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Multi­discipli­nary & Innovative Courses


Heavy Metal Music in Contemporary History and Society


Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, University of Helsinki


Related Degree Programmes:

Taiteiden tutkimuksen kandiohjelma

Taiteiden tutkimuksen maisteriohjelma






900-1490 EUR Learn more




Paolo Ribaldini

Target students

The course aims to be as multidisciplinary as possible, encouraging collaboration between students from different academic backgrounds. The ideal candidates are advanced Bachelor’s or Master’s students of musical practice, musicology, social studies, semiotics, cultural studies, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, language studies, gender studies and pedagogy.

Familiarity with music theory is considered an asset, but is not mandatory. The teaching methods involve teamworking within the class, so that single disciplinary gaps can be amended by cooperation. The course will be divided into groups of 4–6 students at the beginning of the course, so that the groups will have a broad range of competences.

Part of the course work includes giving a presentation, so a certain familiarity with the use of the English language is recommended.


This course explores the development of the popular music style of Heavy Metal. The primary focus will be on the musical elements of the genre, its historical features and its relation to contemporary Western society. The final part of the course will focus on Finland, where HM is particularly successful and characterises musical culture more than in other European or non-European countries.

Learning objectives

The students will appreciate the importance of heavy metal music in Western musical culture, its historical development and the characteristics of the subculture related to the music. This subculture is particularly strong in Finland, and Finnish HM is recognised worldwide as a key manifestation of this musical style. The students will also achieve competences in music theory, sociology of music, music semiotics and cultural studies. Furthermore, the course gives them a solid basis to critically understand popular music genres other than HM.

Course format and teaching methods

Lectures, multimedia material (musical examples, films, documentaries), workshop/seminar activities, group discussions. Classes take place five days a week, from Monday to Friday.

During the lectures (provisionally 9.00–11.00), the teacher discusses the history of HM and its interaction with society and other fields of culture. The teaching methods are:

  • Reading and commenting on course material (e.g., books, articles), or commenting on previously assigned readings.
  • Viewing/listening and commenting on multimedia material.
  • Class discussion.

After the lunch break, the course continues with workshop/seminar activities focused on group work (provisionally at 12.00–14.00). This includes:

  • Analysis of readings and audio/video examples about specific topics proposed by the teacher. The group work results in writing or as slide presentations will be discussed in front of the class. Assignments outside the classes are meant to be worked on mainly in teams.
  • Seminar meetings with musicians or experts in the field of HM studies (see ‘Lecturers and teachers’).
  • Screening of the documentary movie series ‘The Pioneers of LA Hard Rock & Metal’ and ‘The LA Metal scene explodes’, kindly provided by Mr Bob Nalbandian.
  • Once/twice (max.): attendance in the evening at a medium/major HM concert. This is subject to events taking place in Helsinki at the time and on the ticket price (roughly €15–30).

Means and criteria of assessment

  • Classes 48h
  • Individual/group work 42h
  • Preliminary readings and individual study towards the exam 45 h
  • Exam at the end of the course

Guest Lecturers

  • Mr Douglas Blair, guitarist of W.A.S.P.
  • Dr Esa Lilja, University of Helsinki
  • Dr Titus Hjelm, UCL
  • Dr Toni-Matti Karjalainen, Aalto University
  • Mr Erkka Korhonen, Bachelor of Music Pedagogy, Bachelor of Music Production, guitarist
  • PhD candidate Kristian Wahlström, music teacher at the Pop/Jazz Konservatorio and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki
  • PhD candidate Susanna Mesiä, senior lecturer in pop/jazz singing and pedagogy at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Course Schedule

Location: City Centre Campus


Monday 6.8.2018 Registration begins

Tuesday 7.8.2018 Registration continues, HSS Opening Ceremony

Wednesday 8.8.2018 Courses begin

Course Syllabus