BHSU professor links metal music with its classical heritage

Author: BHSU Communications/Friday, April 20, 2018/Categories: Events, College of Liberal Arts, Community, Events, Faculty, 2018

“If Bach were alive today, he would most definitely be into Cannibal Corpse,” says Dr. David Berberick, assistant professor of music at Black Hills State University, speculating on how classical composers would respond to modern metal music.

In the final faculty-lead Geek Speak of the spring semester, Berberick will present “From Bach to Braindrill: Exploring the similarities between Metal and Classical music and fandom.” In this lecture, Berberick will give metal music the academic attention and reflection he believes the genre deserves. The presentation will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 26 in Jonas 110. All Geek Speaks are free and open to the public.

“I’ve always been into the heavy metal genre of music,” says Berberick. “Being a doctor of music, I’m supposed to like the classical Western art music. And I do. However, it’s important to appreciate different genres and give them their due academic attention.”

While Berberick acknowledges that these two genres exists on different academic planes, he believes that acknowledging certain parallels between their style and reception can heighten the appreciation of both.

“In some regards, I think that metal is just classic music separated by a couple hundred years,” Berberick says. He will discuss the similarities between the genres, including public response and song structure.

Hundreds of years ago, classical composers were writing pieces that pushed the boundaries of musical norms at the time. Berberick describes how this caused controversy, which in turn elevated that music in popular culture.

“Monteverdi used dissonance, which made people in music society angry. They wrote things to bash him, which only elevated his popularity,” Berberick says. “The same thing happened in the 80’s to metal. Parental advisory stickers added a new level of ‘cool’ to any album with that sticker on it.”

An additional parallel is song structure. In both genres, audiences identify songs by the music itself—not by lyrics. People who go to concerts, classical or metal, listen to the core tenants of a song, rather than singing along with lyrics. Berberick says this results in more appreciation of the music, rather than participation in it.

“People who go to metal concerts, while they are moshing and dancing, are not necessarily singing along. It’s not an Ed Sheeran concert where everyone knows all the words,” says Berberick. “Metal concerts are more like classical ones in this way.”

The discussion’s line up will include references to classical composers like Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Bach, and Monteverdi. Playing some music clips, Berberick will also refer to metal bands from the last century, including Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Cannibal Corpse, and Carcass.

Whether attendees have been front row at a Braindrill concert or are wary of the metal genre as a whole, Berberick hopes to heighten people’s understanding of both types of music, encouraging them to ask questions and begin forming their own ideas of the relationship between these two genres.

“Many of the reasons people give that you should avoid this music, in my opinion, are false,” shares Berberick. “I’m hoping to illustrate that this music is good music—talented, artful music—that you can listen to because of the beauty of the style. People should give it a second listen.”

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students and the community to diversity within the disciplines. Some Geek Speaks are also presented at the Jacket Zone store located on Main Street in downtown Spearfish. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Geek Speaks will continue with the University Honors Capstone Defenses. Please join us as our Honors Scholars defend their capstone work to graduate as International University Scholars, University Scholars, and Research Scholars. Refreshments will be served. Please note: these defenses are held at the Joy Center.
  • Tuesday, April 24:  3-5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 25:  3-5 p.m.
  • Monday, April 30: 3-5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 1:  3-5 p.m.

To read short descriptions of each lecture topic, visit 
For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and associate professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email

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