CUNY WriteSite CUNY WriteSite

Writing Projects » Key Words » Criticize » Student Writing

Here is a paper by a CUNY student in response to this assignment:

Short Paper #1: In this paper you will state the argument of the book Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music by Robert Walser and criticize the book.

Paper #1

Walser's main point in Running with the Devil is to define Heavy Metal music. He wants to describe it as a genre and in doing so, he approaches it from many different perspectives. Just as we are learning how to describe and write about music holistically, Walser tries to describe Heavy Metal music through: musicological analyses, through the fans' perspectives, as well as outsiders) views of the fans and the music itself, and even the world into which Heavy Metal music exploded and made such a big impact.

In my opinion, Walser tries to describe Heavy Metal music as a whole, and in doing so he misses a lot. For example, he has his own definition of Heavy Metal, (power notes, distortion, etc.), and some of these aspects aren't always found in [what] he defines as Heavy Metal music. It seems to be too general, and yet to Walser, it is absolute - one of his many inconsistencies.

He also analyzes it from the perspective of a seasoned musician, himself of course, and he uses a lot of technical musicological jargon which doesn't necessarily prove his points, rather they confuse the reader to a point of submission in believing what he is saying.

That's another aspect of the book, Walser's personal opinions and subjective influence on his findings. His personal views are thrown around all over the book, and a lot of the times, there's no tangible evidence to prove them.

Despite these downfalls, particularly being too general, Walser does do a good job of describing Heavy Metal music, which is actually one of the main points of him writing this book

He does describe the music and the power of it. He then goes on to explain the effect of power on the music itself, as well as the effects of it on the listeners, whether fans or not. He incorporates this into his own definition of Heavy Metal as a genre.

Another aspect found in Walser's genre of Heavy Metal music is the lyrics. He delves deeper into the meanings of the lyrics and how the fans and non-fans react to them. Walser takes different aspects of his definition of the genre of Heavy Metal, and connects them to each other. This is one of the positive aspects of his book.

He attempts to define and describe Heavy Metal music from a holistic approach, the same way we, in class, are trying to learn how to describe music ourselves. This approach is, in my opinion, the best way to describe music. But, Walser goes farther. He attempts to define Heavy Metal music in his own words. He tries to fit it all into his own neat definition of a genre, and this is where he comes up short.

When one goes beyond description and tries to define, there will always be inconsistencies and hypocracies. These are the aspects that take away from Walser's book, as well as his subtle rhetorical tricks. In science, there is a cyclical system that occurs. A hypothesis that is proven or disproven with test analyses. Walser tries to define Heavy Metal with a scientific definition, one that is closed and absolute, but he doesn't always have the tests and the proof to agree with what he is saying.

It seems that when Walser finds himself in this kind of situation, he then throws in the technical jargon, and perhaps in some way, it does help his argument, but again, he is too general and not consistent enough.

On a personal level, I was a huge Metal fan, back when I was a teenager, and some of the music is still a part of my life today, but the Heavy Metal "lifestyle" has gone. So when I read Walser's book, I found myself either laughing out loud, (because of some of the fans' comments, which reminded me of myself back then), or I found myself getting angry at some of Walser's definitions. I know that when I was a "metalhead" I hated "glamrock"! I hated bands like Poison and Winger, and I know that none of my fellow metalheads considered them to be Heavy Metal, even though Walser did. That's why, I believe, Walser was too general in his definition of Heavy Metal.

I guess we as humans love to define and categorize. A shame, I think, considering that when we do, we take away from the individuality of a thing and force it into a specific mold that might not fit.

You can also read the instructor's comments on this paper.

CUNY WriteSite
Search | Index | Guide | Introduction | Writing Projects | Writing for Exams
Grammar and Style | Net Library | Conversations | Campus Resources | Teachers and Tutors

© 2000 The City University of New York
All rights reserved.