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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - Music and Violence

20th November 2017, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor William Thompson (Macquarie University, Australia)


Music with themes of extreme violence is growing in popularity, attracting millions of listeners worldwide. Cannibal Corpse became the all-time top selling death metal band in the United States with albums such as Kill (2006) and songs such as Meat Hook Sodomy, Necropedophile, and Hacksaw Decapitation. Extensive exposure to violent media, including video games with violent and anti-social content, is associated with aggression, substance abuse, various forms of bigotry, and suicide.

On the other hand, there could be benefits of listening to violent music. Some individuals use violent music to cope with difficult feelings, and some music therapists claim to have helped users derive important benefits from engaging with violent music. Whether such benefits outweigh the dysfunctional and bigoted attitudes that are reinforced by this music remains unclear.

In this seminar, Professor Thompson will review some of his recent research on the conscious and unconscious effects of listening to violent music, with the goal of stimulating discussions of the following questions: Should we be concerned about the extreme levels of violence represented in genres such as Death Metal and Rap, or is such violence a form of “gothic theatre” that is harmless? How should we interpret the growing empirical evidence that exposure to violent music reinforces aggressive, suicidal, misogynistic, and homophobic attitudes? Finally, in that censorship is a distasteful response to concerns about media violence, what strategies might be used to address the negative social consequences of violence in music and other media?

Places are limited at these lunchtime seminars and so any academic colleagues interested in attending, should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

Contact for more information about this event.