. She is part of the International Society for the Study of Metal Music (ISMMS) and sits on various academic and equal rights boards in the UK.

For over a decade she was a lead guitarist in British death metal bands, she was signed to and worked for various independent record labels and now devotes her time to lecturing, researching and performing. She is choir master for her departmental chamber choir and presents annual post-modern renderings of canonical classical pieces with her choir, a string quartet, a contemporary band and Ableton performers.

Denigrata Herself – All for Love: Creativity and Emotional Investment in the Composition Process

July 2015

Is it possible to fall in love with the music you make? This is a question I regularly ask myself. Is it purely a solipsistic endeavour, all bound and tied with arrogance and self-proclamation or is this kind of deep engagement necessary in order to produce work of any serious quality? Anyone musician who feels what they do, and when I say feel, I mean feels an impact that strikes right at the heart of who you are, will understand what I mean. Yet it is very difficult to articulate because music contains an enigma, as the Structural Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss suggests,

Since music is a language with some meaning at least for the immense majority of humankind, although only a tiny minority of people are capable of formulating a meaning in it, and since it is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of humanity, a mystery that all the various disciplines come up against and which holds the key to their progress. (http://www.quoteland.com/author/Claude-Levi-Strauss-Quotes/1397/)

He states some pretty significant, albeit lofty sentiments here but knowing whether he is correct or not is another matter. Gauging content is no easy task and surely a vast degree of that decision making process is subjective. Is Lévi-Strauss suggesting that all composers/musicians are comparable to gods or merely some of them…

Social media seems to rather like attempting to compare the lyrical content for example, of say Led Zeppelin against that of Nikki Minaj, suggesting of course that the latter holds little to no true musical qualities against that of former. However, how can we compare the two when their aims are so vastly different? The subjective experience of Plant cannot be compared of Minaj because they are different people with different pressures and experiences so to my mind, regardless of whether you actually like them or not, it is simply irrelevant to attempt this type of comparison. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, fruitless…or something…

However if all artists can fall in love with their creativity, then why wouldn’t they? You could never accuse Kanye for example, for having no passion in his music even if he has a particular disregard or inattentiveness to Queen? And I’m not entirely convinced it is actually the job of the listener to deride or castigate those they simply find no value in, when it is clear that others do.

To be clear, I am only talking of the music. I am not talking about ideological positions or label interests or fiscal incentives. All of these are very separate and problematic issues and muddy the creative engagement, skew the intent and pull things into different realms.

To cut back all of the crap and to solely focus on the musical engagement only, seems to be something that should be the main impetus, but gets side-lined. Whether you are famous or not, whether you are signed, touring, whatever, when it comes down to the substantia of why you write and perform music, it should be because you are in love with it. When you play your music, it should fill every single sense in your body, mind and soul with fire, your entire being should feel like the gods themselves are coursing through your veins and in that singular performance moment, there is nothing else. There is only the music.

I have just finished in the studio with Denigrata and this is exactly how I feel. When I pick up my guitar, I feel the power of the distortion sparking through the ends of my fingers, I feel the scream explode through my body and blast down the mic and I know, as a musician, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. On stage, with Denigrata.

There is a special bond with the people you make music with and it’s something that being a singular artist in previous incarnations, I missed terribly. The members of Denigrata are astonishing, intuitive musicians. They are phenomenal human beings and they know what they’re doing. I trust them. This creates the foundations of creativity because if you don’t trust someone, you will never be able to let your creativity out. We create vistas of beauty and destruction, coexisting in the void that shakes the foundations of reality and mirrors the pain of existence. Lévi-Strauss goes on to suggest,

The musical emotion springs precisely from the fact that at each moment the composer withholds or adds more or less than the listener anticipates on the basis of a pattern that he thinks he can guess, but that he is incapable of wholly divining. If the composer withholds more than we anticipate, we experience a delicious falling sensation; we feel we have been torn from a stable point on the musical ladder and thrust into the void. When the composer withholds less, the opposite occurs: they force us to perform gymnastic exercises more skillful than our own. (http://www.quoteland.com/author/Claude-Levi-Strauss-Quotes/1397/)

And this is exactly the point – attention and connection. If you pay attention and connect with music, then you have discovered something extraordinary, something so special that nobody can take away. The crucible of creativity gives us everything we could ever need and so I urge you, if you feel that creative pulse, that drum beat in the pit of your stomach, listen to it, obey it and let it consume you until it is done. As Bukowski says, ‘when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. There is no other way and there never was.’ (http://www.rebellesociety.com/2012/10/22/writing-lab-advice-from-charles-bukowski/)

Comments are welcome. Denigrata Herself can be contacted at denigrataherself@horizonvumusic.com