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Ripe for revolution? The role of loud popular music in revolutionary social and political processes

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Rock ‘n’ roll, metal music included, is often portrayed as revolutionary music. There is indeed some evidence that loud popular music (LPM) has preceded, or at least been associated with radical political changes in authoritarian regimes, the dissolution of the Soviet Union being the most illustrious example. But very little is known about the causal and social mechanisms that could account for these effects. This is the lacuna that this article seeks to fill by addressing the following two questions: What is the causal link between LPM and authoritarian unravelling? What are the physiological, psychological and social processes at play? The article will pay special attention to the level of individuals, seeking to develop a set of conceptual mechanisms that account for the effects of LPM on individuals that help make them proto-revolutionaries ‘ripe for revolution’. The article will also include empirical examples, using the historical case of the Singing Revolution in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic at the turn of the 1990s and describing how these mechanisms have operated in practice. Similarly, the article will contain a concluding section that ponders the relevance of these mechanisms in the present situation of the changing metal business and markets and that addresses the question of whether LPM will continue to have revolutionary effects in the future.
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Keywords: causal and social mechanisms; loud popular music; metal markets; revolutionary processes; the Soviet Union

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Tampere

Publication date: 01 September 2017

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  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

    The aims of the journal are:
    • To provide an intellectual hub for the International Society of Metal Music Studies and a vehicle to promote the development of metal music studies;
    • To be the focus for research and theory in metal music studies – a multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) subject field that engages with a range of parent disciplines, including (but not limited to) sociology, musicology, humanities, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, psychology, history, natural sciences;
    • To publish high-quality, world-class research, theory and shorter articles that cross over from the industry and the scene;
    • To be a world leader in interdisciplinary studies and be a unique resource for metal music studies.
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