Heavy Metal and Hard Rock: Music, History, Society and Culture

Heavy Metal and Hard Rock: Music, History, Society and Culture

Course dates:
4 August, 2020 to 20 August, 2020
Degree and PhD students €990 / Professionals €1490
Social Sciences
Application deadline:
Monday, 15 June, 2020
University of Helsinki
Helsinki, Finland

The course aims to multi-disciplinarity, and encourages 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.

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, then on its historical features and its relation to contemporary Western society. A number of lectures will be devoted to HM in Finland, where this genre is particularly successful and characterises musical culture more than in other European or non-European countries.

The course is given by PhL Paolo Ribaldini, University of Helsinki, whose research topic is HM music, and whose educational background involves classical and popular music practices, musicology, philosophy, and philosophy of music.

Guest lecturers will engage the participants with specific topics. Confirmed guest lecturers:

  • PhD candidate MA Kristian Wahlström, music teacher at the Pop/Jazz Conservatory and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki;
  • Dr Toni-Matti Karjalainen, lecturer at Aalto University and currently researching on cultural narratives and branding-related aspects of HM music in Finland and abroad;
  • Dr. Kimi Kärki, adjunct professor at the University of Turku, whose several publications investigate heavy metal music from the point of view of cultural heritage;
  • Dr Susanna Mesiä, senior lecturer in pop/jazz singing and pedagogy at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences;
  • Mr Douglas Blair, guitarist of W.A.S.P. and himself a scholar in the field of Heavy Metal music business.

One or two more guest-lecturers will be confirmed during the spring 2020.

The students will achieve competences in music theory, sociology of music, music semiotics and cultural studies. The students will also 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. Furthermore, the course gives them a solid basis to critically understand popular music genres other than HM.

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 regular classes, seminar activities or guest lectures (provisionally at 12.00–14.00). These include:

  • Analysis of readings and audio/video examples about specific topics proposed by the teacher.
  • Seminar meetings with musicians or experts in the field of HM studies (see ‘Lecturers and teachers’).
  • Screening of the documentary film 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).

Note: students who are interested in giving a presentation themselves can agree on a topic with the coordinator before the beginning of the course. The presentation should be approx. 20–30 minutes long, preferably about the student's field of expertise on a topic of heavy metal music.


  • Degree and PhD students: Early Bird 900 EUR (until 28 Feb 2020) / normal fee 990 EUR
  • Professionals: Early Bird 1400 EUR (until 28 Feb 2020) / normal fee 1490 EUR
  • Students of the University of Helsinki and the students doing their exchange at the University of Helsinki before or directly after summer school 1 ECTS=15 EUR
  • Helsinki Summer School and University of Helsinki
  • Alumni receive a 50 EUR discount of the course fee, provided they do not already study at the University of Helsinki.